Of Shakespeare, History, and the Feasting of Neighbors

Of

For those of you who don’t know, last Sunday was the 6ooth anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt. What was Agincourt? Why was it important?

I’m glad you asked.

A Short History:

On October 25, 1415, a battle was fought at Agincourt, France, that Winston Churchill called “the most heroic of all the land battles England has ever fought.” England’s energetic young king, Henry V, was fighting a war of succession over the French throne, a claim handed down to him from his great-grandfather, Edward III, whose mother was a French princess. The English army, having spent more than a month in a hard-fought siege at Harfleur, was weakened and sick, but Henry decided to march them all the way across northern France to the coastal town of Calais, from which they could embark for home. They soon found their way barred by a French army of massive proportions. As one of Henry’s chaplains recounted afterward, “[We] raised our hearts and eyes to heaven, crying with voices of the deepest earnestness, for God to have compassion upon us and of His unspeakable goodness to turn away from us the power of the French.” But when one of Henry’s captains expressed a wish for ten thousand more archers from England, the king answered him, “You speak foolishly.  For by the God of heaven, on whose grace I have relied, and in whom I have firm hope of victory, I would not, even if I could, increase my number by one.  Those I have are the people of God, whom He considers me worthy to have at this time.  Know you not that God, with these few, can overthrow the power of the French?”
The result of the battle was astonishing: the French, so confident of victory that they spent the night before the battle gambling for the ransoms of the English lords they expected to capture in the morning, were crushed, and the flower of their nobility destroyed. By contrast, the English lost only a few hundred men, and the casualties among their nobles could be counted on one hand.
The English considered their victory a work of God, and ever since, St. Crispin’s Day—October 25th—has been remembered as a day of triumph and gratitude.

My interest in this period of history was first piqued when my mom showed me a film she and her mother had loved for years: Kenneth Branagh’s adaption of Shakespeare’s Henry V.  For fans of a well-made movie and a stirring rendition of the play, I highly recommend this film (with a couple caveats—there are a few pretty graphic moments). Branagh did an exceptional job interpreting the play, and for fans of Patrick Doyle (see my article about him here), this was his first film score, and it is stellar. After seeing the film, I was hooked on the play and the time period, and when the 6ooth anniversary rolled around, my family and I knew we had to do something special for it.

So we started two days early, watching Shakespeare’s Richard II and Henry IV Part One. The next night (the eve of the battle) we watched Henry IV Part Two and feasted, for as the play says, “He that shall live this day, and see old age, will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours, and say ‘Tomorrow is St. Crispin’s.'” My sister is an expert though amateur historian on the English Kingdom of France and the Wars of the Roses, and she had the brillant idea of having a period-correct medieval feast.

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The feast

We had five items for the night: A Bake Mete Ryalle (meat pie), Ymbre Day Tarte (onion and cheese pie), Sallet (salad), Sambocade (cheesecake), and non-alchoholic Wassaill.

By request, I am including some of the recipes. With their Middle English versions, because I love it when they call pie shells coffins. If you have no interest in medieval food at all, feel free to skip over this part. I won’t judge.

A Bake Mete Ryalle:

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A bake Mete Ryalle. Take and make litel cofyns, & take Chykonys y-soþe; oþer Porke y-soþe; oþer hem boþe: take Clowys, Maces, Quybibes, & hakke with-alle, & melle yt with cromyd marow, & lay on Sugre y-now; þan ley it on þe cofynne,& in þe myddel lay a gobet of marrow, & Sugre round a-bowte y-now, and lat bake; & þis is for soperys.

1 or 2 nine-inch pie shells

  • Boiled chicken, diced
  • Boiled pork, diced
  • Cloves (powder)
  • Mace
  • Cubeb
  • Marrow, diced or crumbled
  • Sugar
  • Marrow, one spoonful of diced or 1 med. sized chunk

DIRECTIONS:

For this recipe use either pork or chicken, or a combination of both. Combine meat with spices and diced marrow; add sugar to taste. Place this mixture in the pie shell(s). Place the additional marrow on the top middle then sprinkle sugar over the entire pie. Bake until crust is golden and the top has browned. Serve for an evening meal.

