Manvotional: We Few, We Happy Few, We Band of Brothers

by Brett & Kate McKay on September 13, 2008 · 10 comments

in A Man's Life, Manvotionals

Knowing how to inspire and lead others is an essential manly attribute. In Shakespeare’s Henry V, King Henry exemplifies manliness in action as he rallies his army against the highly skilled French knights. In his “Saint Crispin’s Day” speech, Henry V speaks of glory, honor, and brotherhood- all ideals that inspire even the most despairing and downtrodden of men. Read this fictional, and yet powerful speech when you’re feeling unmotivated and depressed. It will stir you to focus on the legacy you are building and will pass on to your sons and to history.

“St. Crispin’s Day Speech”

By: William Shakespeare

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

In need of even more inspiration? Check out Kenneth Branagh’s rendition of the speech in the film version of the play.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Owen Scharlotte September 13, 2008 at 9:52 pm

Great speech, but I slightly prefer Lawrence Olivier’s version of Henry V.

2 Chris Jackstien September 14, 2008 at 1:16 pm

Inspiring. Yes. But in fairness, you should also read Henry V’s speech before the walls of Harfleur while his army’s just itching for a slaughter. Classy of the good King to deflect blame onto the men of Harfleur for all the raping and pillaging that’s about to go down if they don’t surrender asap.

Here it is:

KING HENRY. How yet resolves the Governor of the town?
This is the latest parle we will admit;
Therefore to our best mercy give yourselves
Or, like to men proud of destruction,
Defy us to our worst; for, as I am a soldier,
A name that in my thoughts becomes me best,
If I begin the batt’ry once again,
I will not leave the half-achieved Harfleur
Till in her ashes she lie buried.
The gates of mercy shall be all shut up,
And the flesh’d soldier, rough and hard of heart,
In liberty of bloody hand shall range
With conscience wide as hell, mowing like grass
Your fresh fair virgins and your flow’ring infants.
What is it then to me if impious war,
Array’d in flames, like to the prince of fiends,
Do, with his smirch’d complexion, all fell feats
Enlink’d to waste and desolation?
What is’t to me when you yourselves are cause,
If your pure maidens fall into the hand
Of hot and forcing violation?
What rein can hold licentious wickednes
When down the hill he holds his fierce career?
We may as bootless spend our vain command
Upon th’ enraged soldiers in their spoil,
As send precepts to the Leviathan
To come ashore. Therefore, you men of Harfleur,
Take pity of your town and of your people
Whiles yet my soldiers are in my command;
Whiles yet the cool and temperate wind of grace
O’erblows the filthy and contagious clouds
Of heady murder, spoil, and villainy.
If not- why, in a moment look to see
The blind and bloody with foul hand
Defile the locks of your shrill-shrieking daughters;
Your fathers taken by the silver beards,
And their most reverend heads dash’d to the walls;
Your naked infants spitted upon pikes,
Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confus’d
Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewry
At Herod’s bloody-hunting slaughtermen.
What say you? Will you yield, and this avoid?
Or, guilty in defence, be thus destroy’d?

3 Britt September 14, 2008 at 4:51 pm

Quite frankly, there are many motivational speeches that are from history, not merely literature, as Shakespeare’s reprinted above…

The Declaration of Independence, that is motivational.

4 Britt September 14, 2008 at 4:51 pm

… as an example

5 Brett September 14, 2008 at 5:28 pm


We did a whole post on historical speeches awhile back you may be interested in:

A small caveat: The Declaration of Independence wasn’t a speech.

6 cory huff September 14, 2008 at 6:58 pm

As an actor, the role of Henry and doing that speech is one of the most coveted roles in the theatrical cannon. I love that speech so much, and love watching really great actors do it.


Thanks Brett!

7 Tyler September 15, 2008 at 11:32 am

Proud to say that I committed both Manvotionals to memory long ago. Some others that I have memorized over the years that might be future material for a Manvotional are “The Thousandth Man” by Kipling, the Happy Warrior by Wordsworth, and “Invictus” by Henley. Solid reading for any man.

8 Charles September 15, 2008 at 9:36 pm

I would love to have heard Hernando Cortes speak. Read about his exploits in Bernal Diaz del Castillo’s eyewitness account, “The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico.” This was a man who had his wits about him, sterling judgment, a honeyed tongue, an uncanny ability to lead men into battle after battle with harrowing odds, and a passion for teaching the Holy Faith to the pagans and planting in them an ardent devotion to Our Lady.

9 Dom February 22, 2009 at 9:08 am

The Declaration of Independence, ‘manly’?? I don’t think so. Politically inspiring, yes without a doubt. Historically significant, definitely. ‘Manly’? Do me a favour. Would you give that to your son and expect them to be motivated?? I hope not. Give them ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling or ‘The Soldier’ by Rupert Brooke (written in The Trenches in northern France, see: or perhaps the speech given by Colonel Tim Collins to the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in March 2003 before heading north into Iraq. You give any one of those three to your sons and they’ll thank you for it one day…..

10 michaelPeirce March 22, 2010 at 9:35 am

Actually, I count at least two instances of this speech from history. A Brit officer (Lovat?) read this to his men on D-Day. And an American-Rhodesian NCO (me) read this to his African troops as we crossed the river to strike a terrorist camp in Mozambique. I doubt seriously we are the only two – these are soldier’s words, they are real, and they are there for us when it matters. In war – only Kipling can rival the Bard for this kind of thing.
To this day, the men who fought with me that day are indeed, my brothers.

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