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Shakespeare & Beyond

“Freshly remembered”: Modern spins on Shakespeare’s St. Crispin’s Day speech

actor Bill Pullman
actor Bill Pullman
actor Bill Pullman

Actor Bill Pullman in a 2021 ad for Budweiser

As proof that Shakespeare continues to inspire, one need look no further than a beer commercial that aired this past Fourth of July.

Budweiser hired actor Bill Pullman to give a presidential speech declaring our freedom from COVID isolation, part of a promotional push to encourage people to get vaccinated by offering them free beer. Wearing a bomber jacket like he did in his role as America’s president in the 1996 film Independence Day, Pullman says in the ad, “We’re fighting for freedom for all, not from alien invaders [but] from separation, from being cooped up while baking bread and ignoring basic hygiene,” while music swells in the background.

It’s a homage to the moment in the movie in which, after aliens from outer space have attacked Earth and destroyed most of our cities, the president gives an inspirational speech to a ragtag band of pilots from around the world that invokes both Shakespeare and Dylan Thomas:

“And should we win the day, the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice we will not go quietly into the night, we will not vanish without a fight, we’re going to live on. We’re going to survive. Today we celebrate our Independence Day!”

And that speech (by screenwriters Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich) is in both tone and dramaturgical function a clear homage to Shakespeare’s “St. Crispin’s Day” speech from Henry V.


You forgot Aragorn’s speech in The Return of the King! “A day may come when the bonds of fellowship fail…but it is not this day!”

Ali Curley — July 31, 2021

It’s a sacrilege to use Kenneth Branagh’s version for a beer commercial.

Jerry Sumner — July 31, 2021

Another example: Aragorn’s speech before the Battle of the Black Gate in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is certainly inspired by the St. Crispin’s Day speech.

Linda Cantoni — August 4, 2021

My remembrance of the speech is in a movie that most people dismissed because it was a comedy that most people dismissed. In Renaisance Man One of the recruits who has been taught to think by reading Shakespeare by Danny Devito has to prove he learn about working together by standing in the rain and recites the speech to his drill sergeant who thinks that the attempt to educate the soldiers is wasting time which could be more valuable in arms training. It is as emotional as the speech in the oontext of the play itself.

William Lucas — August 4, 2021

How could you forget Idris Elba’s “Today we are cancelling the apocalypse” speech in Pacific Rim? They’re literally about to go once more into The Breach!

SD — October 25, 2021

[…] Bill Pullman’s rally-the-troops monologue from Roland Emmerich’s film Independence Day (itself a modern update of Shakespeare’s St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V). And in the book, as Jeevan trudges through the Toronto snow, trying to escape the […]

Station Eleven, Shakespeare, and artists in a pandemic — December 21, 2021