Go Ye Heroes, Go and Die

"Go, ye heroes, go to glory—
Though ye die in combat gory,
Ye shall live in song and story!
Go to Immortality!

Go to death, and go to slaughter!
Die, and every Cornish daughter,
With her tears, your graves will water!
Go, ye heroes, go and die!"
Mabel Stanley and her sisters to cowardly policemen, The Pirates of Penzance

When a Rousing Speech... isn't.

A hero — or, well, anyone — is about to go risk their neck for something. A sidekick or other people begin "motivating" them, sometimes in song, by thanking them for the dangerous task they are about to undertake, which may cause their deaths, describing To the Pain what the hero might suffer and — really, it would be better if the hero hadn't heard this speech at all. Especially in comedy shows.

The trope is named after a passage from the song "When the Foeman Bares His Steel," from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance.

Compare with Stop Helping Me!, where good intentions don't outweigh the negative effects of the "help". Contrast with the Rousing Speech, which "Go, Ye Heroes, Go And Die" subverts... unless the listeners are from a Martyrdom Culture where a call to go forth and die heroically is a Rousing Speech played straight.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Azumanga Daioh: Right before taking the entrance exam for college, Tomo declares "All right, let's fail this thing!" Only Osaka remains cheerful.
  • In One Piece, Ace's beloved commander Whitebeard comes to try to save him from execution, and it turns into a massive battle. At a fairly dire turning point, Whitebeard puts forth this rallying cry: "Those who would stand with me, prepare to lose your lives!"
    • His men stick with him. They don't all die, but the idea here is that they're making a Heroic Sacrifice to let some of the other pirate factions get away.

    Film -Animated 
  • When Linguini of Ratatouille gives his "inspiring" speech in preparation for the arrival of food critic Anton Ego, he depresses his kitchen staff so much that by the end only Colette can muster the energy to stand up straight. (It doesn't help that what he actually said was, "Appetite is coming, and he's going to have a big ego!")
    • Colette finally stops him and gives her own shorter speech, which moralizes them much better.
    Colette: Ego is just another critic. Let's cook!
  • In The LEGO Movie, Emmett spends a bit too long on the part of the Rousing Speech where he plays down his strengths, so that by the time he gets to the actual rousing part, everyone's lost faith in him.
  • In A Bug's Life, all of the ant children put on an adorable pageant for the "warrior bugs", featuring a mural showing them getting massacred in battle, and then a school play where all the characters die dramatically. The "warrior bugs", who are in fact circus performers who had no idea they had been mistaken for warriors until this moment, are horrified.
    Rosie: Oh, look at the beautiful colors of the... blood.
    Dot: We drew one of you dying because our teacher said it would be more dramatic!
  • Admiral Fred gives one of these in Yellow Submarine just before The Beatles board the submarine. Fortunately, the Beatles are not fazed for more than a few moments.
    Fred: Well, lads, what do you think?
    George: Well, I think that...
    Fred: Remember, there'll be rough seas ahead. What do you think?
    Paul: Well, then, um...
    Fred: Pounding, overwhelming waves! Now, what do you think of that?
    John: Well, I think that...
    Ringo: As a matter of fact, I...
    The Beatles: I think...
    Fred: Well?
    The Beatles: I've forgotten.

