Before reading Juliet Barker’s study of the famous battle, I checked out Shakespeare’s version. Here’s the St. Crispin’s Day speech before the Battle of Agincourt from the 1944 film version of Henry V, directed by and starring Sir Laurence Olivier. It was wartime propaganda to inspire the troops fighting the Nazis. Note the way he delivers the speech.
In the 90s my roommate dragged me to a screening of Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V at the CCP. This is the post-Vietnam interpretation of Shakespeare’s play: less of the glory of dying for country, more of the horror and atrocity. Branagh was not my idea of a Plantagenet king—he’s short and tubby—but that voice! The definition of “plangent”. I remember thinking, So that’s what Shakespeare sounds like. Not the high-toned oratorical stuff people giggle at, but the rhythms of everyday speech (if everyone had a beautiful vocabulary). Not reciting, but talking.
I loved Patrick Doyle’s score, but I wish it hadn’t been blaring throughout the St. Crispin’s Day speech. The words are so stirring they’re music enough, they don’t need the competition.
Yes, that is the young Christian Bale as Henry V’s servant. Later Branagh has to carry him across the field.