What Does We Few, We Happy Few Mean?

We Few, We Happy Few Meaning

Definition: There are not many of us, but we are proud and glad to be here.

Origin of We Few, We Happy Few

The expression first appeared in a play by the English playwright William Shakespeare. The play was Henry V, written around the year 1599.

The main character, King Henry, gives a speech to his men preparing for battle. This speech is known as the St. Crispin’s Day Speech.

King Henry wants to inspire his men to fight. He tells them that although their army was small, this only meant that their victory would hold greater glory.

KING HENRY V:

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 remember’d;

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 accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Examples of We Few, We Happy Few

we few we happy few we band of brothers meaningThe dialogue below shows two university students discussing their initiative to change the rules at their school.

Nisha: I’m surprised that so few students showed up to help us plan our protest.

Alan: I know. I think that our cause is just. I expected more people to want to join us.

Nisha: Oh well. I don’t care if it’s only the two of us. I’m still going to try to fight to improve the school. Maybe once more students see the progress we’re making they’ll want to participate.

Alan: I hope so. Should we say something to the people who did sign up to help? Maybe we should give a speech.

Nisha: Oh, that’s a good idea. I’ll give a speech that’s similar to the we few we happy few speech from Henry V.

Alan: Sounds good. Let me know if I can help with it at all.

we happy few we band of brothers The second dialogue shows a father and son discussing the association of locally owned restaurants.

Son: That was my first time attending one of the local restaurant owner meetings, but it was a lot smaller than I expected.

Dad: It was bigger in the past, but a lot of big corporations have taken over the other local business over the years.

Son: Is it worth it to keep fighting? It seems like we are doomed.

Dad: Of course it is worth it to keep fighting. There are not many of us, but those of us who are left have amazing quality of food! We few, we happy few, will never give up!

Son: Okay, fine, if you say so.

More Examples

The excerpt is about the play, Henry V.

  • “Henry V” aspires to national unity and pride. After a particularly hard-won victory, Henry makes a moving speech addressing his soldiers with great love: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.” –Houston Chronicle

This excerpt is about primary voters in 2008, who supported one candidate, Clinton, over another, Obama.

In the interview today, J.B. Pritzker quoted the Shakespeare line from Henry V: “We few; we happy few, we band of brothers.”

“I would say brothers and sisters. It wasn’t lonely, but we were outnumbered,” said the brother, head of the Pritzker Group, a private equity firm. –LA Times

Summary

The phrase we few we happy few is a famous line from a Shakespeare play. In the speech, King Henry is trying to inspire soldiers by saying they are few in number but great in spirit.