Ymbre Day Tarte

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Tart in ymbre day. Take and perboile oynouns & erbis & presse out þe water & hewe hem smale. Take grene chese [brede AB] & bray it in a morter, and temper it vp with ayren. Do þerto butter, saffroun & salt, & raisons corauns, & a litel sugur with powdour douce, & bake it in a trap, & serue it forth.

3 – 4 small onions, chopped

  • 2 bunches of parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (OR ½ cup unseasoned bread crumbs)
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 1 Tbs. melted butter
  • 1/8 tsp. saffron
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup currants
  • ¼ tsp. sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. each cloves and mace
  • 1 nine-inch pie shell
  • optional spices – ½ tsp. each of any of the following type of herbs: sage, basil, thyme, etc.

Parboil or sauté the onions and parsley; drain well. Mix with all other ingredients and place in pie shell. Bake at 350° F for 35-40 minutes or until pastry is brown and filling is set.

Sambocade

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          We used Richard II’s recipe. Richard II’s real cheesecake recipe!!

Sambocade. Take and make a crust in a trap & take cruddes and wryng out þe wheyze and drawe hem þurgh a straynour and put hit in þe crust. Do þerto sugar the þridde part,& somdel whyte of ayren, & shake þerin blomes of elren; & bake it vp with eurose, & messe it forth. 

1 nine-inch pie shell

  • 2 Tbs. heavy cream
  • 2 Tbs. dried elderflowers
  • 3/4 lb. cottage cheese
  • 3/4 lb. ricotta cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ lb. butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp. cloves
  • ¼ tsp. mace
  • 1 Tbs. rosewater (optional)

Combine all ingredients and blend thoroughly. (A food processor or blender will do the job nicely.) Pour mixture into pie shell. Bake at 350° F for 45 minutes to an hour, or until filling has set and the crust is a golden brown. Let cool and serve.

If anyone has questions about any of the recipes, shoot me an email at theherosinger@gmail.com!

On Sunday night, we finished our leftovers and watched the film that had started it all for us: Kenneth Branagh’s adaption of Henry V.  And finally, to finish it all off, we had a mass recitation of Henry V’s speech at Agincourt around midnight:

What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin:
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires:
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
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, methinks, would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
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
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

It was certainly a celebration worth having.

Have you ever read or watched Shakespeare’s Henry V? What do you think of it?

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8 thoughts on “Of Shakespeare, History, and the Feasting of Neighbors

  1. E.M.H.

    Oh I had so much fun! Richard II no doubt loved that cheesecake. 😉
    It was my first time watching Henry V, I LOVED it!!!! Yes Patrick Doyle is awesome 🙂 😀
    The recipes are sooo cute! x)
    -Esther

    Like

  2. Oooh, these cheesecakes look so delicious, Emily! Thank you for sharing 😀 And a period-correct medieval feast sounds like such a fun thing to do with loved ones and siblings, especially if it involves Shakespeare! 😀

    P.S. I tagged you in my last post, for the #desertislandreads tag. Hope you can do it! God bless.

    Like

    1. Thank you! It was tremendous fun, and I really was happy to be able to do something special to celebrate it…I didn’t want the day to go by without some great marking of it. 🙂
      Thanks for tagging me! I am hoping as well that I can do it…thankfully you caught me before I worked out my November blog schedule. 😀

      -Emily

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh! That cheesecake looks worthwhile. 🙂

    I don’t like Henry V, mostly because I watched it when I was very young. Ironically, I was the only one who could understand what was being said, so when I said I was done, everyone else had to be, as well. 😀

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    1. Oh thank you. It was a great cheesecake, though very thicker and richer than our modern day ones. 🙂
      Haha. We usually have a different view of things we watch when we are young! It’s hilarious that only you could understand it and when you stopped so did everyone else. Oh well. 🙂

      -Emily

      Like

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