    Film -Live Action 
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
    • "Bravely, bold Sir Robin" is the song of a bard on how Sir Robin will suffer (his bowels unplugged, his nostrils raped, and his penis...) in his heroics. Robin's reply?
    "That's... quite enough music for now."
    • Another famous line:
      Tim: "Follow. But! Follow only if you be men of valor, for the entrance to this cave is guarded by a creature so foul, so cruel that no man yet has fought with it and lived! (...) so brave knights, if you do doubt your courage or your strength, come no further! For death awaits you all with nasty big pointy teeth."
  • Théoden has a remarkably short one in the Return of the King movie. "No, we can't [defeat them]. But we will meet them in battle nonetheless." No wonder Aragorn took over the duties of rallying his troops in the next battle. The speech was originally Éomer's encouragement for a Last Stand in the book, which is why it basically boils down to "let's at least try to die heroically".
  • Kermit rallies the Happiness Hotel together to foil a robbery in The Great Muppet Caper, only to ruin everything by warning them of the probability of violence. Fozzy, of all people, is the one to get them all back on the band wagon.
  • An intentional version from the Marx Brothers movie Duck Soup as Harpo is "volunteered" to break through enemy lines in the final battle between Freedonia and Sylvania:
    Rufus T. Firefly: You're a brave man. Go and break through the lines. And remember, while you're out there risking your life and limb through shot and shell, we'll be in be in here thinking what a sucker you are.
  • In Erik the Viking, Erik makes a dramatic speech about the quest he and his men are going on, mentioning the dangers they might face. He only succeeds in making the families of his crew start mourning their deaths before they even clear the dock.
    Lalo: Dis is very bad juju right here...
  • Jesus Christ Superstar:
    Crowd: Hey JC, JC, won't you die for me?
    Jesus: suddenly looks awfully concerned
  • King Erasmus the Randomly Biased gives one at the end of The Gamers: Dorkness Rising:
    Flofenrest: The Mask of Death! It's gone! Stolen, by The Shadow!
    King Erasmus: You guys just got here! Surely there is another hero in our kingdom that would prefer to go in their place to certain death? (beams at audience)
    (throne room breaks into laughter)
    King Erasmus: Alright, it seems unlikely... Good luck then, off you go!
  • In Kamen Rider × Super Sentai: Super Hero Taisen, the newly Face-Heel Turn-ed Kamen Rider Decade's speech to his forces basically consists of "You all suck except for the fact that you come back no matter how many times you're killed, so go out there and fight until you win!" Subverted in that it actually does seem to motivate them, and makes a lot more sense when they reveal that Decade is only pretending to be a villain..

  • In Jingo, Captain Carrot rallies his troops with a rousing cry of "If we succeed, no-one will remember. And if we fail, no one will forget!" Noted to be perhaps the worst battle cry since "Let's all get our throats cut, lads." It's a subversion, though, in that it actually works. But only because it's Carrot, who could have led a thousand armies into war under the battle cry of "Eggs! Milk! Bread! FLOUR!" It also fits a running theme of the book: leaders who got their men pointlessly killed are remembered forever, but ones who prevented bloodshed are quickly forgotten.
  • In the first book of the Sword of Truth series, Zedd invokes this by using it intentionally: He gets a mob that wants to burn him for witchcraft to convince itself that warlocks are powerful, evil quasi-deities, and then compliments them on their courage to fight such a dangerous foe. And then convinces them that he made their *ahem* "manhoods" disappear, as none of them want to admit they are gullible enough to believe him by checking in front of everyone else.
  • In the Wheel of Time, Mat Cauthon notes that he hates it when his troops sing songs like this when they pass through towns. Interestingly, his hatred stems from the fact that it causes his recruitment to go up massively making it that much more expensive to feed the army. The more brutal and gory the song makes war sound, the faster the recruits sign up.
  • Dionysius ("Mr. D") sometimes pulls this in Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

