I present a poem. William Shakespeare was renowned for his revisionist versions of history in his plays, and it made me wonder if, in his thoughtful moments, he ever wanted to treat more fairly with some of the historical figures from his works. If he ever had such an inclination, no figure could be more worthy than Jean le Maingre dit Bouciquaut, Marshal of France, one of the principal figures in the French force at the battle of Agincourt (1415). Bouciquaut had a long and honorable career serving the crown of France, but was taken prisoner at Agincourt and died unransomed in England in 1421. Shakespeare mentions Bouciquaut by name in Henry V (though variously spelled Bowchquall, Bouchiquald, and Bouciqualt in the Quarto of 1600, the First Folio of 1623, and modern editions, respectively), so he certainly knew of Bouciquaut’s place in the events surrounding the Battle of Agincourt. I have therefore selected a stanza form Shakespeare used for one of his longer poems and written the words Shakespeare might have placed in the mouth of the dying Bouciquaut.
Bouciquaut was a landed noble, but not of the French royal line. Shakespeare was well aware of Bouciquaut’s importance as a prisoner; he is one of only three prisoners (and the only non-royal) Shakespeare chose to mention by name in Henry V (IV, viii) :
|KING:||What prisoners of good sort are taken, Uncle?|
||Charles Duke of Orleans, nephew to the king;
John Duke of Bourbon, and Lord Bouciqualt:
Of other lords and barons, knights and squires,
Full fifteen hundred, besides common men.
Bouciquaut was a famous hero in his own land. A contemporary work on his life, written sometime before 1410, still exists, Le Livre des faits du bon messire Jehan le Maingre, dit Bouciquaut, mareschal de France et gouverneur de Jennes (The Book of the Deeds of the good knight Jean le Maingre, called Bouciquaut, marshal of France and governor of Genoa). Bouciquaut was himself a poet, and patron of the arts, but was best known as a soldier, who not only distinguished himself in battle and tournament, but founded an order of knighthood whose charge it was to guard the families and lands of knights absent while serving in foreign lands .
There is no knowing whether this source was available to Shakespeare; however, many of Bouciquaut’s early exploits, including the Battle of Roosebeke (at which Bouciquaut, aged 16, was knighted), and the Jousts of Saint Inglevert (probably the best known and best recorded jousts of the Middle Ages) also appeared in Froissart’s Chronicles, in which Froissart described Bouciquaut in glowing terms . Shakespeare undoubtedly had access to Froissart’s Chronicles, and used it as a source for many of his histories .
Froissart, sadly, died too soon to chronicle the events surrounding the Battle of Agincourt. However, the “miraculous” account of the Battle of Agincourt given by Shakespeare in Henry V was contradicted by many contemporary accounts which appear in various British collections; in fact, the French battle plan drawn up before the battle resides in the British Library, and must have been taken back to England as a prize after the battle [5, 6]. The facts of the careful plans laid by the marshals, D’Albret (called Delabreth by Shakespeare) and Bouciquaut, and their ruin at the actions of arrogant French nobles, was surely available to a careful scholar.
In imagining what thoughts Shakespeare might have credited to the dying knight, I selected the romantic mood expressed by Talbot in King Henry VI, Part I (IV, v), when he cannot persuade his son to fly to safety and he contemplates their certain imminent death :
||Then here I take my leave of thee, fair son,
Born to eclipse thy life this afternoon.
Come, side by side together live and die.
And soul with soul from France to heaven fly.
I took the facts of Bouciquaut’s having been raised at court, a friend to the then Dauphin, and supposed the sorrow of a loyal subject and a dedicated soldier who knew that his King was not only incompetent, but actually mad. Bouciquaut had watched Charles VI go from a child king, crowned a month shy of his 12th birthday, to a handsome youth known as “Well-Beloved” by his people, to an often raving lunatic [2, 7].
Bouciquaut nevertheless served France with distinction, becoming governor of Genoa when the lands were captured in battle. He was captured at the Battle of Nicopolis, but was ransomed from his Ottoman jailers by the French Crown [2, 3]. I used Constantinople in place of Nicopolis (though they are near one another, Nicopolis is located in what is today Bulgaria) because Constantinople was the recognizable name for the lands of the Ottoman Turks in Shakespeare’s time. In Henry V, Shakespeare has Henry woo Katherine (he’s a fighter, not a lover!) with talk of the future military exploits of their son (V, ii) :
|KING HENRY V:
||…shall not thou and I,
between Saint Denis and Saint George, compound a
boy, half French, half English, that shall go to
Constantinople and take the Turk by the beard?
