Tuesday, October 25, 2016

St. Crispin's Day!

"This day is called the feast of Crispian. He that outlives this day and comes safe home with stand a tip-toe when the day is named, and rouse him at the name of Crispian" (King Henry, Shakespeare's Henry V).

October 25th is the anniversary of saints Crispin and Crispian, two brothers who were beheaded under Emperor Diocletian's persecution of Christians in the late 3rd and early 4th century (they were executed on October 25th 285 or 286, according to the Wikipedia article).

The day is also remembered as the anniversary of the English victory over the French in the battle of Agincourt in 1415. Shakespeare memorialized the battle in his play, Henry V, by putting a speech into the mouth of King Henry that roused his outnumbered troops to fight valiantly in the face of the enemy and gain the glory that would assured whether in defeat or victory.

I have for the last three years had my senior rhetoric students memorize and perform the St. Crispin's Day speech and this year it just so happens that Romans Road Media is hosting a contest for anyone who can recite, from memory, the best rendition of St. Crispin's Day speech. Unlike many contests in the classical education sphere, this one is open to adults as well as students!

I will be encouraging my students (current and former) to participate in the contest, as well as some of my colleagues. I'm planning to enter myself, too. I hope the contest gets lots of participants, for several reasons. First, I hope it does well because the speech is magnificent and deserves to be memorized by many. Second, the more folks who hear and gain an interest in Shakespeare, the more folks will come to love his language, which in turn will allow them to love the English language more, too. Finally, I hope it will lead to more recitations of Shakespeare, for the reasons above and because there are so many more beautiful words of the Bard to be committed to memory and performed.

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