'Rap-Cbt-S-Hst-art - 5/6/08
"Rapier Combat: A Social History" by Don Henry Fox.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
Rapier Combat: A Social History
By: Don Henry Fox
This paper is an examination of the social aspects of rapier combat. Rapier combat was a form of civilian combat that flourished in the Renaissance period. The paper focuses on an examination of the important social aspects of honour, the gentleman, duelling and the education of the gentleman. It then relates this to a case study of Elizabethan England to demonstrate how these concepts are important to understanding civilian combat in this period as a whole.
To introduce the topic of rapier combat, the earlier chapters explain the basic elements so that the reader may understand the subject and also gain some contextual grounding in this field. This is followed by an examination of Shakespeare's plays as political and social commentary, followed by an in-depth discussion of the concepts that have been mentioned previously.
This paper will demonstrate the integrated nature of the concepts, and show that each is bound to the others. As such, it will follow that to discuss one concept alone would be restricting the perspective of the topic. The subject of rapier combat itself is only part of a much larger subject of swordplay, and much technical research has been done on this topic. Without a social investigation of these topics a full appreciation of their time cannot be expected. It is hoped that this paper will form a bridge between the technical research that has been completed in the fields and the other more social research that has been done in the same time period. It is also hoped that this paper will form a bridge between the academic research of scholars and the more antiquarian research of re-enactors and recreationalists.
Renaissance-style fencing, which covers such areas as the rapier and cut-and-thrust is a general term for the modes of fencing typically used between the late fifteenth to the early seventeenth centuries The use of the rapier was particularly common during this period and continued to strongly influence modern fencing styles. The popularity of rapier fencing in Elizabethan England was mainly due to fashion. Being Italian, and the Italians being at the height of fashion at the time, rapier fencing became popular as the upper classes wished to be at the height of fashion. The use of the rapier in combat was a civilian style and not one for the battlefield. As such, this thesis will examine the rapier's form of combat from the perspective of a weapon used in civilian modes of combat, the duel and the brawl. The cut-and-thrust form of combat will be mentioned but only in association with the rapier as its predecessor. Rapier combat itself is a single aspect in the much larger area of sword combat, and while these other modes of combat are important, it is the rapier which will be focussed upon due to its presence in the Elizabethan period, and its affect on modern forms of fencing.
Within the field of rapier combat, the social issues that are involved are often overlooked in favour of their technical side. Many of the researchers in the field of rapier combat do not examine the social aspects in any depth but merely brush the surface and go into more technical detail. It is the purpose of this paper to address this issue and examine this subject in much greater detail than has been attempted before. It is also hoped that this paper will form a bridge between academic writings and those of an antiquarian focus. Through understanding of the social side of the combat a better appreciation of the society in which it flourished can be reached and therefore a deeper understanding of the combat itself is possible. This paper will rely less on the findings of historians of fencing or duelling, and more upon current research and period manuals. This will supply a much broader perspective on the subject of swordplay than is available through the opinions of historians who focus on duelling and those who argue the particular question of evolution or development of fencing.
The important concepts that this paper will detail will be; the concept of honour, duelling, and the gentleman. It is these concepts upon which the basis of the social side of rapier combat are based. Each concept is linked to the another, and clear lines between them are difficult to establish. As such each one of the sections on the particular subjects will involve some of the other concepts being discussed.
Primary sources in this field are typically treatises on fencing, duelling and the etiquette of the time. These will give opinions of the skills of the rapier combatant and also supply some of the social details of the period. For example, how the gentleman should respond to particular situations and the learning that goes into the gentleman's education.
With regard to the education and knowledge of the gentleman, one of the most influential treatises is Castiglione's Book of the Courtier, especially the first book, which details what the Courtier should be like and the things that he should know and do. The treatises on fencing and duelling also supply some of this sort of detail, especially Vincentio Saviolo's second book Of Honour and Honourable Quarrels, which was used at the time as a guidebook to the whys and wherefores of duelling. The other manuals also give insight into this area.
The treatises by fencing masters of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries supply knowledge of the skills that the rapier combatant should know how to use to survive combat with the rapier and its companion weapons. Particularly influential are Saviolo's His Practice in Two Books, Joseph Swetnam's The Schoole of the Noble and Worthy Science of Defence , Giacomo Di Grassi's His True Arte of Defence, and from an anti-rapier point of view, George Silver's Paradoxes of Defence. These supply much of the technical detail that went into the use of the rapier. What is important at this time is to note that the word "rapier" is sometimes not present in these works. This is due to the fact that the Italians used the word "spada" or sword instead of the word "rapier". To this point it is only through an examination of the techniques which are being used that a clear idea may be gained of exactly which weapon is being spoken about. There are other texts, that seem totally unassociated with rapier combat that are useful to this investigation. Such texts are the plays of Shakespeare, which make political commentaries on the rapier and its use, and also social comments about those who use the rapier and its counterpart the cut-and-thrust.
Modern fencing manuals usually supply a short history of fencing and from their point of view see rapier combat as an evolutionary step toward the modern sport, which is seen by them as the most perfect evolution of fencing. Along with these books, are articles and books written by the modern researcher and practitioner of rapier combat. Such books supply a modern interpretation of the Renaissance techniques from the perspective of recreating these skills, and also academic research into this particular area. There have been great strides made in the understanding of rapier combat and the social aspects surrounding it by many academics and recreationalists.
Sydney Anglo's Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe, in a single text combines an investigation of not only the primarily civilian modes of combat but also the military modes. Anglo's investigation of the topic is more far-reaching than those which came before, as it examines the combat from an historical perspective on general combat, rather than primarily from the point of view of either the history of fencing or duelling.
The works of the recreationalists give the researcher an understanding of the topic, which is much closer to what they themselves understand in the modern world. It is important to recognise the work of recreationalists in this area as they are literally at the cutting edge of research. Over the past couple of years the research in the area of rapier combat has increased a great deal as more and more people become interested in this particular topic. This research has shed more light on to areas of the subject that have been debated. It is important to recognise not only the research of trained academics in this field but also so-called "amateurs". Those recreationalists who often research and train in rapier combat as a hobby, but also as an occupation.
The first chapter will introduce the rapier as a weapon. A definition of the weapon is the first important step as this is a topic that is still being argued. Once defined suitably, there will be a discussion of the development of the rapier from its beginnings to its form in the sixteenth century. Then this weapon will be placed in the society in which it was found.
To understand the rapier it is important to know how it was used, more particularly exactly how it was used in combat. It is most important to understand that this is not a discussion of the effete methods of play of sport fencing but a deadly serious contest, the outcome of which may leave one of the combatants dead. This will hopefully dispel some of the fictions about the use of the rapier that have been created by public media. A brief discussion of the Renaissance practitioners and theorists will be made, along with a discussion of the False and True Art. As this relates directly to the concept of the gentleman. It is the Renaissance practitioners and theorists, who developed the techniques, so it is important that they are the focus of any discussion of technique from that particular period.
There were several different styles of rapier combat; the third chapter will examine four of them, which influenced rapier combat. The examination of these styles will assist in the cultural grounding of the topic. Each one was moulded around its particular cultural situation, though some influenced each other. These styles were influenced in their development by the weapons and the social situation in which they were found, and also the background of their masters. This is especially so with the later English school in that both the Italians and Spanish influenced it through their influence on fashion. The investigation of the styles provides part of the social grounding of the topic. These masters were the exponents of the schools and it is their works, which have been left for the modern historian to examine. It is only through an examination of their works that the particular schools become evident.
The fourth chapter will be a discussion of Elizabethan England as a context in which to examine rapier combat, as a social phenomenon. The arguments, which are discussed, are contemporary to this particular period. One, is the argument between the Italian Masters and the English Masters of Defence championed by Silver. This will also discuss the social and political situation and its impact upon rapier combat and duelling. It is also helpful to use this place and period due to access to primary sources.
Shakespeare is useful in that his plays may be seen as a social and political commentary, and offer insight into the mind of the Elizabethans. These plays are examined in the fifth chapter for social details and the ideals of the period, as well as class distinctions by type of weapon used, as in Romeo and Juliet. His plays were written for an audience that would have experienced rapier combat and duels as an everyday experience, and thus they would have had some knowledge on the subject. They would also know of some of the arguments that were current, such as those mentioned above.
Honour was very important for the gentleman of the Renaissance, so the sixth chapter will be devoted to a discussion of honour. It will investigate what it meant to the gentleman, how it was a part of duelling, and the particular techniques used in the duel. But first of all it will discuss exactly what the term means and how it was used in the Renaissance. This will be all brought together to discover exactly what a "Gentleman's Code of Honour" was.
The concept of the gentleman is important to the Renaissance. The seventh chapter will discuss the qualities that were necessary to be regarded as a gentleman. In this chapter the gentleman will be related to the other important concepts which have been discussed. More importantly this chapter will establish the concept of the gentleman so that a mutual understanding is possible. This will be the Renaissance concept of the gentleman, not the modern version, in which any man who is pleasant and generous is considered a gentleman.
Education was important to the gentleman, due to Renaissance humanism and the concept of the "universal person", and education in the martial arts was most essential. In the eighth chapter the education of the gentleman will be discussed, along with the reasons for such a heavy emphasis on the martial arts. This will focus on the martial education of the gentleman due to its importance in this period. Along with this will be a brief discussion of fencing schools and academies and how they changed over time. This chapter will most easily link to the previous one on the gentleman, and also to the following chapter on duelling.
Duelling was a common part of Elizabethan English society, especially for the upper classes. What will be defined in the ninth chapter is the different types of conflict, from the formal duel to the brawl. There will also be discussion of why duels were entered into, and what formalities were observed. This is directly linked to the concept of honour and martial arts as well as the martial education of the gentleman. A brief history of the duel of honour will also be discussed in this particular section.
The definition of the rapier as a weapon and a concept is in the process of being debated. There has been no clear evidence of exactly what weapon is meant by the term "rapier." For the purposes of this particular paper it is important that a clear, concise definition is established for the benefit of the reader. Before this is attempted, it is important that the development of the rapier is discussed from its origins in the medieval era as the classic war sword of the period.
The rapier developed from the cut-and-thrust sword, a weapon with a broad blade and reasonably sharp tip. Designed as a civilian weapon, the cut-and-thrust sword had a more elaborate guard (hilt) than its predecessor, the medieval war sword. It was also lighter and was not designed for fighting men who were armoured. It has been argued that these "war swords" were heavy and unwieldy by many of today's scholars: "In the Middle Ages swords were heavy and clumsy and more strength than skill was required for their use." What these scholars fail to recognise is that continued mastery of these weapons requires several hours training each day, every day, and thus, a trained fighter would be used to the weight of this weapon and not find it unwieldy.
As the use of gunpowder became more popular, the form of combat for which the medieval sword was suited became obsolete. There was no need for heavy armours and, therefore, there was no need for weapons designed to penetrate or smash through armour. Gunpowder brought about a: "sudden transformation of weapons to lighter forms more suitable for quick, neat movements and more skilful sword-play." Some of the earlier forms of the lighter weapons were developed to penetrate through the gaps in armour that were exposed in movement; "The need for swift weapons with sharp points to penetrate between the joints of armour led to the development of the rapier." The sword had become obsolete as a weapon for war, but in civilian life the sword was only beginning to come of age. The sword became the mark of the gentleman, a self-defence weapon to be used when attacked in the streets.
"Much of this development [of the hilt] was due ... to the need to protect
the unarmoured hand, a result of the Renaissance predilection for
wearing swords with civilian dress, in accordance with fashion, for self-
defence and for settling quarrels by duelling."
