"King Henry V [led] a sodden and exhausted English Army against a French force that was said to outnumber his by as much as five to one. . . . But Agincourt's status as perhaps the greatest victory against overwhelming odds in military history--and a keystone of the English self-image--has been called into doubt by a group of historians. . . . The historians have concluded that the English could not have been outnumbered by more than about two to one. And depending on how the math is carried out, Henry may well have faced something closer to an even fight. . . . as some historians see it, the English crown then mounted a public relations effort to magnify the victory by exaggerating the disparity in numbers. "
--The New York Times, October 25, 2009
ACT IV, SCENE III: The English camp at Agincourt.
[Enter GLOUCESTER, BEDFORD, EXETER, ERPINGHAM with all his host; SALISBURY and WESTMORELAND]
Glo. Where is the King?
Bed. The King himself is rode to view their battle.
West. Of fighting men they have full threescore thousand.
Exe. There's five to one.
Sal. God's arm strike with us! 'Tis a fearful odds.
[Enter the KING]
West. Oh, that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work today!
K.Hen. What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? Relax, fair cousin.
We won't need 'em.
West. What say you, my sovereign lord?
K. Hen. Really, it's not as bad as you think.
West. But my liege, they number some threescore thousand!
K.Hen. Trust me, they don't even have onescore thousand.
Exe. What! So few?
K. Hen. More like half that! [Giggles.]
No, my coz, wish not a man from England.
We few can whup them with one gauntlet tied behind our backs.
I pray thee, wish not one man more.
For we shall strike them such a blow
That 'twill knock them into the middle of next fortnight.
So sternly shall we smite them
That 'pon their wakening they shall find
Their garments are no longer the fashion of the day.
Oh, do not wish one more! Unless it be my little sister,
For she and I alone could kick those French derrieres.
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,
Provided he relates to all and sundry
How bravely we faced forty--er, sixty thousand troops.
This day is called the feast of Crispian.
He that shall live this day and see old age
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbors
And say "These wounds I had on Crispin's Day,"
Facing a horde of eighty--I mean a hundred…
No, wait, two hundred thousand men at arms.
This story shall the good man teach his son,
Bumping up the enemy numbers in the telling
By a factor of ten--no, twenty--
So that from this day to the ending of the world,
It shall be remembered how
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers
Opened up a cask of whoopass on them,
Though they easily numbered five hundred thousand.
And gentlemen in England now abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
Fighting what must have been ten times a hundred thousand--
Maybe more--upon Saint Crispin's Day.
Sal. My sovereign lord, the French are bravely in their battles set,
And will with all expedience charge on us.
K. Hen. Thou dost not wish more help from England, Coz?
West. My liege, would you and I alone,
Without more help, could fight this royal battle!
But a good PR firm would not go amiss.
K. Hen. Well spoken! [To the troops] Once--no, twice more unto the breach, dear friends, twice more!