After the Battle of Agincourt, Henry and Charles VI negotiated the Treaty of Troyes (1420) in which Charles acknowledged Henry as his heir to the throne of France . Though Henry died in 1422 and never saw the French throne, Bouciquaut died before him in 1421, perhaps comforted in the belief that there would one day be a man on the throne of France worthy of fealty and respect, a fellow accomplished soldier. I therefore end the poem with Bouciquaut expressing the same idea as Talbot, of two soldiers riding together to glory.
Structure: Form, Rhyme and Meter
The basic meter is iambic pentameter of six-lined stanzas rhymed according to the pattern ababcc; this particular stanza came to be known as the “Venus and Adonis stanza” after a work published by Shakespeare in 1593 [9, 10, 11]:
The studded bridle on a ragged bough
Nimbly she fastens- O, how quick is love!
The steed is stalled up, and even now
To tie the rider she begins to prove.
Backward she pushed him, as she would be thrust,
And governed him in strength, though not in lust.
Since I ultimately expected this piece to be sung, I wondered if this stanza form was appropriate to contemporary music of Shakespeare’s time, and happily, it is. In John Dowland’s Second Book of Songs (1600), the song “Toss Not My Soul” appears, also iambic pentameter of six-lined stanzas rhymed according to the pattern ababcc :
Tosse not my soule, O love, twixt hope and feare
Shew mee some ground where I may firmely stand
Or surely fall, I care not which appeare
So one will close mee in a certaine band
When once of ill the uttermost is knowne
The strength of sorrow quite is overthrown.
In order to give the piece a clear association with the events surrounding the Battle of Agincourt, I chose to follow each stanza with a short non-English phrase, patterned after the format of “The Agincourt Carol” (15th c.). In addition to the repeated chorus, “Deo gracias Anglia redde pro Victoria” (England, give thanks to God for victory), the carol ends each verse with the short phrase “Deo gracias” :
Owre kynge went forth to Normandy
With grace and might of chivalry
Ther God for hym wroght mervelusly
Wherfore Englonde may calle and cry
Deo gracias Anglia
Redde pro Victoria.
Here the stanza is four lines of iambic tetrameter (a common stanza form for the 15th century), and the phrase “Deo gracias” is tacked on without respect to the stanza form. It is both part, and not part, of the sense of the verse; here in verse one, it clearly appears that the people are crying “Deo gracias”, though in later verses, the sense of the stanza is complete without the addition of the phrase. I have tried to do the same thing in my poem; some stanzas cry out for the phrase “servir le lis” (‘to serve the lily’) to complete their sense, and others do not, though the addition of the phrase is always appropriate to the sense of the preceding line.
I chose French over Latin, both because Bouciquaut was French, and because while Shakespeare’s French was quite good (when required, many of his characters speak perfect French) the same cannot be said for his Latin. In fact, Shakespeare was so little acquainted with even popular Latin prayers and songs that the Quarto edition of Henry V (1600) has the king asking for “Novoves and te Deum” to be sung after the battle; Shakespeare or another editor had corrected the titles to “Non nobis and Te Deum” by the First Folio printing (1623) .
Poetic Devices [1, 10, 11]
Shakespeare was a master of poetic devices, many of which are displayed even in the short passages appearing above.
I have used personification with regard to “Fortune”; Shakespeare frequently personifies Fate, Fortune, or some other controlling force beyond men’s actions. Earlier in the scene from Henry VI (IV, v), Talbot curses Fate as “O malignant and ill-boding stars!,” or a force of active evil intent.
Shakespeare also makes heavy use of imagery. After cursing the stars, Talbot talks about his son “eclipsing” his life. From these and other instances of celestial bodies as images, I chose to equate the life of Bouciquaut with a day, and use the sun’s rising and setting as bookends for his life.
Shakespeare also uses figurative language. Henry doesn’t say that his son will win back the Holy Land, he says the boy will “take the Turk by the beard,” showing Henry’s playful mood as well as his tendency to view battles as adventures rather than painful necessities. I have tried to use phrases that have a more evocative feel of Bouciquaut’s poignant mood, as when I describe Charles VI’s being too crazy to govern as “madness took the scepter from his hand.”
Shakespeare uses allusion in his poetry, and occasionally also in his plays. In Henry V (IV, viii) the chorus describes the scene of Henry’s victorious return to London (the very scene which “The Agincourt Carol” is said to describe) and likens the crowd to Romans who would “go forth and fetch their conqu’ring Caesar in.” From this line, I took the idea of using “Caesar” to describe the French royals who spurned the battle tactics of men lower in rank but greater in strategic thinking. “Caesar” seems to sum up their pridefulness better than any raw description of their rank.
