Hello again from your pal Louis Butelli. I’ll be playing Nym in Henry V and Feste in Twelfth Night later this season at Folger Theatre.
First, let me please urge you to get your tickets to The Conference of the Birds right now by clicking here! Also, let me please urge you to read Jay Dunn’s account of putting up the show right here in the Production Diary.
Next, I want to wish you a very, very Happy Saint Crispin’s Day. You may not know it, but today – as it has been every October 25th since the year 287 AD – is Feast Day for the early Christian martyr Saint Crispin and his twin brother Saint Crispinian. Imagine how proud their mother must have been. Not one saint, but two!
Of course, one could wonder why poor old Crispinian isn’t mentioned in the name of the holiday – but that would simply not be in keeping with today’s spirit of celebration.
You may be a little bit like me: I had only ever heard of Saint Crispin (or “Saint Crispian”) vis a vis the King’s incredible speech in Shakespeare’s Henry V. And it is in this spirit that I will soon offer you what I imagine will be the best Saint Crispin’s Day present you have ever received from me – or perhaps from anyone else. Ever.
Yesterday, I grabbed some coffee in Brooklyn with the handsome, intelligent, articulate, and talented actor Zach Appelman (told you I’d say it, Zach) who will be playing the title role in Folger Theatre’s upcoming Henry V. Zach and I had a chat about acting in Shakespeare, Henry V the play, Henry the man, his time working on Broadway’s War Horse, and a “revealing” scene with Daniel Radcliffe in the upcoming film Kill Your Darlings.*
He is utterly delightful, and you’re really gonna enjoy it. So please come back to read our conversation very, very soon.
For now, though, here is just a little bit about Crispin and Crispinian. It is their day, after all, and I’m still a firm believer in earning one’s Saint Crispin’s Day present.
Originally from Rome, and perhaps of noble descent, twin brothers Crispin and Crispinian fled the Imperial city, as did many persecuted Christians, sometime in the 3rd century AD. The two were shoemakers and they set up shop in Soissons – on the outskirts of the Empire in Gaul, northeast of Paris – on the banks of the river Aisne. The brothers preached by day and made shoes by night, a busy schedule by anyone’s estimation, and one sure to make a mother proud.
Unfortunately, during a particular nasty crackdown on the Christian faith by the Emperor Diocletian, a complaint was brought against the brothers – perhaps by a disgruntled pagan shoe client – and the two were sentenced to death. As the legend goes, “they were stretched on the rack, thongs were cut from their flesh, and awls were driven under their finger-nails. A millstone was then fastened about the neck of each, and they were thrown into the Aisne, but they were able to swim to the opposite bank of the river.”** Arriving on the opposite bank – after what must have been the worst afternoon ever – the brothers were finally beheaded. As such, they were martyred and, later, canonized.
While they have remained in the pantheon of saints, the Catholic Church did remove them from the liturgical calendar in 1960, finding evidence of their existence to be dubious. Still, they are remembered in several ways, all of them imperfect, and some of them bizarre.
Example one: Saint Crispin’s Genuine Hand Sewn Welted Shoes (retail shoe website, no mention of Crispinian)
Example two: Saint Crispin and Saint Crispinian, Patron Saints of Leather Fetishists (website for a church in Toronto, the less said the better)
Example three: The King’s Speech in Henry V (link to the speech at MIT’s website. Crispin and Crispinian conflated into “Crispian,” perhaps for the sake of scansion, perhaps for not really wanting to get into all of this stuff for dramatic reasons. Regardless, the Battle of Agincourt took place on October 25 in 1415 AD which is, incontrovertibly, Saint Crispin’s/Crispian’s/Crispinian’s Day)
I’ve gone on for too long. And I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the holiday – and to end this entry mercifully – than sharing with you the finale of Henry’s speech.
In all seriousness, there really isn’t a better piece of battlefield oratory in dramatic literature than this speech. And, without wanting to sound too effusive, after our chat today, there really isn’t an actor that I’d rather watch crafting this character than Zach Appelman. Please come back and read our conversation here very soon.
King Henry V:
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.
*This anecdote was “off the record.” Please feel free to comment in order to bully Zach into letting me recount it.
**Courtesy Catholic Encyclopedia.
Until next time!