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Who Said It Best?

August 15, 2019

Quick trivia question. Which of the following is a line from Shakespeare?

1. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more

2. The game’s afoot

If you said the first one, you are correct. It’s the opening line of Henry V’s famous speech.

If you said the second one, you are correct. Oh sure, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made it a famous catchphrase of a certain fictitious detective, but it’s actually originally from Shakespeare. Not only is it from Shakespeare, it’s actually from Henry V. In fact, it’s the beginning of the last line of the famous speech that starts “Once again into the breach, dear friends, once again.” The ending line is,

The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’

It’s amazing how someone writing over 400 years ago has so much that we still quote today. Two years ago I had an important change to make. I thought about it a long time. I talked to trusted friends and my brothers. Finally, I made a decision and while it was touch and go for a while, it eventually worked out.

And I lived with the decision for two years and it was a good decision. Recently, I’ve had revisit it. Do I keep going the direction I’ve been going? Do I make a change?

I haven’t decided. So, I’m thinking about it. I’m talking to trusted friends and my brothers. And eventually, I’ll have to make another decision.

As I was thinking about it, I was reminded of the second quote, “The game’s afoot.” Although, like most people, I didn’t realize the quote was about 300 years older than Sherlock calling out to Dr Watson.

As a writer, I like to source my quotes. And it was looking it up, I discovered the rest of Henry V’s stirring words. Once more? More likely more than once more. But, it does feel like starting over.

Of course, right after King Henry urges his men into the breach, he follows it up with this (hopefully not prophetic) line,

Or close the wall up with out English dead.

Fortunately, my decision is not nearly so serious and the consequences are not so potentially dire.

You can see a brilliant rendition of the speech by Kenneth Branagh here.

See the entire speech below.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Henry V Act 3 Scene 1

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’

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