I was discussing sayings and idioms with my good friend and fellow blogger Frank Watson the other day. He had written a blog titled ‘Lost Idioms’. We were reflecting on the fact that many terms we use today are either from the book of proverbs or Shakespeare or both. I happened to remark that my mother had a strange expression I never understood. When she was urging us along she would say, “Anyway, let’s move on, there is work to be done and throats to be cut.” As a child I always found it strange. I understood the ‘work to be done’ bit but I never got around to asking her why she would say ‘throats to be cut’. It’s pretty bloodthirsty when you think of it.
Well on Saturday the 6th we went to see Henry V, Shakespeare’s play filmed from the Globe theatre. It was there I heard it, my mother used to quote it back to front, in the play King Henry (Harry) says “And there is throats to be cut and works to be done.” I rarely used the idiom but if I did I prefixed it with “as Nanna used to say”. Now, if I use the quote I will have to prefix it with “as Harry used to say.”
Henry V centres on the time before and just after the battle of Agincourt when a young Harry goes off to fight the French, during the 100 years war. He prays for God to steel his soldiers’ hearts and not let them pay for his father’s foul means of obtaining the crown. He then gives the marvellous speech we all have been re-introduced to in recent times. “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…..”
My previous knowledge of Shakespeare was ‘Much ado about nothing’ (which I enjoyed) and Romeo and Juliet. I never could understand why the latter was supposed to be a great love story. I preferred happy endings. Why would you almost instantly drink poison thinking that your lover was lifeless not waiting long enough to make sure she was deceased? What a waste!
As a teenager I was more interested in the story of one who loved me so much that He surrendered His life willingly so that I could live forever. Not only did He die for me, but for the whole human race. Now that is a love story with a happy ending. “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. “(John 3:16)
O God of Battles! Steel my soldiers’ hearts:
(Jamie Parker-Led playing Henry V at the Globe Theatre)