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Henry V: Novel Summary: Act 4, Scene 3

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In the English camp, Warwick comments that the French army numbers sixty thousand men. Exeter replies that that gives them a five to one advantage, and all the French soldiers are fresh. Warwick wishes they had ten thousand of the men in England that are doing no work that day. Henry overhears him, and gives a long speech in which he rallies and inspires his men for the fight. He tells them that the day is known as the Feast of Crispian. Anyone who survives this day will remember it with pride, and boast to his neighbors about the feats he performed in the battle. All the names of the nobles will be famous, and the story of the day will be passed down from father to son. Any man in England who did not fight in the battle will curse his absence.
After this rousing speech, Warwick no longer wants more help from England. They all go to their battle stations, as Montjoy the herald arrives. He asks Henry if he is ready to come to terms and offer a ransom before his certain defeat. Henry replies they must capture him and then sell his bones if they want a ransom. He admits that his army does not look the best, because of the bad weather they have endured in their marches, but he assures Montjoy that their hearts are in fine condition. He says his soldiers have promised him that at the day's end they will be wearing finer clothing, since they will plunder it from the dead French. He repeats that the only ransom he will leave is his bones.
After Montjoy exits, York begs to lead the charge, and Henry gives him permission. He puts their fate in God's hands.
Few passages in Shakespeare are more famous than Henry V's speech before the battle of Agincourt. It has become the possession of all English-speaking people down the ages. President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert F. Kennedy loved this speech (RFK could recite it by heart), and when Sir Winston Churchill inspired the British in World War II with his words, "Never, in the field of human conflict, has so much been owed by so many to so few," he undoubtedly had Henry V's speech ("We few, we happy few, we band of brothers") in mind.  (The "few" that Churchill referred to were the Battle of Britain fighter pilots who defeated the Nazi Luftwaffe in 1940.) There is even a story that a British captain read this speech to his men as they approached the beaches of Normandy for the D-Day invasion of Europe in 1944. And in October 1993, the speech made a contribution to a sad day in American military history. Eighteen American soldiers had been killed in a terrifying street battle in Mogadishu, Somalia, the victims of a peace-keeping effort that went badly wrong. At a memorial service for those who died, the commanding officer of U.S. forces in Somalia, Major General William F. Garrison read the Agincourt speech to console and inspire his men.


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