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NLP Language Essay

Agincourt NLP

Shakespeare Teaches Neuro Linguistic Programming

by Silvia Hartmann


I often get asked why I like NLP so much and what the use of it is.

How about to have the ability to get 5000 men to go to battle and beat 26,000 who were not as congruent - Life and death NLP, if you will. 

The famous Henry V speech by William Shakespeare is a truly outstanding example of conversational and global timeline work, ordering and structuring internal representations, using values, using outcome frames, eliciting, anchoring and embedding states, looping the whole thing up and by the time he's done, people are ready to do things that are normally beyond comprehension or expectation.



Agincourt NLP

(Shakespeare Teaches Neuro-Linguistic Programming) 

Various scared lords before the battle:

"Of fighting men, they have full five score three and thousand; besides, they are all fresh."

"It is a fearful odds."

"Oh that we now had here but one ten thousand of those men in England that do no work today!"


Henry responds:

"No my fair cousin, if we are marked to die, we are enough to do our country loss.

And if we live, the fewer men, the greater share of honour.

Gods will I pray thee: wish not one man more!

Proclaim it henceforth that he who has no stomach for this fight may now depart, his passport shall be made and grounds for convoy shall be put into his purse.

We would not die in that man's company who fears his fellowship to die with us!

This day is called the feast of Crispin.

He who outlives this day and comes safe home will stand on tiptoe when this day is named and rouse at the name of Crispin.

He who shall see this day and live old age will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours - tomorrow is St Crispin's!

Then he will strip his sleeve and show his scars: These wounds I have on Crispin's day.

Old men forget, and all shall be forgot, but he remembers with that vantage what feats he did that day.

And the names remembered!

These stories shall a good man teach his sons.

And not a year shall go by from now until the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remembered, we few, we happy few, we band of brothers, for he who sheds his blood with me today shall be my brother, no man so vile that this day shall not gentle his condition, and gentlemen in England now abed will think themselves accursed they were not here and hold their manhoods cheap while you were here and fought with us upon St Crispin's day."



The above is a speech by young king Henry V on the morning of the battle of Agincourt. 

His forces are far from home, exhausted after a year of campaigning all across the land, and fresh forces for the main battle on the other side outnumber the English 5 to 1.

So what can possibly be done? There really is only one hope. 

And that is, to have the soldiers fight with congruency, without fear and without fear of death, for it is well known that congruency and the right state can turn a man's action into pure magic.

So Henry, on hearing that one of his Lords makes the comment that he wishes there were an extra 10 000 people or so on their side and "that the odds are fearful", decides to go for the only thing he has left in the circumstance:

Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

So he starts with a simple re-frame: no, its actually a *good* thing that there's only so few of us - we don't have to share the honour!

This is a nice little re-frame for honour is not actually something that is generally distributed and becomes less, like a bag of gold, but there is certainly that strand about it too - after all if they win, they will get to do a good spot of pillaging, sacking and plundering, which is why many of them came in the first place, although, of course, you don't say that out loud.

Henry goes one better - he then offers to pay the fare back to England for anyone who wishes to leave. This is of course, entirely rhetoric yet it creates the illusion of choice; a very important point for congruency and a "forward pointing" state which he is creating for his soldiers. This is not a question about "having to fight" but one of "absolutely wanting to" from a state of deep, congruent motivation which is being built here brick by brick, step by step, internal representation by driving emotion.

The comment about not wanting to die in that man's company who fears his fellowship to die with us is a beautiful and very complex closing to the whole question of why they are there, and what is about to happen.

That everyone might die is presupposed, yet here you have a chance of dying in the company of a much loved king, and who indeed, would want to die in the company of cowards?

So now we have a baseline established in this sequence: 

1. we might live; if we do we will have an extraordinary share of honours and riches each (which is what most people want at the topline); 

2. you can run away on this thing, and good riddance! and 

3. if we die, we die together.

Now we get into the main thing, that the worst fears and worries have been expressed out loud, and that is a beautiful temporal sequence that terminates not only in life everlasting, but in redemption itself.

Delivered with "power hypnosis", Henry creates a timeline using the date of St Crispin's, from a point just beyond having survived the battle, to having safely returned home, and standing on tiptoe with pride each year, further out into middle age, feasting the neighbours and "showing the scars" and further still, out into old age where everything (!) else is forgotten but the feats done on this day, and then out further still until the end of time. 


Tied into this timeline are all kinds of values, from the admiration of the neighbours to the tales a good man tells his son, and the promise of redemption - no man is so vile that this fight cannot wash his sins away and finally, we have the whole thing wrapped up by going right back to the original starting point, those ten thousand men who *are not here*, asleep in bed and "holding their manhood cheap" (yes, Shakespeare did know what wankers were and said it beautifully, too!) because they are missing out on the chance of a lifetime to turn poverty into riches, failure into success, low status into being equals with a most admired king, respected and revered in their community, their sins cleared and death turned to immortality.

By the time he is finishes with the punch line, I'm ready to go - and I'm a woman who is 500 years too late.

So, you may wonder, why am I bothering to write this?

Because I often get asked why I like NLP so much and what the use of it is.

Well, that kind of thing above is the use of it, as far as I am concerned.

Not to sit somewhere and have someone tell you whether the picture is bright or grainy, but like Henry, to have the ability to get 5000 men to go to battle and beat 26000 who were not as congruent. 

Life and death NLP, if you will. 

This speech written by William Shakespeare is a great example of conversational and global timeline work, ordering and structuring internal representations, using values, using outcome frames, eliciting, anchoring and embedding states and whatever else there is going on there, looping the whole thing up and by the time he's done, his guys (and himself) are ready to do things that are normally beyond comprehension or expectation.

THAT, in my books, is what neuro linguistic programming is all about.


Silvia Hartmann, 1999


The Battle Of Agincourt (A True Story)

Agincourt, Battle of, military engagement during the Hundred Years' War, fought in France on October 25, 1415, between an English army under King Henry V of England and a French one under Charles d'Albret, constable of France.

Prior to the action, which took place in a narrow valley near the village of Agincourt (now Azincourt, in Pas-de-Calais Department), Henry, a claimant to the French throne, had invaded France and seized the port of Harfleur.

At the time of the action, Henry's army, weakened by disease and hunger, was en route to Calais, from which Henry planned to embark for England. In the course of the march to Calais the English force, which numbered about 6000 men, for the most part lightly equipped archers, was intercepted by d'Albret, whose army of about 25,000 men consisted chiefly of armored cavalry and infantry contingents. 

The English king, fearful of annihilation, sought a truce with the French, but his terms were rejected.

In the battle, which was preceded by heavy rains, the French troops were at a disadvantage because of their weighty armor, the narrowness of the battleground, the muddy terrain, and the faulty tactics of their superiors, notably in using massed formations against a mobile enemy. The French cavalry, which occupied frontal positions, quickly became mired in the mud, making easy targets for the English archers.

After routing the enemy cavalry, the English troops, wielding hatchets, billhooks (a type of knife), and swords, launched successive assaults on the French infantry.

 Demoralized by the fate of their cavalry and severely hampered by the mud, the French foot soldiers were completely overwhelmed.

D'Albret, several dukes and counts, and about 500 other members of the French nobility were killed; other French casualties totalled about 5000.

English losses numbered fewer than 200 men.

French feudal military strategy, traditionally based on the employment of heavily armored troops and cavalry, was completely discredited by Henry's victory. Although Henry returned to England after Agincourt, his triumph paved the way for English domination of most of France until the middle of the 15th century.


* This article is based on an original post To MindList 


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