Such development started slowly with a single finger ring to protect the exposed finger when it was wrapped around the quillon (cross hilt) for a better grip, and for the ease of pointing the tip of the sword at the target. More elaborate hilts, designed for protecting the hand by virtue of their rings, were designed. Often these designs were borrowed from those found on cut-and-thrust swords of a contemporaneous or slightly earlier period;
"Compound hilts of decorative shapes and designs are common
features of both cut-and-thrust swords and rapiers, ... These hilts
provide obvious hand protection,"
These hilts were further developed into much more elaborate designs. From the knuckle guard, finger rings developed the "swept-hilt", which became popular in the sixteenth-century. This particular type of hilt had an S-shape moulded out of the quillons, with other bars and rings attached for the sole purpose of protecting the unarmoured hand;
"The typical sixteenth-century rapier is sometimes referred to as 'swept
hilted' on account of the bold S-shaped sweep of the quillons round the
knuckles to the pommel, and at the other end curved forward over the
Such hilts were elaborate in appearance and sometimes were jewel-encrusted and gold-plated. These hilts gained more and more rings and the hilt became more and more enclosed until the rings all met to form what is known as the cup hilt:
"rapier had begun its existence as the plain cross-hilted sword of
knightly times, and had been furnished with finger-guards which had
developed by way of the so-called 'swept' hilt to the cup."
Being a sword, at the opposite end of the weapon to the hilt was the point, and in between was the blade. The blade, especially the point, was the killing part of the rapier. While it is possible to use the pommel to pummel the opponent into submission, the blade was a much more effective way of dispatching one's adversaries.
"The blade, of wonderfully tempered steel, was lighter, more narrow and designed to be used entirely with the point." This change from predominantly edge attacks to thrusting attacks meant that the rapier's blade could be much thinner than that of a weapon designed for cutting. The simple fact is that "rapiers do not cut well and that wider-bladed swords, being heavier, are not as agile for thrusting." The blade shape dictates the way that the weapon is to be used. A sword with a broad blade is made for cutting and a sword with a thin blade, such as the rapier, is predominantly designed for thrusting. The nature of the weapon's use is decided in the construction and shaping of the blade. It is this part of the weapon, the attacking part, which decides what the weapon is most useful for: "It is a sword's blade that directly follows from its purpose and that dictates its manner of use."
Movies produced in Hollywood would have the watcher believe that the rapier was made to slash and cut; this, however, is a fallacy:
"The actual "edge" of a rapier is fairly limited and sometimes not even
sharp enough to make lacerations or prevent it from being grabbed by
the bare hand."
A weapon with such characteristics would not be useful for cutting or slashing at all. To make a successful slashing attack it is necessary to have a sharp edge on the blade. Rapiers did not, and do not, and therefore it is hard to credibly argue otherwise.
"The influence of Hollywood leaves many with the impression that
rapiers are intended for slash-and-cut use. This is inaccurate."
The length of the blade was dictated by its user. Most rapiers were substantially longer than the modern fencing weapons (epee, foil, and sabre). During the early part of the rapier's
evolution, the blades were of a reasonable length. Towards the later period (early seventeenth century) blades tended to be longer. This occurred due to a change in technique;
"When the lunge and parry/riposte became more common techniques,
blades shortened to a more "standard" length. The average appears to
have been between 40 and 45 inches, but some were more than 50
According to Capo Ferro "the proper length of a sword, ... should be twice as long as the arm." This keeps the rapier in proportion to the user of the weapon. A person with longer arms would have a longer weapon, whereas a person with shorter arms would have a shorter weapon. This makes a great deal of sense, as a longer weapon in the hands of a shorter person would be less than optimal in use.
"Giacomo di Grassi was the first to clearly define the different parts of
the blade and their properties for both offense and defense."
The parts of the blade closest to the hilt (known as the forte) are the best in defence as they give more ability to control the other person's blade. The parts furthest from the hilt (known as the foible) are the best for attack as they are the quickest moving parts of the blade. The correct use of the blade was imperative when parrying.
The weight of a weapon gives the modern practitioner some idea of what the real weapon was like to use. The rapier, while fast for its time, was nothing in comparison to the modern sporting weapons, due to its weight;
"Despite its "modern" sporting descendants, rapiers were not
exceptionally light weapons (ranging from two and a half to three
pounds, with the earliest versions being heaviest)."
This weight was distributed to balance the rapier in the correct place for the user, typically about two or three fingers above the hilt. The correct organisation of this weight meant that the movement of the weapon assisted in the carriage of its weight.
The description above should give the reader an image of a long, slender-bladed weapon with an extremely sharp tip, and not so sharp edge. The hilt would be a combination of rings and bars to protect the fingers. A gentleman's weapon, carried suspended from a hanger, was mounted on the belt with the hilt at the most convenient height to draw the blade out of its scabbard. This is the definition of a rapier that will be used for this paper.
"It needs to be realized that fighting tactics come from techniques, and
techniques are derived primarily (though not exclusively) from the
mechanics of the weapon itself."
From the description above, it can be seen that this particular weapon's techniques will focus on the use of the sharp tip rather than the edge of the blade. This biases the weapon toward thrusting attacks, the hallmark of fencing as it is known today, and was known in the days of rapier combat. Most of the arguments in the area of rapier combat revolve around technique and technical detail. Technical details may not be so important today, but in the days in which the masters wrote their treatises, the use of the wrong technique at the wrong time, or the use of an inferior technique could have easily caused a person to be killed.
The techniques for using the rapier have been debated and are still being debated in the modern era. The big questions asked by the Renaissance masters usually come from the same sort of viewpoint. It was the techniques, which were taught, that would keep a person alive. These manuals were about the most efficient way to dispose of an opponent and, as such, they were deadly serious. It is on these questions and points of technique that much historical argument is based. The discussion of techniques is essential so that it may be understood that these techniques are those which would be used in combat for the defence of a person's life and honour. Due to the limitations placed on this paper the discussion of techniques will be focused on the use of the single sword alone. Details about the dagger, one of the many companion items, can be found in Appendix 1.
"It is important to remember that in Elizabethan England the sword is
the most terrifying and deadly weapon imaginable. A drawn sword is
like a loaded gun with a hair-trigger. A sword fight is not a sport to
watch like modern fencing. It is life or death."
Techniques were not taught because of their style or look, but as a form of defence. The wrong technique at the wrong time was not only likely to lose a person the fight, but is more than likely going to cause them to lose their life. Rapier combat was a life and death affair. It is important to remember this when examining the techniques that were advocated by the masters. Unlike modern sport fencing, these were not to see who gets the first point, or the first touch, but to see who lives and who dies. This form of combat is almost like high-speed chess, it requires a; "unique combination of quick thinking and elegant athletic movements." In distinct difference to the previous form of combat involving armoured men and weapons designed to shear through armour, rapier fencing involved quick and precise movements, with less strength and more precision in the attack and in defence.
The absence of armour meant a blade or tip that barely touched one of the fencers could easily do damage. Small cuts and scratches were frequent, as were small puncture wounds. The only thing that stopped a person from getting killed was their skill with the blade. No armour was worn, only the normal clothing of the individual. Skill was the deciding factor in the rapier fight. Different length weapons could be got around, it was up to the skill of the fighter with the weapon.
Swords, in general, had been out-dated on the battlefield, and replaced by the gun and cannon. The sword, however, did find a place in civilian life. Guns were too slow and cumbersome to load and fire quickly. In a street brawl the sword was the chosen weapon. The narrow streets of the urban situation meant that opponents would only attack from two directions. This meant; "the rapier's thrusting, fencing style for self-defense in urban settings." was perfectly suited.
New techniques developed as the rapier evolved. As the weapons became more slender and sharper at the tip, it became more prevalent to use the point of the weapon rather than the edge. When describing these techniques it is important to look at how these could be applied, especially considering that rapier fencing, even now, is a practical art. As such the techniques will be described in the same order that they would be taught, because it is necessary to have the basics before one moves on to the more advanced. Readers who have experience in fencing should also take particular note of the differences between the details of the rapier-style as compared to Olympic-style.
In Olympic-style fencing there is one starting stance, in general, for each foil, epee, and sabre. Even though there are slight differences, they are all essentially the same in style. The feet are placed shoulder-width apart. The front (right for right-handers) foot is placed forward pointing at the opponent, the rear (left for right-handers) foot is placed on an angle, for balancing purposes. The sword is gripped in the right hand and this is placed with the arm slightly extended. The left hand is placed out of the way so that it cannot be hit. This stance is standard across modern fencing, each style having its own minor variations.
In rapier combat on the other hand, there are many different on-guard positions or wards. During the Renaissance period many teachers devised, and taught, their own wards. Some bore very little resemblance to the Olympic-style stance.
"Agrippa reduced the number of useful wards to four. He gave them
simple numerical names: prima, seconde, terza, and quarta."
These four wards became the standard used to teach fencing with the rapier. Olympic-style fencing uses a modification of terza, the third ward in its on-guard position. Salvator Fabris codified and defined each of the four wards. "Prima: is the position assumed when the sword is drawn out of the scabbard, point turned at the adversary." This leaves the arm in its high position due to the length of the rapier, and the point of the sword toward the opponent's head. The left arm is brought out in front for balance and defence. "Seconda: Is when the sword hand is slightly lowered to shoulder height." Very similar to Prima, it leaves the arm in a high position and the tip pointing at the opponent's face. The arm can also be extended and parallel with the ground, in a stance that is sometimes known as Broad Ward. "Terza: Is where the hand is held naturally at the right hip without being turned", this is the stance that Olympic-style fencing borrowed and modified. The arm is in a relaxed position and is ready to either thrust or parry. It is this stance that was most often taught first due to its ease, and relaxed position. "Quarta: Is where the hand is turned towards the inside, hand held at the left hip". This stance looks tangled because the arms are crossed over the body, but it does put the sword in a good position to parry or thrust. This stance would look very out of place on a modern fencing piste (strip).
"Camillo Agrippa thought that an effective ward should facilitate every
possible combination of attacks. The rapier being held in front of the
body, threatening the opponent."
The above gives no definitive opinion as to which is the most effective ward, but states that an effective guard would have the weapon in a position to threaten the opponent with the point of the weapon. It also states that the weapon should also be in a position convenient to defend with as well as attack.
"Fabris directed his fencers to come on guard and assume such a
posture with the guard that best suited them. The guard determined the
kind of botta (attack) to be delivered."
Fabris was in favour of a ward in which the fencer felt comfortable, and it was from this ward that each attack was defined. He did not claim to be in favour of any ward in particular, but preferred which ever could be most effectively utilised by the fencer against his opponent. Capo Ferro "acknowledged terza as the only true guard. This reduced the other guards to special parries, or guards applicable only in certain circumstances." This is where the idea of the modern sport fencing on-guard position evolved. This position is a development of Capo Ferro's terza. This use of Capo Ferro's work can also be seen in the use of the lunge in Olympic-style fencing which can be demonstrated to be a direct modification of Capo Ferro's botta lunga.
"It [the rapier stance] resembles more a boxer's stance, allowing for slips, quick stepping, and explosive lunging." Both hands are ready for action, the sword is ready to thrust or parry and the left hand is in position to deflect incoming attacks. It was thought to be better to get an injury to the hand than lose your life. The left hand was used when an off-hand weapon could not be found. The most important thing about the wards is that these were not defensive positions but were: "simply positions of the sword from which attacks were made,". The most important thing was considered to be attack, with defence being a secondary consideration; it was felt that if the attack was good enough that there was no real need for defence;
"The notion of defense was an afterthought. It was secondary to the
theory that any attack not met with a counterattack was a mistake."
Defence, for what it was, consisted of a few moves to enable the fencer to remove an incoming threat. A successful defence was defined by surviving the encounter rather than by technique. Though defensive techniques were taught, they were more used to set up for a counterattack. One of the simplest methods of defence was the void (not being where the opponent's blade is). These were used: "in actual "life or death" swordplay, avoidances and evasions were of common practise in almost all schools." This would mean to step out of the way of an incoming thrust or cut. These were also used in combination with footwork and even attacks. Simple as they were, they were effective against both cuts and thrusts. Di Grassi states that the displacement of the body makes it easier to find the opponent's blade without danger of being hit. Finding the blade in this situation meant to ensure that the blade was not going to come into contact with the proposed victim of the thrust.