    Live Action TV 
  • Subverted in the Musical Episode of Lexx, where the tale of a noble but doomed last stand genuinely inspires the heroes to do the same. The rousing finale:
    We will honor the past
    And fight to the last
    It will be a good way to die
    • In this case, they know that if they do not fight now, they will still suffer the same nasty death a short time later. If they fight now, they at least have a chance at hurting the enemy.
  • A rare successful example happens in episode 3 of Band of Brothers, after Speirs, the local Blood Knight, knocks some sense into a shell-shocked private. For what it's worth, Spiers applies this to himself as well, to great effect.
    Speirs: The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you're already dead. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you'll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function: without mercy, without compassion, without remorse. All war depends upon it.
  • An amusing example on British panel show Mock the Week, on the subject of "Worst things to say before going into battle":
    Frankie Boyle: Just remember, soon you will all be back home with your families. In a jar... on the mantelpiece...
  • Buffy gives one in the final episode of season 5:
    Buffy: Everybody knows their jobs. Remember, the ritual starts, we all die. And I'll kill anyone who comes near Dawn.
    Spike: Well, not exactly the Saint Crispin's Day speech, was it?
    Giles: We few. We happy few.
    Spike: We band of buggered.
  • An ITV Panto had a song in which Jack (played by Neil Morrisey) declares his intent to climb the beanstalk, while a chorus of villagers sung how brave he was for risking certain death. In the second verse he starts explaining why he can't climb the beanstalk right at the moment...
  • At the beginning of The West Wing episode "Election Day", in the moments before the polls open it is suggested that Josh Lyman, the Santos Campaign Manager, might want to say a few words to thank, rouse and inspire the troops. Unfortunately, Josh is in the process of allowing his own neuroses about the occasion to overwhelm him, with the result that his speech quickly derails into a rant about a key tactical mistake that someone he's already fired made months ago. And he forgets the whole 'thank you' part. Needless to say, the troops are neither roused nor inspired by this.
  • The pilot of Community contains a non-death related variation; the Dean's Rousing Speech to welcome the new students in the pilot becomes one of these when he manages to lose the middle, which is unfortunately the bit that contains the 'Rousing' part. The rest is just basically a list of all the stereotypes (which, unfortunately, match our heroes quite closely) of the kind of 'loser' who attends community college. Naturally, no one listening is particularly roused.
  • Another non-death variation happened in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Will has bet a lot of money on his college football team and seeing their regular motivator/mascot Carlton isn't available he tries to fill in and proceeds to give a Rousing Speech to motivate the team urging them to give it their all since winning this game will be the greatest moment of glory of their lives... literally, because the chances of any of them going pro are slim to none and a fair number of them probably won't even graduate. Naturally, they get bummed out and lose despite Carlton returning.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Barney gives Marshall a pep talk on picking up women. "Tonight isn't about scoring. It's about believing that you can do it, even though you probably can't."
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Sacrifice of Angles" Facing a fleet that outnumbers their own more than 2:1, Dr. Bashir and Chief O'Brien decide it's a good time to recite "The Charge of the Light Brigade" (appropriately, the Federation fleet numbers about 600 ships). To their credit, they eventually realize that they're not being helpful:
    Ensign Nog: How does that poem end?
    O'Brien (slightly abashed): Uh, you don't want to know.

     Newspaper Comics 

  • In The Marriage of Figaro, the melody of the Count's remarks to Cherubino, "Non più andrai" can be considered as this.
  • "When the Foeman Bares his Steel", from The Pirates of Penzance, is the Trope Namer. The policemen sing about how they could use some incentive. Then the women sing about how heroic they are to be facing certain death. Lampshaded by the leader of the policemen:
    "We observe too great a stress
    on the risks that on us press,
    and of reference a lack
    to our chance of coming back.
    Still, perhaps it would be wise
    not to carp or criticize,
    for it's very evident
    these attentions are well meant."
    • Towards the end of the song the police are working themselves up to it, and keep singing "Forward on the foe/we go, we go" (while starting to march offstage, only to turn around, march back and reaffirm that they really are going now; rinse and repeat). After a couple of iterations Major-General Stanley starts shouting "Yes, but you don't go!"
  • The musical Les Misérables has about half of "Do You Hear The People Sing?", which could perhaps stand to go into a little less detail on the blood of the martyrs and whatnot.

