“This day is call’d the Feast of Crispian…”

by Diane Duane

October 25th rolls around and inevitably brings this with it. Of all the filmed versions, this is my favorite: half because of Branagh, half because of the wonderful film score by Patrick Doyle. (You can hear occasional echoes of this in his score for Thor if you listen hard.)


…And with this comes the unavoidable memory of a fun thing that happened some years ago. (Before smartphones, alas, or there’d sure as hell be video of it.)

Peter and I were guests at a little media con in the south of England. Another of the guests (among numerous others) was John Rhys-Davies. As often happens at conventions, the committee kindly took all us guestly types out for a lovely dinner at the end of the convention.

Somehow or other Shakespeare came up. Now, Peter’s degree in Eng.Lit. was angled more toward the Chaucerian end of things, but he did his share of Shakespeare while studying, and he and Rhys-Davies spent about half the dinner discussing the Bard.

I can’t now remember which of them started it, but I realized suddenly that the two of them were engaged in a tag-team recitation of the St. Crispin’s Day speech. Now, Peter’s voice isn’t exactly soft or retiring when he gets going in this mode, but even so there’s no competing with John Rhys-Davies when he gets his wheels under him. The restaurant went (unsurprisingly) quiet around us as the two of them headed for the finish line, both reciting in unison now, and finally hitting “Upon St. Crispin’s Day!” at the (joint) top of their lungs.

Our table and most of the rest of the restaurant exploded into applause. And one nice lady not far away, looking at Rhys-Davies for the first time and realizing only part of what had been going on, then said loudly enough for everyone to hear:

“Oh, isn’t that lovely? It’s Luciano Pavarotti!”


…Good times, good times.  🙂

Anyway: here for those who prefer it is the 1944 Laurence Olivier version.


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James M. Six October 25, 2016 - 6:25 pm

I don’t know if that story was before or after John Rhys-Davies appeared on “Sliders,” or how often that sort of thing happened, but I remember they spoofed that mistaken-identity reaction on the show as well, where someone mistook Prof. Arturo for Pavarotti. John Rhys-Davies’ reaction as Arturo in the show was blustering, overblown and brilliant.

JMW November 3, 2016 - 7:12 am

I remember many years ago picking up a book in a bookstore, which consisted of stories people told or wrote about Shakespeare’s plays – either by the actors who performed in them, or their friends talking about the actors who performed in them. The first was written a few years after Shakespeare’s death, and each one advanced a few years until the latest were written only a couple of years ago. Fascinating book but I had no money with me (this was before electronic payment). Couldn’t find it again.

There was an interesting story in this book about Mr. Branagh. He was getting ready to play King Henry V on stage for the first time, and he was obsessing about the scene when Henry wanders through his army the night before battle. Mr. Branagh wondered about the burdens of royalty, how it felt and how it would be expressed. He explored options. He talked with his friends. Constantly. About nothing else. For weeks. He drove them batty.

Finally, one friend said, “Kenneth, enough! Stop talking. Come with me.” They got in a car, and drove through London to a building. They got out of the building, went inside. The friend ushered Mr. Branagh into a library, where a man was sitting. The man stood as they entered and the friend performed introductions.

“Kenneth Branagh, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.” He then left them alone. Kenneth and Charles had a 2 hour chat about, among other things, royalty and the burdens that puts on a person. Understandably Prince Charles could not speak to the burden of leading men into battle, but it was still valuable perspective for Mr. Branagh.

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