As rapier fencing developed so did methods of defence. For the first time the sword could be used effectively for both attack and defence, thanks to the lighter weapons. To defend with the blade of the weapon, or deflect an incoming attack away from its intended target, is known as a parry. The parry was not as arbitrary as the void. Certain parries could only defend certain parts of the body. Needless to say, effective parrying took practice and instruction. As with the parrying demonstrated in modern sport fencing: "A simple but quick movement of the rapier blade is enough resistance to parry another rapier's thrusting attack." The wrong parry at the wrong time could actually do more harm than no parry at all. Parries were made 'edge on' to be more effective, parrying with the flat of the blade gave too much chance of the slender blade bending and not deflecting the attack as required.
Footwork is an important part of fencing as it can be used to enhance an attack or a defence. The correct footwork assists the agile fencer to put themself in a better position from which to attack the opponent, and;
"unlike sport fencing with its restrictive, linear range and safety rules,
rapier fighting provides ample opportunity for traverses (side and cross-
Footwork as with all of rapier combat is about timing and distance, two very important concepts. The use of effective footwork against an opponent whose footwork was not as good would lead the former to be able to attack and defend more effectively than the latter.
It is Capo Ferro's influence that made fencing footwork become more linear. With the development of the lunge and other straight-line attacks, the footwork in fencing had to change to match this linear-bias. "Capo Ferro, although admitting the use of oblique steps occasionally, favours the straight line attack."
The idea of killing your opponent dominated most philosophies of defence; therefore the focus of rapier training and instruction was more on the attack than the defence. Most of the writings of the time were about improving attack capability and developing more effective attacks. There was quite a bit of counterattack work done, but only for those situations where the opponent was able to attack first. With a sword it is possible to attack with both the point and the edge, and within these two categories there are different types of attacking blow. The use of the point was found to be the most effective and as such, will be dealt with before attacks using the edge.
To thrust is to attack with the point of the sword. In this particular case though, it is also taken to mean without moving the feet. To use the feet would mean the blow to be a lunge rather than a thrust. The lunge will be discussed later as it developed later in the Renaissance period, and as such should not be discussed, or seen as interchangeable, with the thrust.
There are different types of thrusts that were used in rapier fencing, each one had its advantages and disadvantages. Each one of these thrusts would have an appropriate moment in which to be used. Mistiming this thrust could result in the direst of consequences. The definition of each thrust depends on where the thrust is aimed, and originates. Thus, a thrust that comes from above the guard is different to one that comes up from below the guard. Each one of these thrusts has a name derived from Italian to distinguish one from another.
The imbrocatta was designed to come down from above the opponent's guard, striking with the arm almost straight.  This was designed to deliver a killing blow as a hit to the face or breast and would only need a couple of inches penetration to do severe damage. An attack to the face was considered by some to be ungentlemanly, but not by all. This will be discussed later in the chapter on honour. Due to the fact that this blow comes from up high, it leaves the lower section of the body to be defended by the off-hand. Other than the off-hand, the lower body was left quite open and would leave a target open for a stocatta.
"The stocatta would generally be a rising thrust directed towards the
opponent's torso or throat underneath their sword hand or guard."
This blow would be delivered from Terza or Quarta so the blade rose up and hit the opponent in the torso or throat as described. Due to its positioning, this leaves the upper section of the body to be defended by the off-hand, though if the attacker was clever they could also deflect the opponent's blade away when delivering this blow.
"The punta dritta is the thrusting attack delivered to the hips and thighs
from the guards of Seconda or Terza. It is a straight thrust punched
forward with a pronated hand, directly at the intended target."
This is the simplest thrust as it is just driven straight ahead from the guard to the target, intending to hit the body. This is one of the quickest attacks, and the opponent would have to quickly defend to prevent themself from being hit. A blow to the belly in the period in which the rapier was in use was a mortal blow due to the high possibility of infection that could result.
The punta rovescio (or reversa), made famous by Tybalt's use in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, was designed to go around the opponent's guard and come in on an angle so as to be more difficult to defend against. It was usually combined with footwork so that the angle would be even more extreme when it hit. Due to the blow coming in from the off-hand side it meant that the attacker would also present their back or side to their opponent, which would leave them open for attack. Needless to say, this blow had to be timed perfectly or the attacker would find themselves on the receiving end of a thrust to the body. A blow that came from the right side is known as a mandritta, and this was designed to come around the opposite side to the reversa.
The thrust was described as being delivered without any foot movement, otherwise described as "botta lunga", the lunge. The lunge was an advancement that was developed by Angelo Viggiani and then refined by Ridolfo Capo Ferro to the lunge that we know today from modern sport fencing.
"Previous to the linear style of fencing generated by the introduction of
the lunge, fencers, especially the Spanish, circled around one another
like two animals about to fight."
Circling involved large amounts of footwork and the fencer had to use the correct footwork or risk the problems of losing balance and being vulnerable to attack. Through the use of circling, people were able to close in almost imperceptibly and then attack. With the introduction of the lunge, footwork became more linear in style and more exaggerated. The lunge was not developed until late in the rapier's time, in fact it was not until late in the sixteenth century and the early seventeenth century that the lunge was perfected.
"A true rapier is a tip-based thrusting sword that works by stabbing and
piercing, not by cleaving. Certainly, some versions can make draw-
The cut was an important attack right up to the time when the sword fell into disuse. Previous swords were designed to deliver an edge blow, which was struck into the opponent, relying on the sharp edge and broad blade to do the damage. The rapier, as described, did not have a broad blade nor a sharp cutting edge, and as such the most effective way to use its edge was to draw it across the target like a razor. This cut is known as the draw cut, for obvious reasons. It was most effective when used against the fleshy parts of the body such as the belly and the limbs. Bony parts of the body such as the chest, with its defensive rib cage, were not optimum targets for this attack due the small amount of damage that a drawn cut would do. Due to its thin blade, it was advised that when the rapier was used to cut that the blade be drawn across the target to do the most damage.
Feints were an integral part of rapier combat. They were designed to provoke the opponent into a response to an attack, which would be quickly followed up by an attack to a now undefended part of the body. While seen as ungentlemanly and by some as unsafe, feints were an important part of swordplay.
"Although considered by many as an ungentlemanly or unsafe practice,
the delivering of attacks 'not purposing fully to hit,' was a common
practice in Elizabethan swordplay."
Feints were considered to be a part of the "False Art", to use deception to trick an opponent. Direct attacks were seen to be part of the "True Art" and proponents of this refined form of rapier combat thought the False Art to be base and unchivalrous. Di Grassi was one of the masters who expressed his strong opinion against the False Art;
"And because it hath manie times happened them, either with a false
thrust, or edge blowe, to hurte or abuse the enemie, they become
loftie, and presume thereon as though their blowes were not to be
warded. But yet for the most part it falleth out, that by a plain simple
swad having onely a good stomack and stout courage, they are chopt
in with a thrust, and so miserablie slaine."
There were others, however, who felt that mastery of both the True and False Art was a sign of a skilled fencer. It was considered that anything that was not fundamental to the attack was considered to be a part of the False Art;
"For Disceit or Falsing is no other thing, then a blow or thrust delivered,
not to the intent to hurt or hitt home, but to cause the enemie to
discover himselfe in some parte, by meanes whereof a man maie
safely hurt him in the same part."
The False Art was utilised eventually due to the reason that it was effective. Combination attacks were developed and: "The extraneous movements of the false art became known as compound attacks." These compound attacks have become an integral part of today's sport fencing.
Disengagements, and other tricks of the blade were all-important parts of rapier play. The use of the other person's blade in a person's own attack was taught quite extensively, as were other methods of using the blade to its full advantage. Other techniques of blade play included using the weapon to beat the other's point or blade out of the way so that it is possible to move in for an attack. Such actions were known as attacks on the blade. These could be used to parry an incoming attack or to push the opponent's blade to a safe position so that it is possible to attack an open target. The Renaissance masters of fence: "di Grassi, Saviolo, Silver, Fabris and Capo Ferro all taught forms of beating the blade."
Disarming, while a difficult prospect if the opponent was experienced, was an important part of rapier fencing of the time, to remove an opponent's weapon would leave them in a position of not being able to attack. Tricks for disarming one's opponent were taught by the masters "for depriving an enemy of his sword." This disarming could be by using the blade or by using the off-hand to wrench the blade from their grasp.
The two people engaged in rapier combat were there, on most occasions to kill each other. In a life and death struggle it can be assumed that rules and conventions would have been thrown to the wind in favour of survival. Using parts of the weapon, the pommel for example, which were not designed for offensive purposes would have all been part of the situation and tactics. While it was best to keep your opponent at range and kill them there, there were situations where the two combatants did get in close situations, although, this was best avoided.
Different styles, or schools, of rapier fencing developed over the various parts of the European continent. Each particular one either had a different perspective and method for fighting, or in some cases was a combination of various other schools, this is especially the case in Elizabethan England.
The different styles, or 'schools,' of rapier combat as they are known developed due to the particular circumstances that were present in each of the nations in which they developed. These social and cultural aspects affected the particular schools at the most base level, on the level of thought. It is important that these particular circumstances are taken into account when discussing each of the four schools, which will be discussed in this chapter. Each school of fence had its own theories and principles on which it style and techniques was based.
The four styles of rapier fencing which will be discussed are: the Italian; the Spanish; the English as it was developed in the Elizabethan period; and finally the French. The order of these has a particular purpose. The Italian and Spanish both had influence on the development of the English form of combat, and the French was a much later development than the other three. Each of the styles will be explained in its most simple form so that a basic understanding may be attained. There was no actual international language of sword combat, the concepts were universal, but it was only much later that these concepts were translated and formed a common form of language. The language into which the terms were translated depended heavily upon the influence of the most fashionable school at the time. As such, in England the translation of Italian texts into English was the influence of the then fashionable Italian style. Also the particular masters who have been credited with having influence on the schools of fence. In the explanation of the styles a cultural grounding will be established and be demonstrated to have an enormous effect on their development.
The cultural background of the Italian school of fence, was the Italian Renaissance, thus the humanistic arts and sciences which flourished in this time of learning influenced it. The Bolognese master, Achille Marozzo was one of the early masters of the Italian style and published his work Opera Nova in 1536. He focused on the use of the sword in combination with other devices. Marozzo's work focused on the cut and the thrust, as both were seen to be effective in this period.
Camillo Agrippa, was a mathematician, architect and engineer, his work of 1568, Trattato di Scienza d'Arme, defined the rapier as a thrusting weapon, and also one that could cut. He simplified Marozzo's wards from eleven to four. Agrippa's plates were heavily based on rules of mathematics, calculated angles, and other elements of geometry. This scientific approach reflects the thoughts of the Renaissance period, in his use of mathematics.
Giacomo di Grassi, published his influential work, His True Arte of Defense, in 1570 and it was soon translated into English. He is considered to be one of the premiere-fencing masters of the Elizabethan period. He was one of the first masters to use the idea of parrying with the sword. Modern fencers, especially on the sword parry and lines of attack have used his thoughts.
Ridolfo Capo Ferro, was the master who developed the botta lunga, as was described earlier, it was also he which moved fencing towards linear footwork. He has been described as the pinnacle of Italian theory. His Gran Simulacro dell' Arte e dell' uso della Scherma, or Grand Simulacrum on the Use of the Sword, was published in 1610. He taught that the cut had little place in rapier combat.
In general terms, the Italian school proscribed that attack was primary. If a defence was made it was designed to set up for a counter-attack. It was focused on the thrust and the lunge in the Elizabethan period and developed more linear footwork as the influence of the lunge was felt. The influence of the Renaissance can be seen mostly in the works of di Grassi and Agrippa.
The Spanish school of fence was and is still shrouded in mystery due to misinterpretation, though work is being done in the current era to remove these misinterpretations. The Spanish style is heavily based in the culture in which it was embedded. To understand the Spanish school fully its cultural background must be taken into account.
"To fully understand the old Spanish treatises on swordsmanship, it is essential to comprehend the mindset, character, culture, religious, philosophical, and political environment in which this school developed."
