Saturday, April 23, 2005

It's Shakespeare's Birthday

The immortal Bard was born today in 1564. As an English major, I was exposed to his works at various points in my academic career. As a high school teacher, I had to teach Julius Caesar ("Beware the Ides of March") and Romeo and Juliet "Oh Romeo, Oh Romeo, Wherefore art thou Romeo?..." which is asking why is he named Romeo, not where is he at, contrary to what many people think) and Hamlet ("To be or not to be, that is the question...") at one point or another. It was not an easy task with kids complaining and asking why it was not written in "English." I think in large measure, the ways students were forced to learn probably ruined the enjoyment. On my end, I always tried to bring a few different ideas to teach the plays, have them perform parts of it, but most importantly ask questions. For Romeo and Juliet, once they realize the protagonists are teens not unlike them, things move along a little better. What they often found amazing is how Shakespeare always had something to say to them, even though he wrote so long ago. Of course, being able to do creative writing assignments with it helped as well.
I will say I have not reread Shakespeare in a while. I still have my copy of the Riverside Shakespeare in my work station at home. It has the complete works, and it is a nice edition if a bit hefty. In terms of plays, Henry V is probably my favorite. I love the speech King Henry gives before the battle of Agincourt. I find it inspiring and uplifting, and at times, makes me want to grab a sword and go kill some enemies, hehe. But I do find it inspiring because it is the story of a young man who was pretty much reckless and irresponsible, and by the time he becomes king, he has matured and learned to be responsible. I also like Henry IV, Part One and Two (Part One a bit better) because of Falstaff. A pity he gets banished for somewhere I think there is a little place for the rogue. The speech of Crispian's Day can be found in Act IV, scene iii of Henry V. If you want to find it online, a search on or any other online book collection will likely provide it. As a small indulgence, I have pasted it below if anyone is interested. The text comes from, which uses the 1914 Oxford Shakespeare. The speech comes after Westmoreland makes the remark about wanting more men since the English are outnumbered.

Below the speech, I have taken the liberty to post a link or two which may be useful to teachers and others interested in Shakespeare. I hope they are useful.
West. O! that we now had here 20
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day.
K. Hen. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin: 24
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. 28
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: 32
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 36
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, 40
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. 44
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. 48
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, 52
And say, ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’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, 56
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 remember’d. 60
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; 64
We few, we happy few, we band of brother;
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: 68
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.

Some useful links for educators (and others). By no means is this list comprehensive, but I think it can provide a good start:

Read Write Think from the NCTE and the International Reading Association have a nice page with a collection of links about teaching Shakespeare. The link is

If you want a bit of humor, you can now insult your foes with some class. Next time someone cuts you off in traffic, let him or her have it. Just use the handy Shakespearean Insult Kit.

A nice guide is Mr. William Shakespeare and the Internet. It is a collection of various resources and guides.

A good place to find more items on Shakespeare, as well as literature resources is the Voice of the Shuttle. The site has changed a few times over the years, but it is still a useful and browsable repository.

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