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What Shakespeare's 'Henry V' Tells Us about Leadership, Motivation, Wooing and Hanging

It has been described as one of the greatest battles of all time -- the fight between Henry V of England and the French army on October 25, 1415, at Agincourt in northern France. Henry, whose goal was to reclaim English territory seized by France in earlier centuries, had approximately 6,000 men. The French army, depending on which historical report you read, had anywhere from 30,000 to 60,000 soldiers, many of them knights in armor prepared to fight on foot and on horseback. The English army had neither armor nor horses, and they were exhausted by their two-month trek across France trying to reach what was then the English port of Calais.

But they did have what turned out to be a decisive advantage -- Henry V's leadership skills and his ability to innovate in ways that would turn significant disadvantages into game-winning advantages. In addition, before the battle started, he delivered one of the most famous motivational speeches in history -- at least as it is written in Shakespeare's Henry V. The speech has been played on Allied ships crossing the English Channel to Normandy during World War II; in locker rooms by football coaches losing at half time, and on the Internet for U.S. soldiers about to leave for duty in Iraq.

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