The Spanish were heavily influenced by the invasion of the Moors. They brought with them scientific thought and philosophy, and this had a large effect on the Spanish school. The Spanish school is based heavily on mathematical principles. It differed from the Italian school in that the Spanish was based on circular footwork and attacks. The Spanish used more cuts than the Italians did, and each was described specifically. The Spanish also had devoted much of their work to the defence against attacks. While the Italian school dominated the Spanish cannot be ignored, simply due to the fact that the Spanish school persisted long after the Italian.
Hieronimo de Carranza, is known as the father of the Spanish school, he published his work, De la Philosofia de las Armas, in 1569, and influenced all of the Spanish masters who came after him. Carranza's work is heavily based on mathematical and philosophical thought. Don Luys Pacheco de Navarez, was a pupil of Carranza's and furthered his work in his, Libro de las Grandezas de la Espada, published in 1599. In fact it can be said that all of the Spanish masters who came after Carranza were influenced in some way by his work.
The French master Girard Thibault, published his Academie de l'Espee ou se demonstrant par Reigles mathematiques, sur le fondement d'un Cercle Mysterieux, la thŽorie et pratique des vrais et insqu'a present incognus secrets du maniment des armes a pied et a cheval in 1630. What is interesting about Thibault is that his work is heavily based on the Spanish school more than either the Italian or his native French. This demonstrates interest in the Spanish style even when other styles are dominant. Thibault's work is very artistic, not only is it a work on fencing, but also has artistic worth.
The English school of fence is really an amalgam of the Italian and Spanish schools. The older English native form of fence, defended by George Silver, was the more traditional. It was based on the English cut-and-thrust sword, and was based more on the skills that preceded it. The rapier style, which was developed in the Elizabethan period, can be seen as a product of fashion. The Italians of the period were seen as the most fashionable with regard to the new rapier, but the Spanish heavily influenced fashion in the period, thus with these two influences, it is understandable that the English school would be based on both the Italian and the Spanish.
Rocco Bonetti and his son Jeronimo arrived in England during the 1500s and set up a school at Blackfriars in London, prior to its being rented to Shakespeare. These are the two gentlemen who brought the rapier to England, not much is known about them, though George Silver does mention them in his Paradoxes of Defence (1599).
Vincentio Saviolo is the better-known Italian of Elizabethan England. He taught with Jeronimo at Blackfriars. Saviolo combined the Italian and Spanish schools and thus came up with a composite style. His work, His Practice in Two Bookes, was published in 1595 and emphasises the thrust over the cut, as in the Italian school, but he also used Spanish techniques. He borrowed heavily from their footwork and their ideas about defence.
The French school was a heavily modified version of the Italian school. They had very similar influences, but the main influence, which makes them distinct from the Italians, is the use of a shorter rapier. This shorter, lighter weapon allowed for more blade play and was the starting point of the smallsword and later the sport version of fencing as is seen in the modern world. The French took the place of the Italians as the most influential school once they became the more fashionable in the late seventeenth century.
The most famous French master, besides Thibault, was Henry de Sainct Didier. He published his book, Traite contenant les secrets du premier livre sur l'espŽe seule, mŽre de toutes armes, in 1573. He was the first French master to acknowledge the superiority of the Italian school. He only taught counterattacks, and no parries. His theories were developed into the later French school.
The French school did not really affect the English development until later in the Renaissance period, but it is useful to see trends in rapier combat. Interestingly enough it was fashion that killed the rapier not the lack of techniques, the rapiers were shortened toward the end of the period, and new techniques were developed for them. This was due to the fashion influence of the French and the problem of wearing a long sword in a crowded room.
Each one of these schools made an impact on the landscape of rapier fencing. The Italians were the most influential in the Elizabethan period, but the Spanish school persisted into the eighteenth century, surviving for over 300 years. The Importance for this paper is the fact that these masters also wrote on the concepts of honour, duelling and the gentleman.
The context in which a discussion is made, has a great effect upon the arguments. This chapter will be an examination of Elizabethan England with focus on how the particular social and political situations in the country at that time affected rapier combat. It was the turbulent situation and the ever-present conditions of mortal combat, due to the close proximity of people and their willingness to lay their lives on the line for matters of honour, that influenced the growth of the civilian forms of combat.
The state religion in England had multiple changes in a short period of time. In the space of just over a decade the English had three changes of monarch, from Henry VIII to Mary and then to Elizabeth. This turbulence was not restricted to the English. Duelling was endemic in Elizabethan England and the knowledge of weapons was one thing that would help a gentleman stay alive. In this sort of situation it is understandable that there would be legal attempts to curb the incidences of duelling.
The first statue against the teaching of fencing and tournaments was issued before the Elizabethan period, in 1285, as it was thought that these pastimes encouraged the incidence of duelling. On a point of interest, this statute never seems to have been repealed. By Elizabethan times duelling and combat in the streets had become a serious issue. For this reason Elizabeth issued edicts not only about the incidences of duelling but also the teaching of fencing and the length of swords. Such edicts had always been an issue, so much in England that in 1613, Elizabeth's successor James I had to issue an edict entitled; "Edict and severe censure against private combats and Combatants." One of the problems with enforcement of such legislation was that watching various forms of combat were popular pastime of the English in the period. "Playing the Prize" from which comes the modern "prize fight" was a popular Elizabethan social event, and these were sometimes performed in front of royalty.
"Fencing, (Right Honourable) in this new fangled age, is like our fafhions, euerie daye a change," This statement is George Silver bemoaning the fact that the art of combat was changing before his eyes. Previous to the arrival if the rapier in England the two main weapons of the English were the sword and buckler, and the two-handed sword. These were the primary weapons for many years. The rapier arrived with the Italian masters Bonetti and Jeronimo, and due to the popularity of Italian fashions, took off and eventually supplanted the older English weapons. It is fashion that has influenced much of what happened in Elizabethan England, and much of the rest of the world.
Fashion had a role to play in the style of clothes that were worn, and the type of blades that were used, and even the manner of address that was used. Elizabethan England was influenced by the fashions of both the Italians and the Spanish. It is no wonder that their form of rapier combat had a combination of both schools within it. From swords;
"swords of the period [1550 and on], fitted with long, thin blades
principally designed for thrusting, were known as rapiers. Their
popularity seems to be due to the dominance of Spanish fashions."
To the techniques used to wield those swords;
"Tracing the development of fight techniques as well as the changing terminology of fight vocabulary, we can better assess how the English upper classes - mimicking the enthusiastic use of the rapier on the continent - adopted the rapier in settling private quarrels. Once the upper classes had accepted it, rapier swordplay rapidly entered the popular culture."
The influences of the European continent came into England and changed whom people fought and what they wore. It is these influences which must be taken into account when examining the social aspects of combat in that era in that particular country. Needless to say, as with any change, there are always those who do not appreciate the "invasion" of others and their ideas.
"It was this king [Henry VIII] who set fencing on a proper footing by
granting Letters Patent to a Corporation of Masters of the Science of
Defence. The Corporation's job was to govern the art throughout
It was these Masters of Defence who opposed the so-called "invasion" of the Italian rapier most vociferously. They felt that the rapier was "un-English" and strove to promote the old weapons of England as the most proper. They were not the only ones who opposed the rapier though;
"As in Germany and England, the associated fencing masters of the
sixteenth century France were jealous of their monopoly and were
especially hostile to Italian fencing masters and their style of play."
Thanks to the forces of fashion, however, the Masters of Defence eventually had to accept the rapier as a viable weapon and one worthy of study. This weapon was then included in the prize playings of the Elizabethan period. The various Masters of Defence were not the only ones who objected to the use of the rapier, practitioners, most notably George Silver, objected to its use. The rapier was a civilian weapon, and it could also be understood that men of war also felt threatened by the rise of this new purely civilian weapon, thus rivalries were built between essentially those practitioners of the rapier and those of the older sword-styles. The last quarter of the sixteenth century saw the final decline of the English Masters of Defence "and the bourgeois values they defended."
These contemporary arguments, social situations and political tensions are reflected in the literature of the period. Elements such as the social standing of the user of a rapier, the concept of honour and the basis of duelling are all reflected in the plays and editorials of the period, particularly influential in this way, and useful to study are Shakespeare's plays. These will be examined in the following chapter.
Shakespeare's plays can be examined for social and political commentaries about the period in which he was writing. As has been demonstrated in the previous chapter, martial conflict was a part of life that was common to the Elizabethan period. The arguments which Shakespeare highlights are subtly integrated into the plays, without some sort of knowledge of the period and, political and social situation, these arguments are much more difficult to recognise. The three plays that will be used to demonstrate the significance of Shakespeare's plays to the overall question of the social side of rapier combat are Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Othello. Each one of these carries various elements that are useful to the discussion. First, it is important to demonstrate that it is rapiers that are being used in these plays.
In Othello, there is only one specific time in which the word rapier is used, being a line by the character Iago; "Wear thy good rapier bare, and put it home." But being Italian gentlemen it could be assumed that each one of the nobles, excluding Othello, who is a Moor, do carry rapiers, for this was the fashion of gentlemen of the period. The stage directions for the conflict also allude the use of rapiers. This is also the case with Romeo and Juliet, the word "rapier" is not used very often, but several other statements allude to the use of them.
The first explicit line, which demonstrates the use of the rapier in this particular play, is a statement by Tybalt to the Montagues in which he says; "Fetch me my rapier, boy." Though there are other places such as when Mercutio is making statements about Tybalt that comments about the sword-style that is being used are hinted at. The use of "punto reverso" demonstrates knowledge of the rapier, and also hints at its use within the play. In Hamlet, on the other hand, there is clear evidence that the rapier is being used.
The first useful instance of the use of the word "rapier" comes from a statement by the Queen about Hamlet killing Polonius;
"Behind the arras hearing something stir,
Whips out his rapier, cries, "A rat! A rat!""
This not only demonstrates the use of the rapier but shows that the weapon was worn on his person, at most times. The next is when the King is talking to Laertes about Hamlet and also Hamlet's jealousy over Laertes' abilities;
"He made confession of you,
And gave you such masterly report
For art and exercise in your defense,
And for your rapier most especial,"
The next comment about the use of the rapier is a conversation between Hamlet and the courtier Osric. They are talking about the upcoming duel between Laertes and Hamlet, and a clear demonstration of the use of the rapier is made when Hamlet asks Osric which weapon Laertes will use;
"What's his weapon?" [Hamlet]
"Rapier and dagger." [Osric]
These lines clearly demonstrate that it was the rapier that was used in these plays. More importantly than the actual use of the weapons in the plays, is the use of the weapons as markers of social rank, this is most evident in Romeo and Juliet.
By an examination of the characters in Romeo and Juliet, one can arrive at a social comment that Shakespeare makes about the carrying of weapons and how they denote social rank. First of all it should be noted that the servants of both households are armed with swords and bucklers, while the nobles of the households are armed with rapiers. This makes a clear social statement about who are the so-called "gentlemen" and who were their servants. It must be understood that education in the use of the rapier at the time was not cheap, and only the upper classes could afford it, it was only later on that the use of the rapier filtered down to the lower classes.
In each of the three plays there are comments about honour, duty, the gentleman and duelling. A brief discussion of these will be sought, but more detail will be extracted, and evidence used from these plays in the following chapters about each one of these subjects. These subjects were at the height of controversy in the period, and as such can be seen in the plays as social comments about the period. In Romeo and Juliet, there is much about duelling and honour, and some about the concept of the gentleman. Gregory and Samson enter a conversation about duelling and retreating, and whether it is done or not;
"To move is to stir, and to be valiant is to
stand. Therefore, if thou art mov'd, thou runn'st away." [Gregory]
Further on in the play, Tybalt challenges Romeo to a duel over a perceived injury which Romeo has done Tybalt, and the formalities of such a duel are observed and commented on by Mercutio and Benvolio;
"Tybalt, the kinsman to old Capulet
Hath sent a letter to his father's house." [Benvolio]
"A challenge, on my life." [Mercutio]
"Romeo will answer it. " [Benvolio]
As can be seen by the statements of the two characters, the duel is a big part of honour and must be answered to keep one's honour. Mercutio and Benvolio assume that Romeo will answer the challenge to keep his honour, thus is demonstrated the importance of the duel in the period. Further demonstrations from this play will be reserved for the particular chapters on the subjects as noted.