Shakespeare recognized the ability to use a double entendre, or play on words, especially where he had characters in the same scene speaking different languages. The scene in Henry V (IV, iv) where Pistoll captures a French soldier is full of humor based on Pistoll’s deliberate misunderstanding of French. In All’s Well That Ends Well Shakespeare features a character named Parolles; though named for an oath or given word, Parolles is a compulsive liar who couldn’t keep his word if his life depended on it. Since Shakespeare usually employs double entendre for humorous effect, which isn’t appropriate to this piece, I have allowed myself only one small instance, asking God to “grant the chance” for Henry and Katherine to serve the lily. In French, <chance> means ‘luck’, so while the speaker is wishing the royal couple the opportunity to serve, he is also wishing them luck.
Where Shakespeare really shines, though, is in the poetic devices that give his work a musical quality. We see alliteration, or repeated consonant sounds, especially in his poetry, as in “Venus” stanza featuring <studded>, <steed>, and <stalled>. I, for example, used <duty>, <display>, and <dozen> in close proximity to emphasis the formal nature of the subject (Charles’ royal upbringing).
More often in Shakespeare’s plays we find the use of internal rhyme (repeated internal or end sounds within a line) and assonance (repeated vowel sounds or vowel-consonant combinations), as much for the flow and musicality of the line as for emphasis on particular images or ideas. Consider the rhythm created with “side by side” and “soul with soul” as well as with “Saint Denis and Saint George” and “half French, half English.” I likewise tried to create rhythm with phrases like “lettered, schooled, and squired,” as well as with repeated sounds, like <Stand> and <first> and “France’s cavaliers.”
Vocabulary and Language
Since I’m speaking with Shakespeare’s voice, I used Shakespeare’s words almost exclusively. Every word of my poem was used by Shakespeare, in the same usage, i.e., I found “call” used as a noun, not merely as a verb, with the following exceptions:
Parole: As mentioned above, Shakespeare was obviously aware of this word as he used it to name a character, but since the word does not appear as I have used it, I verified the contemporary usage in Cotgrave’s A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues published in London in 1611 :
“Donner parole. Il avoir secrettement donné parole au Roy. He had under hand offered the King his service; or had assured him that he would be for him.”
Lettered: I found <unlettered> and figured that was close enough.
Squired: I could not find squire used as a verb, which surprised me, because the use of <squire> as a verb dates back at least to Chaucer’s time. In the Canterbury Tales, the Wife of Bath mentions in her prologue (line 305) of her husband “And for he squiereth me bothe up and doun.” 
Display: I could not find it used as a noun in Shakespeare’s work; however, the Oxford English Dictionary dates the use of Display as a noun to 1583 in England .
Aimé, Servir, Lis: I found both <le> and <bien> in Shakespearean works, but I had to verify the remaining French words from Cotgrave’s .
Ironically, in Middle French, the language Bouciquaut would have spoken, the form of the verb ‘to serve’ was <server>, but by Shakespeare’s time it had mutated to <servir> [15, 18].
I was also surprised not to find <fleur-de-lis> appearing in Shakespeare, but the bard exclusively used the anglicized term <flower-de-luce>. Likewise, though most modern editions of Shakespeare have corrected the title of the Prince of France to <Dauphin>, <Dolphin> is what Shakespeare used, as I have done.
Evensong: Shakespeare doesn’t seem to have used any of the canonical offices in his work. Evensong as the evening service, a combination of Vespers and Compline, was instituted by Thomas Cranmer in 1549 . It would have been the evening service familiar to Shakespeare.
I also tried to use whole phrases that Shakespeare used, like “side by side” and “common men.” Though Shakespeare did not, sadly, use the phrase “soldier’s soldier”, Dromio in A Comedy of Errors (III, ii) says, “I am a woman’s man,” so the construction at least was not alien to Shakespeare.
In searching in Shakespeare’s work for my words, I had to change one word: I originally had <plan> instead of <plot> in the 4th stanza, because to the modern ear, the word <plot> has a negative association. (It did not for Shakespeare; the Abbot in Richard II (IV, i) says, “I’ll lay a plot shall show us all a merry day.”) Unfortunately, the Oxford English Dictionary informs me that <plan> as a verb dates only to 1718 in England, so away it went in favor of <plot> .
A note on <Katherine>: the number of syllables is somewhat ambiguous, but in Henry V (V, ii) Shakespeare clearly intends it to have two syllables: “Yet leave our cousin Katherine here with us.” I have therefore given it two syllables.