    Video Games 
  • The Exile can give one of these deliberately in a Dark Side option during the defense of Dantooine in Knights of the Old Republic 2.
    • If your Persuade or Speech skills are too low, the most you can tell them is "Try not to get shot".
  • In Mass Effect 3, if Javik goes to the Citadel, he'll attract attention from some civilians due to being a Prothean. When asked if whether or not they'll have a chance to defeat the Reapers, he'll bluntly tell them that if his people were wiped out then this generation has absolutely no shot at beating them. However if Shepard steps in, he'll turn the speech around and make a Rousing Speech instead.
  • During a Serious Sam 2 cutscene, the hero tries to give a rousing speech, but an enemy mook messing with the microphone cable manages to time his disruptions of the speech so that it turns into one of these. It still works.
    Sam: "If we go now [...] we'll never have a chance [...] to defeat Mental. [...] go now [...] enter those starships [...] that fate awaits you.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Ghirahim gives a speech similar to this to his army before the final showdown with Link by telling them to die on Link's sword to slow him down so that Ghirahim can finish an important ceremony. The army knows that if they don't die on Link's sword, then they will die on Ghirahim's.


    Web Originals 
  • In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, the dumb and callous Captain Hammer tries delivering a Rousing Speech in song form with "Everyone's A Hero", which ends up being filled with Stealth Insults and comes off more as "The Reason You Suck" Speech directed at homeless people and muggles about how they'll never be as great as he is no matter what. Naturally, as a revered superhero, the audience chews it up save for Penny, though the fact that he openly boasts about sleeping with her in the song probably didn't do him any favors.
    Captain Hammer: Everyone's a hero in their own way; you, and you, and mostly me, and you.
  • Two possible ways for Clickhole's What Hope Do We Few Have Against The Armies Of Byzantium to go; one dutifully accepting demise, the other manically embracing it.
    So, who among you will march with me this day against the legions of Byzantium? Who among you will greet Death not as an unwelcome wraith, but as the bard who shall draft your deeds into song? Who among you will abandon both hope and despair—those equally false fiends!—and navigate solely by the unfaltering waypoint of honor? I shall go proudly into the fray with the soldiers among you at my back, and nothing but glory before me!

    Western Animation 
  • "La Resistance" from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. It's very inspiring for everyone except the three people it's supposed to be inspiring.
    You may get stabbed in the head
    with a dagger or a sword
    you may be burned to death
    or skinned alive or worse
    but when they torture you
    you will not feel the need to run
    for though you die, La Resistance lives on
    [...] They may cut your dick in half
    and serve it to a pig
    and though it hurts you'll laugh
    and dance a dickless jig
    but that's the way it goes
    in war you're shat upon
    though you die La Resistance lives on
  • Invoked in the Sandokan cartoon. In his speech to the mooks occupying the goodies' island stronghold and awaiting a counterattack, 'Admiral Zenay' delivers such inspiring lines as "the pirates outnumber us ten to one" (leading the Major to add, in his follow-up speech, "the pirates will be overwhelming us at any moment"). Since 'Zenay' is actually Yanez, Sandokan's second-in-command, in disguise, demoralizing them is all part of the plan.
  • Nathan Explosion from Metalocalypse provides one in a college graduation ceremony in the episode, appropriately titled, "Go Forth and Die".
    • In this case, though, it's him trying to make a decent speech but isn't eloquent enough to do so. He then ends up snapping and telling them that even though he's less educated than they are, he's still way richer than any of them will ever be and tells them that they'll all die anyways.
  • On the King of the Hill episode "Peggy the Boggle Champ", Hank tries to motivate a crying Peggy with a speech his football coach used to give: "Loser! You're a loser! Are you feeling sorry for yourself? Well, you should be, cause you're dirt! You make me sick! You big baby! Baby want a bottle? A big dirt bottle?" Naturally, all it does is make Peggy cry harder.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • "Sonic Rainboom" sees Fluttershy trying to reassure Rainbow Dash, who is nervous about pulling off a difficult maneuver in her routine for the Best Young Fliers' Competition: "But Rainbow Dash, just because you failed the Sonic Rainboom a hundred thousand times in practice doesn't mean you won't be able to do it in front of an entire stadium full of impatient, super-critical sports fan ponies!" Rainbow Dash's reaction, as can be expected, is to panic.
    • Later in "Green Isn't Your Color", Photo Finish tells Fluttershy, right before her first big fashion show, "Nervous? Don't be ridiculous. You're only facing a large crowd of ponies who will be watching your every moves and silently judging you."
    • Fluttershy is kind of a magnet for these, since Rarity delivers one to her in "Hearth's Warming Eve". There are many ways to stop Fluttershy worrying about going on stage; talking about how many ponies are coming to watch is not one of them.
    • Poor Fluttershy can't catch a break. In Filli Vanilli, Pinkie Pie attempts multiple times to motivate her into embracing her talent for singing, unfortunately her attempted inspirational speeches go way overboard and end up horrifying Fluttershy. Rarity calls her out on it:
    Rarity: PINKIE PIE! Don't be ridiculous!
    Pinkie: Awww, but I'm so good at it!
  • In the Animaniacs episode "King Yakko", Yakko addresses his army with "I'm not going to lie to you. Some of you might not come back from this battle. And the rest of you? Definitely won't." Naturally, as he goes on about potential horrible death, the army abandons him.
    Dot: Maybe you should have lied just a little.
  • In the Futurama episode "War is the H Word", Zapp Brannigan tells his troops, "Men, you're lucky men. Soon you'll all be fighting for your planet. Most of you will be dying for your planet. Some of you will be forced through a fine mesh screen for your planet. They will be the luckiest of all."
    • It's explained in the episode where Brannigan first appears that he defeated an army of killbots by discovering they had a built-in kill limit, so he threw "wave after wave" of his own men at them until they hit the limit and shut down. He later offers to put "wave after wave of men at your disposal," which prompts an unseen voice in his crew (who hear him saying this) to shout "You suck!"
  • Played for Laughs in one episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars when General Grievous gives a Rousing Speech to a bunch of droids designed for suicide-bombing:
    Grievous: You've been designed for this mission, to be the ultimate infiltration units. Some of you may not return... actually none of you will.