The play Hamlet says much about the concept of honour and whom one honours. This is also related to the concept of duty, which is a part of honour. The first instance of this is the address by the two representatives Cornelius and Valimand. Who say that; "In that, and all things, we will show our duty" This is one of many demonstrations of duty and honour which can be found in this play and the other two plays which are the subject of this investigation. Much is also said in Othello about honour and the burden of duty which honour places on people. But much more will be said of these topics in the following chapters that will focus on each of these important concepts. Much can be seen in the literature of the period, which is being discussed, many of the plays and articles of the period do say much about the social aspects of rapier combat, and it is important that these are acknowledged.
Honour was a large part of the Renaissance gentleman and he would face possible death in a duel to defend it, as such this is an important concept for the discussion. The next chapter will discuss this important concept with reference not only to the plays of Shakespeare but other important texts of the period.
The subject of honour has been theorised about, debated, and no conclusion reached. These arguments are not only present in the Renaissance period, but in the modern period also. This chapter will explain the concept of honour and how it was appropriate to the Renaissance period and then to the social side of rapier combat.
Joseph Swetnam and Giacomo Di Grassi claim that the skill in weapons is honourable and useful skill. Swetnam goes on to claim that skill in weapons should be seen as next to the divine, for as the divine protects against hell and the devil so does skill at arms protect the body against harm. Di Grassi has less lofty claims for skill at arms, he rather applies the Renaissance concept of the perfect gentleman with skill in the mind and the hands in that he says; "this honourable exercise may bring a valiant man unto perfection."
The use of skill as described above, is also thought to be honourable, but only if it is used for an honourable reason. There is, of course, the other side of this that skills can be used for nefarious reasons also, and thus skill can be seen both as honourable or dishonourable depending on its use. Di Grassi states that skill in weapons should be used in the defence of one's country and the honour of women. Anglo recognises that weapons can be used for honourable or dishonourable purposes, and argues that this has long been recognised. Much has been said about the skills that are used to wield weapons, but much is dependent on the reason behind the combat and the honour that is to be defended.
An insult to a person's family honour could be met by a challenge to combat. This is most easily demonstrated by examining the conflict between the houses of Montague and Capulet in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Tybalt feels that Romeo has insulted his family and so states;
"Now, by the stock and honour of my kin,
To strike him [Romeo] dead I hold it not a sin."
There were many causes in which a person must defend their honour, for any besmirching of their name or reputation, or any insult, which was perceived against a person. To neglect to answer such an insult would be seen to be, in the eyes of one's peers, as less honourable, or less in social stature. To these men, a man's name and reputation were worth more than their lives. From a modern perspective this is a little hard to grasp, but from the perspective of the Renaissance, it is perfectly reasonable on the basis that a person's name and reputation was something held sacrosanct. Though in certain instances these perceived insults were taken much too far, as can be seen by a statement by Hamlet, in the play by Shakespeare of the same name;
"Rightly to be great
Is not to stir without great argument,
But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
When honor's at the stake."
Honour was maintained by a person's actions, in what they said, and what they did. Most of all, honour was maintained through feats of arms. Saviolo, in his first of two books, states clearly that honour resides in the victor of honourable combat, by his accomplishment in the feat of arms. But Saviolo also states that such feats of arms should be engaged in with care. He states that a man should not look for conflicts, but only use his skills in "cases of necessitie for the defence of just causes, and to the maintenance of the honour of themselves and others."
There was a code that decided what sort of insult a man should answer to, the Code of Honour. This code is based on what was perceived as honourable at the time, and therefore is heavily culturally based. In fact, the code had less to do with what the individual thought and more to do with what was thought by one's peers and the society. The code went into all manner of detail about how challenges should be accepted, what weapons should be chosen, the time and place, and who should attend the affair of honour. The code was based on the duel, which will be discussed in a following chapter. It started on the European continent and spread to England and had a great effect upon the gentlemen of that country.
Honour was gained by combat, and what more honourable weapon was there than the sword, and more specifically, the rapier. The sword is the weapon of the gentleman, "I affirme, that amongst al the wepons used in these daies, there is none more honorable, more usual or more safe then the sword." Saviolo feels that due to the rapier's virtues that it should be considered to be the most proper weapon of the gentleman, to be used to correct wrongs, and as such should be the first weapon to be learned by the gentleman.
On the other side of honour is dishonour, this was an ever present factor wherever honour was involved, so too was the chance of dishonour. In Hamlet, Shakespeare highlights six vices which can cause dishonour, he calls them; "companions noted and most known to youth and liberty" These are listed as, gaming, drinking, swearing, quarrelling, drabbing (whoring) and interestingly enough fencing. The last is obviously added as a comment about the problem of duelling, and that it was thought that fencing schools contributed to its rise.
Saviolo states that the dishonour caused by the loss of a duel falls wholly on the person who fails because they did not learn to fence, and claimed that they were versed in the art. So in Saviolo's opinion it is not the fencing which is the vice but the loss of a duel caused by not learning correctly the art of fencing. Obviously, a person who has lost a duel has also lost their argument, and in most cases their life. The loss of the duel and the argument cause honour to be lost, and so the person is dishonoured. It is Saviolo's method which the English thought was dishonourable in attacking the face of an opponent; "Saviolo plays on the reluctance of fighters to be hit in the face (Englishmen in particular seemed to find it unsporting or dishonorable)." In Saviolo's opinion it plays on the English way of training rather than their honour. The head being a primary target means that in Saviolo's opinion, it should be attacked. The Englishmen of the period did not, however think of it in this way. The decision whether or not to attack the face was dependant upon interpretation in the same way as the decision to use the skills of the previously mentioned False Arts.
Much of the information on codes of honour is open to interpretation. A perfect example of this is the buccaneer's code of honour;
"Although characterised as a lawless group, buccaneers developed
highly structured codes of conduct, É From their earliest days
buccaneers operated in pairs, living and fighting together."
This demonstrates that the idea of honour was not limited to the upper echelons of society but spread all the way to the bottom as well. This also demonstrates the influence that the codes of honour had on the lower classes of society.
The so-called "Gentleman's Code of Honour" is a difficult thing to identify. It amalgamates all of the aspects of honour which have been discussed and puts them altogether under a single code. This code was not written in the Renaissance period and it was up to the gentleman, and his peers, to discern what was honourable and what was not. A useful piece from the period used to shed light on this is Saviolo's second book, Of Honour and Honourable Quarrels. It will be discussed later in the chapter on duelling on which this work had a great effect. The question of the attributes and qualities of the gentleman who would follow such a code will be answered in the next chapter, to discover this particular creature who is spoken about frequently in Renaissance texts.
The exact definition of a gentleman is in no way simple. The definition of exactly what constitutes a gentleman must take into account all of the attributes of the gentleman and what it means to be a gentleman. In Hamlet, comments are made by the Clowns in the graveyard as to what the definition of a gentleman is; to them it is one who 'bares arms', referring to weapons. This definition is then misguided as they neglect to think that arms means weapons and not actual limbs. Saviolo, considers that a gentleman is more defined by their actions in following the profession of arms;
"For whosoever will followe this profession must flie from rashnes,
pride, and injurie, and not fall into that soule falt and error which many
men incurre, who feeling themselves to be strong of bodie and expert
in this science, presuming thereupon, thinke that they may lawfully
offer outrage and injury unto anie man, and with crasse and grosse
termes and behaviour provoke everie man to fight,"
This states what a man following the profession of arms must not do. In this he states that skill in weapons does not permit a man to challenge everyone. Needless to say that additions to the definition of the true gentleman may be made by addition of these actions that a man should not take. It is best that a definition be gained from what a gentleman is considered to be rather than confining the definition to certain elements.
Castiglione states that the trade and manner of the courtier is most fitting for a gentleman to be engaged in. Through this employment the gentleman may learn all that is necessary for them to be a true and honourable gentleman. He also states that through such employment a man may gain the favour and praise of other men. Through this it may be demonstrated that the courtier is one occupation which a gentleman may be engaged in, and also it may be seen that a courtier is another name for a gentleman.
Swetnam states that a gentleman will win favour and love for courteous behaviour, but he also states that this behaviour is much better if tempered with skill in weapons. He also states that such skills are good and important for gentlemen. This however must be tempered with what Saviolo said previously. Swetnam also states that such skill in weapons, and courteous behaviour, should not just be restricted to gentlemen but all men.
Castiglione lists many activities, which a gentleman should be skilled in. First it must be stated that the martial feats come before all the others. He does, however, mention other activities such as music, painting, drawing, and various athletic feats such as vaulting and wrestling. This shows us a man who is skilled not only in martial and physical skills but also mental skills as well. This demonstrates some of the classic Renaissance humanitarian thoughts of the age.
The martial aspects of the gentleman are always emphasised in all of the works. These skills are seen as the most important for the defence of honour and country. Castiglione states that the primary and true profession of the courtier should be in feats of arms and that he should be known for it. Following this in the same passage Castiglione states that he should also be known for his loyalty, and hardiness in achievement. Courage and a well-meaning mind are emphasised along with the profession of arms. The importance of martial skills to the gentleman of the Renaissance, as a definition of the gentleman, is further emphasised in Shakespeare's plays. Mercutio's comments about Tybalt have a focus on Tybalt's ability with a rapier. He also emphasises that Tybalt, the duellist, is also important to his establishment as a gentleman as he mentions it twice in the same line, and it is this that defines him as a gentleman.
Again, feats of arms are mentioned in Swetnam, with special regard to defending friends against someone who would wrong them behind their back, he states that;
"if fuch a one doe heare his friend wronged behinde his backe, he
ought with difcretion to anfwer him, in his friends behalfe, with
reafonable worde, and not to report vnto his friend, the worft that he
heareth an idle fellow fpeake, except it be a matter which concerneth
his life, then it is not amiffe to warne thy friend, to the end he may be
prouided againft fuch a mifchiefe;"
Thus, it is a friend's honour that is at stake at in this situation. To answer the wrong with words does not directly point to a conflict with weapons, but it is more than likely that in this situation this sort of conflict could quite easily develop. It was in such a situation that Mercutio became involved in the duel between Tybalt and Romeo in Romeo and Juliet.
The physical attributes of the courtier are something which are made mention of in Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier. Castiglione mentions the physical attributes, which such a gentleman should have. The physical attributes focus on those that a man of war would have, thus once again focussing on the martial aspects of the courtier and the gentleman. The body shape should be appropriate to wielding weapons, and especially those which are most used by gentlemen.
"the more skill a man hath of his weapon the more gentle and
courteous should he shewe himselfe, for in truth this is rightly the
honour of a brave Gentleman, and so much the more is hee to bee
esteemed: neither must he be a bragger, or lyer, and without truth in
his word, because there is nothing more to be required in a man then
to know himselfe, for me therefore I think it necessarye that every one
should learne this arte,"
What is demonstrated from this extract from Castiglione's book is that even though martial skills are of great importance, there are other attributes that are just as important. Courtesy is once again mentioned as important to the gentleman. This is followed by statements that he should not be a bragger or liar. These demonstrate some of the social graces, which a gentleman should possess. Swetnam expands this to say that the gentleman should not bare any grudge or hatred for any man but go up to them and investigate the reason that ill words were spoken against them. Once again courtesy and honesty is emphasised as important. On the other side of this, Swetnam states that nothing ill should be stated against an enemy behind their back. This is because this would dishonour he who says it, and also have people think that he would rather fight with his tongue rather than his sword, an accusation of cowardice.
Polonius, in Hamlet, states to Laertes before he departs for France, a list of attributes and actions of the gentleman. He goes into some detail as to what a gentleman should or should not do, how to treat friends, on the expenses of buying clothing. It is useful to examine these statements to find out what was considered important for the gentleman of the period;
"Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportion'd thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel,
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledg'd courage. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but, being in,
Bear 't that th' opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each mans censure, but reserve thy judgement.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy,
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that."