Text Presentation, Spelling and Capitalization
My poem is presented as a printed work by Shakespeare would have been set. Specifically, I have set my piece in the trappings of the print version of “Venus and Adonis” from 1593, adorned with the border designs selected by the printer, Richard Field . (A modern English spelling version appears as an appendix at the end for ease of reading.) I have also retained the lines from Ovid (“Amores”, Book I, elegy XV: “His Immortality,” lines 35-6) which either Field or Shakespeare caused to be placed on the title page :
Vilia miretur vulgus: mihi flavus Apollo
Pocula Castalia plena minister aqua.
(Let the worthless delight the masses: to me may golden Apollo
serve cups full of the water of Castalia.)
Castalia was a spring on Parnassus which was sacred to Apollo and the Muses . Despite Shakespeare’s description of the poem in his dedication as “unpolisht lines” this quote seems to indicate that he thought he had achieved something noteworthy. In place of Shakespeare’s dedication to his patron, the Earl of Southampton, I have written a brief note to the judges. My note was printed, as was Shakespeare’s dedication, in italics.
Since an edition this small would likely have been printed as loose sheets, I have punched the sheets with a cordwainer’s pricking iron and stitched them together with linen thread .
Several of the type characters differ from modern usage. Typically, the “long s” character, which resembles an “f” which is not completely crossed through, was used almost uniformly where a lower-case “s” appeared in any position other than as the last letter of the word (when a more modern-looking “s” was used). The true “long s” (which can be approximated with an integral symbol) appears only in italicized text. It was also usually joined to the character following, including “t”, “l”, “h” and “I”; where necessary I have joined those characters by hand. Upper-case S appears as in modern usage. Lower case “v” always appears as “u”, unless it is the first letter of the word. Contrarily, “u” appears as “v” at the beginning of words, and as does upper-case “U” (as “V”) in most words, especially titles. Upper-case W was replaced entirely by two upper-case Vs. Lower-case w appears as normal, except in italics, where it appears as two lower-case Us.
Spellings of words used by Shakespeare were taken either from the Quarto edition of “Venus and Adonis”, Quarto editions of the plays (1594-1600), or the First Folio printing of 1623 . As the Quarto did not always contain complete texts (for example, the prologues and choruses are often missing), some words only survive in the Folio.
Words ending in <-ed> where the final syllable was not meant to be pronounced appeared both with and without an apostrophe. For example, <schooled> is two syllables; the single-syllable version might appear either as <school’d> or <schoold>, but more often with the former presentation, which I have chosen consistently for such words.
Many words appear in several different ways in Shakespeare’s spelling (including, famously, his own name), and I just had to pick one. In most cases, I chose the odd spelling over a modern-seeming one for period flavor; for example, I found both <sun> and <sunne>, but chose the latter. I found and used <madnes>, but <madnesse> or even <madness> would not surprise me.
The remaining spellings come from Cotgrave’s Dictionarie ; a representative page (the page, in fact, with “aimé”) appears as an appendix for comparison. The text style of Cotgrave’s is very similar to the Folio, except that the English definitions appear completely italicized, as most names do in the Folio, as well as many foreign words, which is why I chose to italicize <Servir le lis>.
In comparing the Quarto and the Folio, I noticed a huge difference in the capitalization of words from one to the other. According to Introduction to Early Modern English, the period from the late 16th century through the first decades of the 17th century saw a great deal of change in conventions of capitalization . The author writes, “In 1593 (as throughout the sixteenth century) capitalization affected certain classes of nouns only: personification, names of animals and plants, minerals, the arts and sciences, religions and their institutions, cosmological and geographical terms, expressions related to royalty and the state, occupations, kinship terms, and foreign words not yet anglicized. In the First Folio of 1623 capitalization was extended (possibly owing to the influence of books printed on the continent) so that any noun, verb or adjective might be capitalized…” I have used this guideline to capitalize only words which were likely to be capitalized in 1600. For example, <scepter> was not capitalized in the Quarto of Henry V, despite its association with royalty, but was capitalized in the Folio; I have therefore chosen to leave it lower-case in my poem.
 Shakespeare, William, The Riverside Shakespeare, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974.
 Lalande, Denis, ed., Le Livre des faits du bon messire Jehan le Maingre, dit Bouciquaut, mareschal de France et gouverneur de Jennes. Ed. Denis Lalande. Textes Littéraires Français no. 331. Genève: Droz, 1985. The original medieval biography was written between 1406 and 1409 and does not therefore include the events or the aftermath of the battle of Agincourt.
