Home Case Studies Overwhelm Henry V. – William Shakespeare: Saint Crispins Day

Henry V. – William Shakespeare: Saint Crispins Day

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“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”

Breaking this sentence down, it speaks to the reality of the situation, but also is stretching in its description. ‘We few’ … well this is true, they were outnumbered, although numbers vary from 3-4 through to 1-6 in favour of the French, there is no doubt Henry and his men were outnumbered.

So, ‘we few’ was true, but ‘happy few’ and ‘band of brothers’… maybe at that time not so true. He needed to pull the troops together and by using emotive words he did so. The soldiers weren’t happy, nor did they feel like a band of brothers, but I’m sure they wanted to be.

One way of creating an Island of Sanity is to speak in aspirational terms; even more impactful when the reality of the situation is dire or even seemingly impossible. Emotional language connects with people’s values, as Henry did. ‘Happy’ and ‘band of brothers’ were very emotive given the situation they were facing, but also very clever; who wouldn’t want to be happy? Brotherhood is fully embedded in military culture; he knew he could call on their values to lift them and their spirits.

In this one sentence Henry managed to convince them intellectually, and move them to a different emotional level, too. He brought them together as a team and led them to a place that was full of possibility and togetherness – an Island of Sanity.

“For he today that sheds his blood with me – shall be my brother”

There are very few examples of leaders who make it only on their own. As Joseph Campbell puts it in his Hero’s Journey, “The Call to Adventure”:

The hero begins in a situation of normality from which some information is received that acts as a call to head off into the unknown.

The ‘call’ in Henry’s speech is not so much a call to the battlefield or even a call to the soldiers to raise their game. No, it is a call to ‘be’ with him in this journey. This call tugs at the spirit within his soldiers, and the relational energies occurring between them.

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