The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2299  Tuesday, 19 November 2002

From:           Al Magary <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 17 Nov 2002 15:42:24 -0800
Subject:        "Esperance!"

J.L. Speranza on the HEL-L list wrote:

>Of course, "Speranza" should not be confused with its vulgar
>epenthetic variants, such as "Esperance", which happens to
>be an entry in the OED2, as used by Shakespeare in one of his
>famous plays (An Anglo-Norman battle cry, as I recall).

I was working with Hall's Chronicle--a principal source for Sh.--last
night and ran across that motto or battle cry of the Percy family (earls
of Northumberland).  At the battle of Shrewsbury, July 21, 1403, between
Henry IV and rebels led by the Percies:

"Then sodaynly the trumpettes blewe, the kyn- / ges parte cried sainct
George vpon them:  The aduersaries cried Espe- / raunce Percie, and so
furiously the armies ioyned."  (1550 ed., fol.  22r, line 44 to fol.
22v, line 1; online facsmiles at

In Henry IV, Part I, Sir Henry Percy (Hotspur) twice uses the motto.
The first reference is somewhat ignoble:

"That roan shall be my throne.
Well, I will back him straight: O esperance!--
Bid Butler lead him forth into the park."  (Act II, Sc. iii)

Later, at Shrewsbury:

"...and here draw I
A sword, whose temper I intend to stain
With the best blood that I can meet withal
In the adventure of this perilous day.
Now, Esperance! Percy! and set on.
Sound all the lofty instruments of war,
And by that music let us all embrace;
For, Heaven to Earth, some of us never shall
A second time do such a courtesy."  (Act V, Sc. ii)

Good stuff, far more stirring than Henry IV's speeches, but the king won
and Hotspur was killed and later drawn and quartered.  So much for
expectation or hope?

Al Magary

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