Saint Crispin’s Day Speech

The Book of Man

Another entry from “The Book of Man,” Saint Crispin’s Day Speech, by William Shakespeare.

This poem gives an “interpretation of what manhood looks like in war.” In the midst of battle with France, in the face of daunting odds, English King Henry V gives a rousing speech to his men.

He reminds them that there are things worth fighting for, and that a man’s honor is worth more than any material possession, any wealth, that one may accumulate. He places a greater value on a small group of determined men rather than a large army of half-hearted men. There is pride in seeking honor and a brotherhood forged in combat which cannot be broken. The proof of a true man is he who fights for what is truly important.

Isn’t this still so true? Some of the best, most character-forming, richest experiences I have had have come from a small group of people working against significant challenges for the greater good. I have experienced this in the Navy, and also, on a less grand scale, in the workplace. There is a bond made between people who have fought side-by-side that is not easily forgotten. It could be years before you hear again from these men, these fellow brothers, but there is not a day in which they are not carried within your heart.

It is your brothers, your comrades, who carry you on when you contemplate giving up. You spur each other on to greatness. And when it is all over, win or lose, you know that you are better off for the experience. And ever after, you know that you are not alone in the world. There is a level of loneliness which you cannot sink to, because you brothers exist somewhere in the world. You are connected, united.

There are few better feelings in the world than knowing that an honorable, courageous man has got your back. And there are few things of greater worth than to give your life and your self for the sake of one of your brothers.

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