This list gives directions about how to interact with other people. Polonius is saying to Laertes that he must be careful who he speaks to; keep trusted friends close; be careful who you duel with, but if duelling fight with honour and skill; listen to everyone, but tell few your opinion; and wear clothes that suit your station, rich but not gaudy. These give us insight into the various attributes of the gentleman of the time in which it was written, and assist in defining the gentleman.
"shunne as much as they can all occasions of quarrell, and not to fight
excepte (as hath bene sayde) upon a just cause and in a point of
Quarrels and duels were an everyday part of Elizabethan England as was demonstrated in chapter 4. How to deal with quarrels and duels is an important part of the gentleman of the period. More will be said about the duels themselves in a later section of this paper, but the gentleman's approach to duelling is an important part of defining the gentleman as a concept. Saviolo states that it is better to live in peace as much as a person can, and to avoid conflict as much as possible. He states that a gentleman should speak carefully lest he involve himself in a quarrel. In this it can be seen that Saviolo is saying that it is better to avoid quarrels than to engage in them. However much a gentleman could try to avoid quarrels and duels, they were a part of Renaissance life and knowledge of duels was an important part of a gentleman's education. The subject of the education of the gentleman will be elucidated in the following chapter.
The bearing of arms is an important part of the concept of the gentleman, as can be noted by the many instances of the importance of martial ability to the gentleman, but this is not the only thing that defines the gentleman. The gentleman was also expected to have skills in other areas, most notably music and painting. The Renaissance gentleman is an amalgam of martial feats, adeptness at physical pursuits, mental abilities, courtly graces, honour and honesty. There is also a proportion that must be attributed to a gentleman's presentation. It is only through a combination of all the factors, which are mentioned that a complete picture of the gentleman of the Renaissance is possible.
Chapter 8: Education
"From it [The Courtier] the English ruling class derived much of its ideal
of the soldier / poet / scientist / statesman. The Renaissance idea that
a man could improve himself by study caught on like wildfire,"
The ideal of the soldier/poet/scientist/statesman was part of the Renaissance ideal of the well-rounded personality, universal person or l'uomo universale. This embodied Renaissance thought on the basic ideals of humanism of the period. It was thought that men had limitless capacities for development, and that this development was available through study. Through this ideal men were not bound by birth or parentage, but based their greatness upon their exploits in gaining knowledge and in deeds which were performed, and knowledge in the arts and sciences of the period in which they were present.
Study in the martial arts became a required part of any gentleman's education. The services of a fencing master were required of any self-respecting court in Europe to achieve the goal of education in the martial arts. As Saviolo states, knowledge in the skills of weapons is more applicable to gentlemen and soldiers than other men, to defend honour, which they hold to be more important than life itself.
It was in fencing schools that this knowledge was gained. These fencing schools became numerous during the Renaissance period and their reputation was much improved from what it used to be in earlier periods. The schools were considered to be a middle-class phenomena, and could be found almost anywhere. In addition to these schools numerous books and pamphlets were published on the subject of fencing during this period. These schools of fence (salles d'armes) gained popularity in this period due to the realisation that the sword was a great equaliser in combat, and recognised neither rank nor privilege. The problem with studying these schools of fence is that;
"The schools of arms are even more obscure than the men who taught
in them. Not only do we lack documentary evidence about the day-to-
day running of those establishments, we do not even know what they
It is only through the information that has been gained through research that any idea of these schools is available. One description is available of Rocco Bonetti's school in London this gives an idea of what they were like (See Appendix 4). What is known is that they had a ranking system and levels of achievement from the lowest levels all the way up to that of master.
""Scholar" for the Elizabethan did not have its modern-day bookish
connotation. Except for some of the young gentlemen of the court, it is
doubtful whether many of the time could read. In Saviolo's
terminology, a scholar is not merely one who studies, but a specific
ranking of a student of fence,"
These ranks identified the progress of a particular student through the process of education. It was the highest ranks, the masters who taught at these schools. More will be said of these masters later in this section.
During the Elizabethan period in England, it was thought that these schools increased the incidence of duelling, and caused legislation to control where schools could be held and where they could not. This legislation was designed to prevent duels from occurring, as it was thought that the education of lower classes in the use of weapons promoted duelling in the cities. This legislation had to be made even though previous pieces of legislation on the matter had already been passed into law, some of which were discussed in an earlier chapter. A
Master of Defence was the head of these schools and it was their job to ensure that the martial skills were correctly taught to the students, and not to cutthroats and thieves.
"hee is not worthie to be called a Maister of Defence, which cannot
defend himfelfe at all weapons, especially against euerie ordinarie
man not profefsing the Art of Defence, nor except hee can play with a
Lyon, as well as with a Lambe,"
Considering the myriad of weapons that were available in the Elizabethan period, Swetnam's expectation of skill in all weapons was enormous. To gain the title of Master of Defence there was a great deal of study that was expected before this title was bestowed upon a man. The examination of a master was a long and arduous procedure. The knowledge and skills of the candidate would have to be demonstrated to the other masters. These were not only the skills in weapons but also the skills in teaching students. Needless to say that the Masters of Defence of the Elizabethan period were well experienced and well tested before their doctorate was given to them. As such, it can be expected that the students who learnt from these masters were well taught.
Professional training in fencing in the period was not cheap, and it was expected that a gentleman travelling abroad would keep up their fencing practice and ensure that it was well paid for;
"Dallington advised young gentlemen when travelling abroad to study
fencing, and to allow two crowns a month for lessons - a considerable
sum at a time when good beer went for a penny a quart"
Needless to say going by these prices that professional fencing tutoring was only available to those of the upper classes. But a gentleman was, as has been stated, expected to be educated in this skill to be considered a true gentleman. The advantages of an education in the skills of weapons were, and are, many.
The skill in weapons not only gave the gentleman the ability to defend themselves in matters of honour or in brawls but also taught other things. Swetnam claims that skill in weapons teaches discretion and temperance to the man who has the skills, but also, as can be seen in Appendix 5, certain health benefits from learning and practicing with weapons. Saviolo, is much more specific that Swetnam and says that learning and practice with the rapier and dagger, is much better than any other weapon skill because it is not only used in wars but also in personal combats and other incidents. He also claims that with such skills, in rapier and dagger, a man who is weak and of small stature may overcome a man who has much more strength and is of larger stature.
An education in the duel was also necessary for the gentleman of the Renaissance. Saviolo demonstrates the importance of this education in the opening statement of his second book;
"A Discourse most necessarie for all Gentleman that have in regarde
their honors touching the giving and receiving of the Lie, whereupon
the Duello & the Combats in diuers sortes doth insue, & many other
inconveniences, for lack only of the true knowledge of honor, and the
contrarie: & the right understanding of wordes, which heere is plainly
Duelling was a common part of Elizabethan England, and duels themselves were a regular occurrence. Needless to say that duelling was an important part of the gentleman's existence. Duelling itself is also an important social aspect that must be taken into account to access a complete picture of the social aspects of rapier combat.
"Two well- dressed upper-middle-class gentlemen are discussing
politics at the next table. One of them tells a scandalous anecdote
about a prominent political figure, and the other man calls him a liar.
They step out into the street draw swords, and kill each other. This is
The duel, or duello, was a common part of Elizabethan society. These conflicts were single person encounters not the massed formations of battlefield conflicts. They were one of the realities of the Elizabethan gentleman. What must be most emphasised at this point, as before, is that these are civilian encounters and not the battlefield encounters of wars. This form of conflict is vastly different from that of the battlefield, and indeed the formal duel was different from chance encounters with highwaymen or back-alley cutthroats.
There is a difference between the duel and the brawl. The duel was supposedly driven and ruled by a set of rules that the two combatants obeyed in order to gain an honourable outcome. The brawl, on the other hand, was not driven by any sort of rules at all. In reality, though, besides the formalisation of the duel there was no real difference between the two. Due to its formalisation and associations with law, theology and honour the duel has always attracted more attention.
Duels have a long history from ancient times. They started as a way of settling disputes by combat, and many cultures claim to be the birthplace of duelling. The reason that duelling in judicial matters was so popular was that it was seen that the winner was victorious due to God's will, and was seen as a method for settling differences of many kinds. The judicial duel evolved into the medieval joust and then to the private duel. This was designed to settle private disputes between two parties before the law was involved. The popularity of the duel increased to epidemic proportions by the sixteenth century.
Duels were considered to be illegal, as has already been demonstrated and a great deal of legislation went to attempting to stop the incidences of duelling. In England, jail sentences were given to those caught duelling, though rebellion against such orders was considered brave. Even though it was outlawed in many countries, duelling still gained popularity as a way of settling disputes, and this continued for centuries after the Renaissance.
There were rules that governed the way a duel was supposed to be conducted, often, these rules were abandoned by the combatants;
"Armed brawling was commonplace everywhere in Europe and the
punctilios of the formal duel, designed to give some semblance of
structure to personal violence, were more frequently violated than
There were some upper class men, who observed the rules of the duel, but they were in the minority. For most of the combatants in these conflicts, the only rule that mattered was that of self-preservation, a man had to be willing to kill his opponent as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is useful to examine these rules to find out how the notions of honour pertained to them and how they are an example of a social construct that was developed to deal with a particular situation.
The "Code Duello" was the code that was defined to deal with duels of honour. It laid out specific rules as to what was to happen and what could cause a duel to occur. The procedure is very specific, according to Saviolo the procedure was as follows;
"Yet that notwithstanding the true and perfect manner of proceeding in
cases of honour is, that whosoever offereth injurie by deede, as
striking, beating, or otherwise hurting anie man, ought presently
without anie further debate or questioning, to be challenged to the
Combat, unlesse hee refuse the same by making satisfaction for the
offence or offered injurie."
The challenger lays the challenge to the man who has insulted him and it is then up to the challenged to organise the particular time and place for the duel, along with weapons. This led the challenged to be at an advantage over their opponent. To go back a little in the procedure, before a man would lay a challenge to another, there would have to be some sort ofinsult to the person who was to lay the challenge. It is important to discuss these reasons for a challenge also.
Saviolo states that there are two kinds of injuries that would cause a challenge to be laid, those of words and those of deeds. Deeds that could cause a challenge are as simple as one striking another to the extreme of killing another's friend or relation. Words on the other hand are much more complex than deeds. Baldick uses one of Shakespeare's plays to demonstrate this;
"Touchstone in As You Like It, should have carefully enumerated the
seven causes of a quarrel – the retort courteous, the quip modest, the
reply churlish, the reproof valiant, the countercheck quarrelsome, the
lie with circumstance and the lie direct"
The "lie" was, however, the most common. To be accounted a liar was seen as the greatest insult on a person, and to not answer meant an even greater dishonour. These "lies" were so numerous that period treatises contained a whole chapter on the subject.
Seconds were originally used as witnesses to ensure that no treachery or foul play was committed. The second's job was also to attempt to reach some sort of reconciliation between the two combatants to resolve the matter without resorting to bloodshed. This was rarely successful. It was also the second's job to investigate the Code Duello to ensure that the combat was performed in the correct manner and that the other combatant followed the rules. Needless to say the seconds' had an important function to perform. Their involvement in the duel was then increased, they actually became involved in the fights themselves, and real clashes developed.
So far there has been an examination of what happens when a duel is entered into, but there is also the decision not to duel. This point was discussed in an effort to curb the instances of duelling in the period. Saviolo states that a man should attempt to live in peace, and to not attempt to enrage anyone. He says that duels should not be started from foolish words or answers. Swetnam urges moderation in the use of weapons to settle quarrels and says that trifling quarrels should not revert to weapons but should be resolved by words. Swetnam further states that a man should not quarrel or fight at any opportunity lest he gain a reputation as a common quarreller, and be shunned by noble company.
One problem that the masters faced, was that the skills that they taught were as easily transferable to nefarious uses as they were for honourable causes. Many acknowledged this problem and claimed that it was an unfortunate use for such a noble art, but there were some which realised that the use of the skills which they taught was up to the user rather than the person who taught them. Thus it was up to the user of the skills to be honourable in their intention and not the masters to be blamed for the misuse of the skills which they taught.
