Shakespeare Quotes

Once more unto the breach

Once more unto the breach

King Henry:
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. . . .

On rather debatable pretexts, King Henry V has led an army—he calls them "dear friends"—over the channel to invade France. This speech typifies Henry's rousing oratory, as he exploits his personal popularity and his men's notions of masculinity. Disclaiming responsibility for the invasion—the blast of war blows but no one seems to blow it—he nevertheless takes charge with his royal directives, of which "Once more unto the breach" is the most famous. As Henry's army batters the fortifying walls around the port town of Harfleur, the king urges them to pound again and again, and to rush again and again at the break in the wall. Failing successful entry to the town, his "tigers" should clog up the breach with their dead bodies—to form, one supposes, a blockade. The heartened troops rally behind their leader.'

Themes: courage

Speakers: King Henry