Sunday, August 20, 2006

More on Battle Speeches

Still muddling through pre-battle speeches with a view toward figuring out their purposes. Surprising to me, pre-battle speeches can serve different purposes.

But, WHY is it surprising to me?

As Chris Soth mentioned on my previous battle speech post, I pretty much expect pre-battle speeches to be a reminder to the audience of what's at stake, why we're here, what we're about, what they're about, what we're fighting for and/or why it even matters. But that's not always the case and the surprising part is that very often, the speech is tied to theme or character.

In that same post, Red Right Hand drew our attention to the Henry V speech. Is the father of pre-battle pep speeches the quintessential standard that all pre-battle pep talks pay homage to whether it's intentional or not? Well, I put it to the test by looking at few more pre-battle speeches to see if they try to be or not to be like Henry V!

Here's the standard:

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
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.
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.
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.
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 remember'd;
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.
Go ahead, read it again. No, it's not William Wallace's speech in Braveheart but could it get any closer?

LORD OF THE RINGS - RETURN OF THE KING
Aragorn's speech at the Black Gate:

Hold your ground! Hold your ground!
Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers,
I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me.
A day may come when the courage of men fails,
when we forsake our friends
and break all bonds of fellowship,
but it is not this day.
An hour of wolves and shattered shields,
when the age of men comes crashing down,
but it is not this day!
This day we fight!!
By all that you hold dear on this good Earth,
I bid you stand, Men of the West!
Motivational and suspciously, very Henry V-ish. Yeah, that one's a no brainer so let's go the comedy direction next.

MEATBALLS
Brett mentioned his favorite five pre-battle movie speeches ever and his number one, being my number one, has to be featured here as the all time greatest pre-battle speech ever:

And even if we win, if we win, HAH! Even if we play so far above our heads that our noses bleed for a week to ten days; even if God in Heaven above points his hand at our side of the field; even if every man woman and child joined hands together and prayed for us to win, it just wouldn't matter because all the really good looking girls would still go out with the guys from Mohawk because they've got all the money! It just doesn't matter if we win or if we lose. IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER! (Rest of group: IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER! IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER!)
Just have fun, people, it's only a game... but still very Henry V-ish. "Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot" sounds a lot like "it just doesn't matter" to me. What about a deadlier game where it MUST matter?

GLADIATOR
Proximo's pre-game speech to the gladiators:

Some of you are thinking you won't fight; some, that you can't fight. They all say that until they're out there. Listen. [crowd - now chanting, now cheering]Thrust this [sword] into another man's flesh, and they will applaud and love you for that. You? You may begin to love them -- for that. Ultimately, we're all dead men. Sadly, we can not choose how. But, we can decide how we meet that end in order that we are remembered as men.
Did he just says "it just doesn't matter" because everyone dies so they should choose manner of death themselves lest they "hold their manhoods cheap"? Uh huh. I'm detecting a pattern here. But what if it's not a pre-battle speech, but a walk-away-from the battle speech? That kind of pep talk must be an antithesis to the Henry V speech.

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN
Captain John H. Miller explains why the mission matters.

Mike? What's the pool on me up to right now? What's it up to? What is it three hundred dollars -- is that it? Three hundred? I'm a school teacher. I teach English Composition in this little town called Addley, Pennsylvania. The last eleven years, I've been at Thomas Alva Edison High School. I was coach of the baseball team in the spring time. Back home when I tell people what I do for a living, they think, well, that, that figures. But over here its a big, a big mystery. So I guess I've changed some. Sometimes I wonder if I've changed so much my wife is even gonna to recognize me whenever it is I get back to her -- and how I'll ever be able to tell her about days like today.

Ryan -- I don't know anything about Ryan. I don't care. Man means nothin' to me. It's just a name. But if -- you know -- if going to Ramel and finding him so he can go home, if that earns me the right to get back to my wife -- well, then, then that's my mission. You wanna leave? You wanna go off and fight the war? Alright. Alright, I won't stop you. I'll even put in the paperwork. I just know that every man I kill the farther away from home I feel.
Sounds a lot like "He that outlives this day, and comes safe home", doesn't it?

Well done, Red Right Hand. But in defense of my original post which laments the wordy and poorly executed pre-battle speech in Alexander (that basically made me wish the soaring eagle would peck somebody's eye out to break the monotony), I cannot resist the urge to quote Henry V further -- "Men of few words are the best men."

6 comments:

Brett said...

After thinking about it for 20 or 30 seconds, I realize that many -- most? all? -- of the great speeches do share at least one common notion: the idea that everything outside and beyond the impending battle is of less importance. Perhaps that reminder or encouragement to stay fully "in the moment" is what the best motivational speeches share: don;t try to contextualize it all, or bother considering what your role in the greater symphony is. Know your one note and play it as well as it can be played. Don't worry about tomorrow, or yearn for yesterday, but instead keep your eyes on the prize, right here, right now.

Fame? History? Honor? Death?

It just doesn't matter. It just doesn't matter.
.
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B

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Brilliant. Everything not happening right now is not as important as what we're about to do --

Mystery Man said...

Oh wow. Exceptional, Brett. You too, MaryAn. Great discourse.

Slain said...

"What we do in life, echoes in eternity"

beautiful ;)

Anthony Peterson said...

God help me. I'm re-writing my battle speech now and you've just made me so self conscious. The best I can come up with is the "fate of mankind hangs on this battle" - type deal.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Trying to help, not intimidate. Think about this, though. Does anyone reading your script NOT KNOW that the fate of mankind hangs on that battle?