How is repetition used in the Battle of Agincourt speech from Shakespeare's play Henry V?

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huntress eNotes educator| Certified Educator

King Henry V repeats certain ideas and words throughout the speech. The most obvious repetition is "Crispian," repeated 7 times, which emphasizes its importance on his final rousing line, when he says that gentlemen in England would "think themselves accursed they were not here, / And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks / That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day." 

He repeats ideas, as well, including the notion--in response to Westmoreland's comment before the speech that he wishes--that Henry's troops are grossly outnumbered; they had "one ten thousand of those men in England / That do no work to-day!" Henry responds that he does not wish one man more, first, in his immediate response to Westmoreland: "What's he that wishes so? / My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin." The idea is repeated four lines later when he orders them to "wish not one man more." Seven lines later, he says: "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." And on the next line: "O, do not wish one more!" He emphasizes this by offering to pay any man there his passage home if he wishes to leave, suggesting that he wants even fewer men fighting on his side than he already has. He returns to the theme toward the end of the speech when he says, "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers." 

Mixed in with this is the repeated idea of honour. The fewer men, Henry says, "the greater share of honour." He plays this up by saying how little material wealth means to him, but "if it be a sin to covet honour, / I am the most offending soul alive." He "would not lose so great an honour" as more men would force him to share. Survivors of this fight, he argues, will have bragging rights on the yearly feast of Saint Crispian, for he "will he strip his sleeve and show his scars. / And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'" What's more, the "gentlemen in England now a-bed" will "hold their manhoods cheap" beside men who fought on Saint Crispian's day. Honour, Henry argues, is worth the danger, and all who stay and fight with him shall have it. 

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Henry V

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