     Real Life 
  • Paul McCartney gives one of these early in the Let It Be sessions. (Yes, one of these made a documentary.) It did not go over well.
  • Too many Real Life recruitment appeals to count, back in the 19th and prior to World War One when death on the battlefield was still considered the highest honor. Before the horrors of mechanized warfare in the trenches began to seep down to the general public, it was considered inspirational to tell New Meat that "perhaps you'll die in battle... but you'll die with honor!!!"
    • In the days when the alternative was returning to die an extended slow death in an urban slum of disease or starvation or coal miner's lung or whatever, it probably was sweet and fitting (or at least more so than the alternative) to die for one's country.
    • A particularly significant one was a speech from Giuseppe Garibaldi during the Italian Wars of Independence: "Follow me, ye generous souls who abhor oppression and the chains of slavery. Follow me. I cannot offer you ammunition not barracks; all I can offer you is hunger, cold, sun, battles and death. If you love your country, follow me."
    • Kemal Ataturk at Gallipoli (1915) to his Turkish soldiers when trying to stop the Allied invasion, outnumbered, out of ammunition and left with nothing but bayonets to meet the attackers: "I don’t order you to attack, I order you to die. In the time it takes us to die, other troops and commanders can come and take our places."
    • Johnny Got His Gun was pretty much a rebuttal to this kind of thinking. If you didn't get that from the lengthy tirade about what the dead would say if they could speak, go read it again.
    • Earnest Shackleton's alleged advertisement for crew for his Antarctic expedition deliberately invokes this trope, to discourage all but Real Men from applying: "Men wanted for a hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success." It turns out this ad is almost certainly apocryphal.
    • Winston Churchill's famous first speech as Prime Minister to the House of Commons, during the early days of WW2: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."
    • General Charles Smith to his men at Fort Donelson: "You men volunteered to die for your country, and now you can!"
    • One of the actual slogans for the Red Army during the Great Patriotic War (aka WWII) was "Die For Russia".
  • US President Jimmy Carter's "Crisis of Confidence" address is often cited as an example of a demoralizing speech, to the point where it is commonly called among Americans as the "malaise speech". Basically, Carter was calling for citizens to conserve fuel during the current energy crisis, but it unintentionally took on a tone of blaming his citizens for causing the crisis.