The question of the necessity of duelling cannot be answered from a modern point of view, instead it must be answered from a Renaissance point of view. According to Saviolo, there were times when a man's honour was so affronted that such an injury could not be removed except by duelling. This is especially so, he claims, when there is nothing that the law can do to intervene on the matter. Further, Saviolo states that it is preferable to try not to give cause for combat to any man but at no time should a man to into combat with his friend. He also says that if duelling against one's friend is unavoidable, to fight with all skill, because there is no certainty that the friend may not accidentally kill him.
It is hard to justify the existence of duelling in isolation as many nobles were killed or maimed. This would not take into account the history that is associated with duelling, and the combats that happened before it. The feuds that happened before duelling was accepted, involved many more combatants in 'unsanctioned' encounters, and the carnage was much more widespread. Duelling was developed and accepted by the societies to limit the bloodshed caused by the use of weapons. In short;
"The Duello É [made] each man personally responsible for his actions.
This seems to have resulted in a distinct improvement in the manners
and humility of the nobility."
Firstly, it was important to establish exactly what this weapon called the rapier was and is. This particular debate is still current, and no doubt will continue to be debated. The definition that was used was an amalgamation of the information about the weapon, combined with how the weapon would be used. The blade shape defines the way that the weapon would be used. As such, the rapier was described as a long slender bladed weapon, which was sharp on both the edge and the point. It is this weapon that the form of combat, which was described in the second chapter was designed.
Only once a definition of the weapon is gained is it possible to discuss the techniques of the particular weapon. What must be emphasised in the art of the rapier combat is that it is not about point scoring or being graceful. It is about how to dispatch a person's opponents in the most efficient manner possible, and surviving the experience. The other thing that must be emphasised is that the rapier is a civilian weapon and not designed for use on the battlefield. The basic techniques were described in order to give the reader a grounding in the type of skills that went into using a rapier in combat. It is these techniques which have been the focus of much research into the technical side of rapier combat, their description for this paper was only included so that it may be understood that there was an immediate lethal quality when it came to the rapier. It is only through this paradigm that duelling and the importance of education in the martial arts may be understood. The different styles of rapier fencing allude to the cultural nature of the overall form of combat and the styles themselves.
Rapier combat on the European continent faded out due to fashion, as the development of the French school demonstrates. It can however, be seen as a viable combat art due to the persistence of the Spanish school which survived for 300 years. Each one of the schools was based on a particular cultural basis, the Italians had the classical Renaissance, and the Spanish had mathematics, geometry and philosophy. It is the Italians and the Spanish who influenced the form of fencing in England, once they had supplanted the old English style. The gentry took to these styles to keep up with fashion.
Along with the influence of the schools of fence, it is important to note that the masters, who wrote the treatises and taught at the schools, also wrote on the concepts of honour, duelling and the gentleman. It is these writings which would influence the formation of what is known as the "English Gentleman." It is however, important to re-examine the situation in England at the time that these new fashions were introduced.
Elizabethan England is a wonderful time and place from which to examine all of the concepts. Firstly, many of the sources, that are most widely known, come from this place in this period, and there is a bounty of information on the subject. Elizabethan streets were not safe, and it is due to this that fencing schools flourished, even though there was much legislation to stop them. Duelling was also a real problem, it was of such massive proportions that it became somewhat of a common thing to read about, or hear about duelling. An education in civilian forms of combat was one way to stay alive.
In England at this time, one can see a clash of the schools, between the English and the Italians and Spanish. This clash was eventually won by the forces of fashion, and so the Italian and Spanish ways were included into the martial schools in England. It was the influence of fashion, that created much of the trend toward the Italian and Spanish schools of fence, driven by fashions in clothing and weapons. This turmoil in fashion, and politics, is reflected in the literature of the period.
To Shakespeare the duel was a common occurrence, and appears in several of his plays, as do other social and political issues of the period. An examination of Shakespeare's plays reveals some of the thoughts of the Elizabethans, as the plays were written to their audience. They examine the social phenomenon of duelling and the problems with it in Romeo and Juliet. Also within the same play is demonstrated a definitive line in the social structure by the way Shakespeare arms the characters. Hamlet deals with duelling, revenge and honour, as well as duty. The duel at the end of the play demonstrates that not all duels were held in secret, but that royalty witnessed some. All of these concepts were important to the Elizabethans and these are expressed repeatedly in the plays of Shakespeare. His plays also reveal a great deal about the social side of combat in the period.
The question of honour is one that has raged for centuries and across cultures. With regard to the Renaissance and the gentleman, it is one of the most important concepts that must be addressed. The code of honour, which the Elizabethan gentleman lived and died by, was one that was not written down but was decided by society, one's peers and the individual. Small elements of it may be gained, but a complete picture is not possible. No broad rules may be found. A gentleman's honour is defined by his actions in a particular place at a particular time. Still it is a concept that must be wrestled with to understand the subjects that are being discussed. The "Gentleman's Code of Honour" depends on the definition of the gentleman, it is only through the paradigm of the gentleman that the particular type of honour present in the Renaissance may be understood.
What is a gentleman? This is an interesting question. From a Renaissance point of view it must be seen that the gentleman of this period is actually a combination of many attributes. The martial aspect is one of the most important and is mentioned repeatedly throughout the sources. It is however, not sufficient to look at him from this singular aspect.
The influence of the Italian Renaissance had its effect upon the concept of the gentleman, he was also expected to be knowledgable and courteous. The attributes were defined in many texts, none so importantly as Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier, which defined the perfect courtier and as such, the perfect gentleman. The texts, and especially Castiglione's, also stated what a gentleman should not be and as such defined what was not sought. It is the gentleman's code of honour that drove much of what the gentleman was. It is the martial aspect which is the main focus of this particular investigation, and it was the gentleman's education in the martial arts, and especially fencing which was the driving force behind the gentleman's education.
The gentleman was defined in a large part by the martial feats that he performed. To excel in martial enterprises it was necessary for the gentleman to be educated in the skills required. The martial arts were the main focus of the education of the gentleman, but such an education also taught various other aspects, that were important. Such attributes as temperance, and discretion were also taught in the schools of arms.
The schools themselves have been the subject of some inquiry, unfortunately there is little evidence of what was taught at the schools or what the schools looked like. It is only through an amalgamation of various references that a picture of these schools is possible. The schools themselves were the subject of legislation because it is thought that they bred duelling, and so were legislated against. As time passed, however, the standing of schools of arms increased and nobles were sent to them to be educated.
The Masters of Defence were the educators at these schools and their titles were well earned. A Master had to pass vigorous examination before they were allowed to teach, and it is from this that it can be seen that these men truly were masters of their professed art.
The gentleman also had to have knowledge of the duel, as it was a common part of Elizabethan England. The rules defining the duel, the Code Duello were complex and they defined everything of consequence with regard to the duel. It is a part of the period that has been somewhat misunderstood.
Duels were common in Elizabethan England and also in many other parts of Europe. This was especially so for the upper classes. What must be understood is that the duel and the brawl were only really different on points of ritualisation. In both cases it was more than likely that both parties were there to kill each other. It is true that rules did exist for the duel and that some did follow them.
The duel has a long history. It was designed to settle disputes between two people. As a method of deciding such things it was reasonably successful. The judicial duel developed into the joust and when civilians were armed in the Renaissance, it developed into the duel of honour. Duels were considered illegal, but were continued with because it was seen as courageous to defy the law in the defence of honour.
Duelling is a much older social custom that grew to epidemic proportions in the Renaissance period. Thousands of nobles were either killed or maimed. They fought for something, an ideal in most cases, which they believed in. What must be taken into account is that previously such grudges were settled with bands of brigands, and spread much wider than the duel ever did. The duel usually involved two people, and it was restricted to them. From this point of view duelling actually reduced the bloodshed. Through the chance of the occurrence of a duel, the nobility had to develop more temperance as such arguments became an intensely personal affair rather than one that involved many more combatants.
Rapier combat is an expanding area of research. Much of this research is focussed on the technical aspects of this form of combat. It is vital to understand the social aspects of the subject as a whole. This form of combat, and others, is the product of the influence of the period in which they are found. The social side of rapier combat explains why this form of combat developed as it did, and therefore explains the progression towards the rapier as a weapon and also toward the techniques, that were used to wield the rapier. This social side also explains why certain techniques were considered to be ungentlemanly, and also why offensive techniques took precedence over the defensive ones in the Italian school. It is only through understanding these points, that a complete appreciation of the subject may be accessed.
To bring these conclusions together required accessing sources from both types of research and it is hoped that both will be appreciated for the information they can bring. It is hoped that this paper will form a bridge between the research of academics and antiquarian-styled researchers in the area of rapier combat.
The left-hand dagger was one of the most common weapons used in combination with the rapier. It was often made in the same fashion as the rapier to be a matched pair with it: "The quillon dagger resembled a small sword, usually with hilt decorated and formed en suite with the sword."
The dagger was often a simple weapon with quillons (a cross-guard), which was used with the rapier for defensive purposes. It became the most common tool of defence as it could be used offensively also. The rapier and dagger combination became the most used combination in Europe due to its many uses;
"the simple quillon dagger became almost universal throughout
Europe, popularized by its use with the rapier as a mode of fighting."
As time progressed the swords got shorter and lighter, so they could be used for offence and defence, and the use of the dagger became obsolete;
"but the need for them [the dagger] disappeared when in the middle of
the seventeenth century the smallsword ... aided by the fencing
technique which made it such a deadly weapon, replaced the rapier."
Morton, E. (2000) Period Fencing Terms, http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~wew/fencing/terms.html
The terms used in modern fencing had their origins in the fencing schools of France of the late 17th and early 18th Centuries and so are not appropriate for use prior to 1600. The terms from the 16th Century are based primarily on those defined and described by the Italian masters of the period. Many 16th Century texts survive into our era and may be acquired from a number of sources (listed later). The texts are in English, Italian, Spanish, German and French. There is currently a movement to translate the Italian and Spanish texts into English.
Please write me if you are working on a project such as this! I would highly suggest that you start your study by reading the works of Giacomo di Grassi and Vincentio Saviolo. If you are interested in English philosophy of fence you may read George Silver's works. The following terms are taken primarily from these Elizabethan masters. Unfortunately many of the terms are not described very well in the original texts. A book entitled Pallas Armata that was published in 1639 defines most of the terms outlined below. One or more references to the term are given for each. If a reference is not given the term was found in the book "A to Z of Fencing"
A thrust is an attack made with the point of the weapon where the attempt is to pierce the target.
Imbrocatta -- This attack is made over the adversary's blade, hand or dagger. It travels in a
downward direction with the knuckles up (as in a modern prime or high tierce).
Stocatta -- This attack is made under the blade, hand or dagger. The hand is typically held in
pronation, although it may be held in other positions. This attack is normally made to
Punta Riversa -- This attack is delivered from the left side to any part of your adversary's
body, high or low. (The modern term for this attack would be an attack from quarte)
(mentioned by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet)
Cuts and Blows
A cut or blow is an attack made with the edge of the weapon where the result of the attack is to cut the opponent.
Mandritti -- Cuts from the right side.
Tondo -- A circular cut delivered horizontally,
Fendente -- A vertical attack in a downward direction,
Montante -- A vertical attack made in an upward direction,
Squalembrato -- An oblique downward motion attack.
Roversi or roverso -- These attacks are the same as the mandritti except they are made from
the left side instead of the right.
Stramazone -- This is a slicing or cutting blow made with the point/tip of the sword.
Arrebatar -- Spanish term to cut with the whole arm, from the shoulder.
Various Blade Terms
Stringering -- Keeping opposition to your adversary's blade with your own blade.
Cavere -- Turning your point under your adversary's blade when being bound or thrust.
Parere -- To decline, put by or turn a thrust or blow.
Finda -- A feint to draw your adversary away from the true attack.
Battere -- To beat aside your adversary's blade with rapier, foot or hand.
Contra tempo -- This is a thrust in the same line that your adversary thrusts in.