 Johnes, Thomas, Sir John Froissart’s Chronicles of England, France, and Spain, and the Adjoining Countries, from the latter part of the reign of Edward II, to the Coronation of Henry IV, London, 1808, vol. II, pp.434-446 covers the Jousts at St. Inglevert. Every time Bouciquaut is challenged, Froissart says that he was “instantly” ready to taken up the challenge, which is amusing for anyone who has spent any time around knights and armor. “Instantly” rarely happens.
 Mabillard, Amanda. “Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sources for Richard II“. Shakespeare Online. 15 August 2006.
 Nicolas, Nicholas Harris, The History of the Battle of Agincourt and of the Expedition of Henry the Fifth into France, London: Johnson, 1827.
 Philpotts, C., “The French plan of battle during the Agincourt campaign” in English Historical Review, pp. 59-68, London, 1984.
 Famiglietti, R.C., Royal Intrigue: Crisis at the Court of Charles VI, 1392-1420, New York: AMS Press, 1986.
 Ogg, F. A., A Source Book of Medieval History, New York, 1907, p. 443.
 Shakespeare, William, “Venus and Adonis”, published 1593.
 Perrine, Laurence, Sound and Sense, An Introduction to Poetry (4th edition), New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973.
 Preminger, Alex, editor. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965.
 Nadal, David, ed., Lute Songs of John Dowland: The Original First and Second Books Including Dowland’s Original Lute Tablature, New York: Dover Publications, 1997, p. 102.
 Bodleian Library MSS. Selden, B 26, “The Song of Agincourt”, 15th c.
 Shakespeare, William, various plays, WWW: Internet Shakespeare Editions, 1996-2008. Facsimiles of original printings. Available online through the University of Victoria:
 Cotgrave, Randle, A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues, London, 1611.
Available online, “Assembled from two scans in the French National Library by Greg Lindahl”:
 Chaucer, Geoffrey, The Canterbury Tales, ca. 1400.
 The Oxford English Dictionary Online, WWW: Oxford University Press, 2009.
 Dictionnaire du Moyen Francais (1330-1500)
Available online through Nancy Universite:
 MacCulloch, Diarmaid, Thomas Cranmer, a Life, Yale University Press, 1998.
 Collins Latin-English English Latin Dictionary, London: Collins, 1966.
 Roberts, Matt, Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books; a Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1982, foreword by Goff, Frederick R. Goff, Honorary Consultant in Early Printed Books, Library of Congress. Goff writes, “The earliest printed books were issued by their printers in unbound sheets; those who purchased them arranged to have them bound according to their individual requirements.” Available online through Stanford University at:
 Görlach, Manfred, Introduction to Early Modern English, revised edition, London: Cambridge University Press, 1991, p 49.
The sun rose on the morning of my years
And fortune offered me a noble goal
To stand as first of France’s cavaliers
To fight with pride, and live by my parole
With Charles the Dauphin lettered, schooled, and squired
And trained to do whatever was required
Servir le lis.
Too early called to duty and display
A dozen years, and then a throne and crown
Yet known as “well-beloved”, le bien aimé,
My king was destined ever for renown
But madness took the scepter from his hand
Yet still I journeyed forth at his command
Servir le lis.
In tournament I sought for no reward
But glory for the lily on my shield
In Genoa, made governor and lord
In far Constantinople, forced to yield
But ransom paid, I journeyed forth once more
To answer duty’s call and ride to war
Servir le lis.
At Agincourt I joined friend Delabreth
With mustered force, our stratagems agreed,
But Caesars will not follow into death
Nor suffer common men to plot or lead
Before day’s end, I knew our cause was lost
But still I fought on, heedless of the cost
Servir le lis.
I fell a captive, taken as a prize,
And knelt to English Henry in my shame
I saw a soldier’s soldier in his eyes
And in his word and deed no hint of blame
He marries royal Katherine, heir of France;
May God provide them sons, and grant the chance
Servir le lis.
At sunset now my evensong I sing
And pray before I close my eyes in sleep
I dream that I am riding with my king,
A world to win, and honor still to keep;
With Henry will my faith at last abide
As we ride out together, side by side,
Servir le lis.
The Iudges of This Contestation
RIght Honourable, I know not how I shall
offend in placing before you these few
lines touuards the greater fame and glory
of so faire and uirtuous a knight, uuho so
but a Stranger and Prisoner in this Realme was yet no less
uuorthy of much respeç. I leaue it to your Honourable
suruey and awaite your commentes uuith hopefull expeçation.
Yours in all dutie,