Shakespeare Quotes

Household words

King Henry:
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a' tiptoe when this day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian. . . .
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. . .
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.

Henry The Fifth Act 4, scene 3, 40–55

Camped outside Agincourt, where he will successfully consummate his invasion of France, King Henry V rouses the troops in his inimitable style [see ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH]. Just in case his men were losing faith—the English are vastly outnumbered—Henry appeals to the pride and glory, not of war, but of old men's tales of war. Victory will bring a kind of immortality, because the names of the heroes will become as familiar in English mouths as their "household words." As we do, Henry uses "household" to connote extreme familiarity. At home, people are just people, not specialists of any variety, and they speak the commonest language. Oddly, this elitism-in-reverse is meant to ensure the greatest distinction—familiarity breeds, not contempt, but glory, even immortality. Henry and Shakespeare's audience appreciated this phenomenon as the distinction of the hero; that we now expand it to include consumer products and media celebrities does, perhaps, verge on contempt.

Themes: war, courage

Speakers: King Henry