Sunday, 22 July 2012

We Happy Few

Captaincy is tough.  With this mind, Fantasy Bob watched the BBC's latest version of Shakespeare's Henry V last night. This play tells of Henry's campaign in France during the Hundred Year's War and climaxes with the Battle of Agincourt where England scored an innings victory.

There are many readings and critiques of this play and in particular its stance on war, and the futility of it or otherwise. It is also examined for what it says about leadership in war, the nearest thing to skippering a cricket side in the lower leagues.  FB therefore looks to it for guidance.

We few, we happy few
The two celebrated film versions reflect the different concerns of their time to war - Laurence Olivier's 1944 version celebrates Henry and his cause and was commissioned as part of the propaganda effort during the second world war.  The more recent version by Kenneth Branagh (1989) reflects a wiser more critical attitude on the suffering of those participating in the war.  The latest version inclined more to the latter.  

We band of brothers
Perhaps the greatest verses in the play are those of the great motivational speech spoken by Henry just before Agincourt.  This is his captaincy at its most raw and exposed. Olivier declaims this speech widening his audience, raising his voice and quickening the beat the further he gets into to so that eventually he seems to be talking to his whole army.   Branagh takes a similar approach.  But in last night's version Tom Hiddleston spoke the famous words more quietly, more intimately, passive in some ways but choked with the emotion of comradeship at the end.  Was this a reflection on the leadership approach to the Iraqi invasion?  It is for FB's world wide audience to reach their own view.  Whatever view they take, they remain great words.

When Fantasy Bob gathers his team in the dressing room before vital league matches, the fresh faces of the juniors in the side; the rheumy eyes of those who are counting the remaining matches they have left in their career; all look to him for motivation and inspiration. All hang on his every word. But all they get is a series of cliches about giving 110%, getting in the zone, working hard for each other and such like nonsense. How they must wish that just once, FB could trot out something with a bit more class in it, something on the following lines, (which are the climax of this great speech).
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,
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; 

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:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed 
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here, 
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks 
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Then might the ball speed to the boundary from their bat, and the wickets fall to their bowling. Ah if only.  If only FB were a poet and an orator.  If only he were a cricketer.

Hear Olivier declaiming this speech on this clip but stay with it until around 8.00 minutes in when the French cavalry charge is shown with the music of William Walton matching it perfectly.  Test Match Quality.

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