Shakespeare Rescues St Crispin and St Crispinian from Obscurity

st crispin & st crispinianSunday 25th October was St Crispin’s Day. Henry V is structured around that day because  October 25th was the day on which Henry defeated the French at Agincourt. It’s also the day on which two other celebrated battles were fought: the Battle of Balaklava in the Crimean War, immortalised by Tennyson in his poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1854, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Pacific, 1944.

St Crispin’s Day is burned into our culture because of Henry’s speech, encouraging his troops in the face of overwhelming odds, and here’s a piece of it:

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 accurs’d they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

St Crispin’s Day is actually the feast day of  both St Crispin and St Crispinian, Roman twins, the patron saints of cobblers – for that’s what they were, teaching the gospels to the Gauls by day and making  and mending shoes by night. In modern times they are also the patron saints of cyclists, of all things!

Thebrothers fell foul of the authorities because of their Christian preaching and were tortured and beheaded in 256. Strangely, although the majority of recognised saints are legendary rather than historical figures, St Crispin’s Day was removed from the Catholic list of feast days because the Vatican decided that there was little evidence of their existence.

But because of one of the most famous passages in Shakespeare’s works we remember St Crispian and St Crispinian (Crispian in Shakespeare)’

There is nothing to stop you from celebrating their feast!

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