Happy St. Crispin's Day!

Sir Laurence Olivier as Henry V posing with the Templar flag

Shannon and I saw Elizabeth - The Golden Age on October 13th - opening weekend. We were SO excited! We had been waiting for months for it's release....and it turned out to be crap. What a letdown!

The costumes were beautiful, the sets were stunning, and Cate Blanchett was amazing (I want to make it clear Cate was not to blame. Her acting was amazing, but her director and the writer really let her down), but as soon as Clive Owen's character entered the film as Elizabeth's love interest, it all went to pot. Why, in God's name, does everyone think Elizabeth needs a love interest in order to be interesting?? She was an amazing woman surrounded by espionage, divisive religious beliefs, intrigue, and political posturing that would make Clinton's (pick one) jaw drop.

I was disappointed in the film and Hollywood's lack of faith in Elizabeth's story, but I was downright angry when they changed her speech. Her original speech, delivered in full armor to her frightened men in the face of the arrival of the Spanish armada was breathtaking.

Here are her words. I will not deign to reproduce Hollywood's pathetic attempt to "improve" on them.

"My loving people, we have been persuaded by some, that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit ourselves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery; but I assure you, I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear; I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good will of my subjects. And therefore I am come amongst you at this time, not as for my recreation or sport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all; to lay down, for my God, and for my kingdom, and for my people, my honor and my blood, even the dust. I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of England, too; and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realms: to which, rather than any dishonor should grow by me, I myself will take up arms; I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. I know already, by your forwardness, that you have deserved rewards and crowns; and we do assure you, on the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you. In the mean my lieutenant general shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble and worthy subject; not doubting by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and by your valor in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over the enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people."

"I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of England, too..." *shudder!* Awesome. Yet Hollywood removed this line, and made some other stupid changes. Why? Not PC enough to include? Are you kidding me??? But it was PC enough to make Elizabeth come across as an unstable, simpering, weak, and terrified woman, falling into piles of blue-silk-clad grief all over the place because of a man she couldn't have? I can understand trying to humanize her, don't get me wrong, but this film did a really crappy job of doing it. They focused too much on "hmmm...what makes a woman feminine...I know! Let's have her sob all over the place! That's what women do when they're stressed out over...oh, war's not feminine at all! I know! A guy! Let's add ...Sir Walter Raleigh! Brilliant!" No. Not brilliant. Pathetic. Maybe you could have, I don't know, had her agonizing over decisions of state? Her country was being threatened! She was a protestant queen in an-until-very-recently Catholic country! There was very little chance she would prevail against the armada, much less the tries on her life for being the protestant "bastard" daughter of Henry VIII - but she DID! She DID prevail! She had to preserve herself, and an entire country, many of whose subjects weren't too sure about her as Queen. That, sirs, is far more interesting than a made up romance. Far more interesting.

One playwrite did do a fine job of scripting an English king's speech once. Below you'll find Shakespeare's St Crispins Day speech from Henry V, Scene III.

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.
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:
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
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,
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.
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.

Happy St. Crispin's Day!


Butternugget said...

I also made a point to see it on the weekend it opened (even though I was on vacation in another state) and my friend and I were both let down as well. It was saved by the costumes, I couldn't stop thinking about the dresses, amazing. The armor and wig she wore were pretty amazing as well.

Clive was beautiful as well, but kind of boring.

Also, I can tell you stat people in Hickory, NC are not that interested because we were in a theater all by ourselves.

Shannon said...

The book on Elizabeth I just read disputes the "full armor" thing, insisting that she wore a fake breast plate instead. Seems I remember Simon Shama saying it was full armor, though...perhaps we misheard?

Regardless, the Queen done up in a breastplate and giving a speech like the Tilbury speech would have raised the goosebumps on my arms. Instead, insipid Hollywood just made me mad.