There's a moment in my novel, just before a battle, where I wanted my main character to give a rousing speech to her army. I wanted it to be a moment of greatness, of inspiration, and courage. In fact, this last battle scene is loosely based on the battle at Agincourt, as depicted in Henry V.
But, uh, it's tough to write a scene like that when you haven't ever fought in battle and aren't an inspirational leader yourself. The words tend to get kind of silly and overreaching, and eventually, if you're smart, you delete most of them and scale back your ambition a notch.
Having tried to write this type of scene, I have profound love and respect for Shakespeare's St. Crispin's Day speech. It is, in my opinion, the best inspirational speech ever written. That's right. I said it. Er, of course, if you think you know of a better one you can let me know in the comments. I won't berate you too badly.
We are in Act IV, scene III of Henry V. The time for the fight has come. Henry's men are weak from bad food and poor health, and outnumbered by the French three to one. Most of the English think they will die trying to take a strip of land in northern France. Henry overhears his nobles venting their doubts and he goes straight to the marrow of their pride to get them stirred to battle.
WESTMORELAND: O that we now had here
Enter KIng Henry
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work today!
KING HENRY: 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 call'd the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
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 their mouths as household words, --
Harry the king, Beford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloster, --
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 remembered, --
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 accurs'd they were not here,
and hold their manhoods cheap while any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
But if Shakespeare isn't your thing, you should just watch this video. It's hilarious.