Beattie, K. (2000) Student Manual: Early 17th Century Fencing Course
Botta - Thrust
Botte Lunga - thrust attack by extending the primary foot forward
Cavatione - disengagement ... of the body and or sword
Cavatione di Tempo - Timed Disengagement
Contra Cavatione - disengagement at the same time as the opponent
Contra Guardia - guards used (prima, Seconde, Terza and Quarta)
- See Contra Postura
Contra Postura - Mirror your opponent's guard
- also known as Contra Guardia
Contra Tempo - "Striking from the guard position without changing the sword
orientation, at the same time as the opponent strikes"
Dui Tempo - Double Time
Imbrocatta - an attack in which the blade passes above the opponent's
guard or blade
Meggia Cavatione - a disengagement in which the sword does not complete its
passage from one side to another, but remains under the
Mezza Cavatione - passage from a high-Line to a Low-Line
Mezzo Tempo - Stop-Hit, a thrust delivered instantaneously, while the opponent was
Misura - Measure of Distance
Misura Larga - a wide measure, that in which it is possible to strike the
opponent by advancing one step
- When its only possible to hit the opponent by moving the
primary foot and lunging forward.
Misura Stretta - close measure, that in which the strike is carried out by
merely extending the arm without moving the body.
- When the blade can be contacted to the opponent by
merely extending the sword arm and pressing the body
Ricatione - second disengagement
Stesso Tempo - Single Time
Stocatta - an attack in which the blade passes under the opponent's
guard or blade
Stramazone - tip cut, an attack made with just the tip of the blade, similar
to a slash except that only the tip is used
Traverse - withdrawal with a step to the side
Trovare - Parry
Trovare di Spada - engagement of the adversary's blade
Void - To move out of the way of the opponent's point.
Volte - thrust attack by extending behind with the secondary foot
blade - the primary offensive part of the weapon, comprised of six parts; tang,
ricasso, forte, terzo, foible and point
finger ring - a ring usually mounted on the quillons to protect the finger that is usually
wrapped around the quillons or ricasso in gripping the sword
foible - the quickest, but weakest part of the blade, includes the point
forte - the strongest, but slowest part of the blade
grip - the part of the hilt which is gripped by the hand
guard - the part of the hilt designed to protect the hand of the user
handle - see grip
hilt - mode of three parts; the grip, the pommel, and the guard, may be very
simple or complex in design
knuckle guard - a bar that typically is attached to the quillons and then bent around the grip
to protect the knuckles from harm
point - end of the blade used for thrusting, opposite end of the weapon to the hilt
pommel - the, typically round, knob which is attached to the tang both to prevent the
hilt from becoming dislodged, and used to counter-weigh the weight of the blade
quillons - also known as a cross-guard, a bar that separates the handle from the
blade, used as a simple guard on their own
riccasso - the unsharpened part of the blade found immediately past the quillons
tang - the part of the blade which the grip is constructed around
terzo - the part of the blade in between the forte and foible
tip - see point
"Rocco had acquired a fine house in Warwick Lane 'which he called his Colledge, for he thought it great disgrace for him to keepe a Fence-schoole'. The walls of the school were adorned with the arms of his noble pupils and their rapiers, daggers and 'gloves of male and gantlets'. Around the floor were seats for the gentlemen to watch the lessons. A large, beautifully appointed square table was provided, with 'inke, pens, pin-dust, and sealing waxe, and quiers of verie excellent fine paper gilded' ready for Rocco's patrons to write their letters and dispatch them while still watching the fights - in much the same way as a modern gymnasium might supply a fax machine and the Internet. 'And to know how the time passed, he had in one corner of his schoole a Clocke, with a verie faire large Diall'. More significantly, however, 'he had within that schoole, a roome the which was called his privie schoole, with manie weapons therein, where he did teach his schollers his secret fight, after he had perfectly taught them their rules'."
Castiglione, B. (1997) The Book of the Courtier, University of Oregon, USA, (originally
Di Grassi, G. (1996) His True Arte of Defence,
(originally published 1570)
Hutton, Capt. A. (2000) Old Sword-Play,
edited by B. Maloney,
originally published 1892
Saviolo, V. (1595) His Practice in Two Books,
(originally published 1595)
Shakespeare, W. Hamlet in Bevington, D. (ed) (1980) The Complete Works of Shakespeare
(3rd ed.), Scott, Foresman and Company, Glenview Illinios, USA.
Othello in Bevington, D. (ed) (1980) The Complete Works of Shakespeare
(3rd ed.), Scott, Foresman and Company, Glenview Illinios, USA.
Romeo and Juliet in Bevington, D. (ed) (1980) The Complete Works of
Shakespeare (3rd ed.), Scott, Foresman and Company, Glenview Illinios, USA.
Silver, G. (1968) Paradoxes of Defence, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Amsterdam, Holland;
DaCapo Press, New York, (originally published 1599)
Swetnam, J. (1617) The Schoole of the Noble and Worthy Science of Defence, Nicholas
Okes, London, (facsimile of original text)
Akehurst, R. (1969) Antique Weapons for Pleasure and Investment, Arco Publishing
Company Inc., New York, USA
Alaux, M. (1975) Modern Fencing, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, USA
Anglo, S. (2000) The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe, Yale University Press, London, UK
Baldick, R. (1965) The Duel, Chapman & Hall, London, UK
Bevington, D. (ed) (1980) The Complete Works of Shakespeare (3rd ed.), Scott, Foresman
and Company, Glenview Illinios, USA.
Clements, J. (1997) Renaissance Swordsmanship: The Illustrated Use of Rapier and Cut-
and-Thrust Swords, Paladin Press, Boulder, Colorado, USA
Coe, M. (et. al.)(1996) Swords and Hilt Weapons, Prion Books Limited, London, UK
Curry, N.C. (1969) Fencing, Goodyear Publishing Company Inc, California, USA
de Beaumont, C-L. (1970) Fencing: Ancient Art and Modern Sport, Kaye & Ward Ltd.,
Edge, D. & Paddock, J.M. (1996) Arms and Armour of the Medieval Knight, Saturn Books Ltd,
Garret, M. and Heinecke, M. (1971) Fencing, Allyn and Bacon Inc., Boston, USA
Girard, D.A. (1997) Actors on Guard: A Practical Guide for the Use of the Rapier and Dagger
for Stage and Screen, Routledge, London, UK
Hobbs, W. (1995) Fight Direction, A & C Black (Publishers), Ltd, London, UK
Konstam, A. (2000) Buccaneers, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, UK
Norman, V. (1970) Arms and Armour, Weidenfield and Nicolson, London UK
Palffy-Alpar, J. (1967) Sword and Masque, F. A. Davis Co., Philadelphia, USA
Sheen, G. (1958) Instructions to Young Fencers, Museum Press Ltd, London, UK
Turner, C. and Soper, T. (1990) Methods and Practices of Elizabethan Swordplay, Southern
Illinois University Press, Carbondale, USA
Valentine, E. (1968) Rapiers: An Illustrated Reference Guide to the Rapiers of the 16th and
17th Centuries, with their Companions, Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, USA
Beattie, K. (2000) Student Manual: Early 17th Century Fencing Course,
Dda, Maelgwyn (2002) The Duello in Elizabethan England,
Guyon, F. H. (2000) Sir, Your Sword's too long!,
Mart’nez, Maestro Ramon. (1998) Weapons and Styles Taught,
Mondschein, Ken (1993) Daggers of the Mind: Towards a Historiography of Fencing,
McKaughan, Joshua (2002) Paper Topic 6: The Renaissance Man,
Morton, E. (2000) Period Fencing Terms,
Smith, Capt. J. B. (2001) The Spanish Circle,
Willens, D. (2001) The Magic Circle,
Wilson, W. E. (2000) Fencing Masters of the 16th and Early 17th Centuries,
Copyright 2002 by Henry Walker B.A. (Hons). <henry_the_fox at hotmail.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.
 Castiglione, B. (1997) The Book of the Courtier, University of Oregon, USA, (originally published 1561)
 Swetnam, Joseph (1617) The Schoole of the Noble and Worthy Science of Defence, Nicholas Okes, London, (facsimile of original text)
 Silver, G. (1599) Paradoxes of Defence, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Amsterdam, Holland; DaCapo Press, New York, (originally published 1599)
 Anglo, S. (2000) 'What is a Rapier?' in The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe, Yale University Press, London, pp99-102 and ibid5, "An Advertisement to the courteous reader"
 Girard, D. (1997) Actors on Guard: A Practical Guide for the Use of the Rapier and Dagger for Stage and Screen, Routledge, London
 Anglo, S. (2000) The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe, Yale University Press, London
 ibid2 and Castiglione, B. (1997) The Book of the Courtier, (originally published 1561)
 Anglo, S. (2000) 'What is a Rapier?' in The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe, Yale University Press, London, pp99-102
 de Beaumont, C-L. (1970) Fencing: Ancient Art and Modern Sport, Kaye & Ward Ltd., London, p256
 ibid2 p256
 ibid2 p256
 Alaux, M. (1975) Modern Fencing, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, p3
 Edge, D. & Paddock, J.M. (1996) Arms and Armour of the Medieval Knight, Saturn Books Ltd, London, p147
 Clements, J. (1997) Renaissance Swordsmanship: The Illustrated Use of Rapier and Cut-and-Thrust Swords, Paladin Press, Boulder, Colorado, p11
 Akehurst, R. (1969) Antique Weapons for Pleasure and Investment, Arco Publishing Company Inc., New York, p7
 Coe, M. (et. al.)(1996) Swords and Hilt Weapons, Prion Books Limited, London, p59
 Baldick, R. (1965) The Duel, Chapman & Hall, London, p40
 ibid2, p7
 ibid1, p7
 ibid1, p3
 ibid1, p7
 ibid1, p5
 ibid1, p8
 Girard, D. (1997) Actors on Guard: A Practical Guide for the Use of the Rapier and Dagger for Stage and Screen, Routledge, London, p88
 ibid1, p11
 ibid1, p9
 Girard, D. (1997) Actors on Guard: A Practical Guide for the Use of the Rapier and Dagger for Stage and Screen, Routledge, London, p437
 Alaux, M. (1975) Modern Fencing, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, p1
 de Beaumont, C-L. (1970) Fencing: Ancient Art and Modern Sport, Kaye & Ward Ltd., London, p256
 Clements, J. (1997) Renaissance Swordsmanship: The Illustrated Use of Rapier and Cut-and-Thrust Swords, Paladin Press, Boulder, Colorado, p6
 Baldick, R. (1965) The Duel, Chapman & Hall, London, p40
 ibid39 p3
 Sheen, G. (1958) Instructions to Young Fencers, Museum Press Ltd, London, p18
 ibid4 p40
 ibid4 p88
 Beattie, K. (2000) Student Manual: Early 17th Century Fencing Course,
 ibid1 p87
 ibid1 p90
 ibid1 p90
 ibid4 p9
 ibid4 p10
 Hutton, Capt. A. (2000) Old Sword-Play, http://www.people.cornell.edu/pages/bjm10/hutton/intro.html">http://www.people.cornell.edu/pages/bjm10/hutton/intro.html, edited by B. Maloney, originally published 1892, p4
 ibid1, p89
 ibid1, p238
 ibid1, p237
 Akehurst, R. (1969) Antique Weapons for Pleasure and Investment, Arco Publishing Company Inc., New York, p7
 ibid4 p12
 ibid4 p12
 ibid4 p9
 ibid1, p181
 ibid1, p181
 ibid1, p182
 ibid1, p49
 ibid1, p44
 ibid1, p44
 ibid4 p7
 ibid1, p334
 ibid1, p334
 ibid1, p294
 ibid1, p297
 ibid1, p268
 Silver, G. (1968) Paradoxes of Defence, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Amsterdam, Holland; DaCapo Press, New York, (originally published 1599)
 Wilson, W. E. (2000) Fencing Masters of the 16th and Early 17th Centuries, http://www.jan.ucc.nau.edu/~wew/fencing/masters.html">http://www.jan.ucc.nau.edu/~wew/fencing/masters.html
 Anglo, S. (2000) The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe, Yale University Press, London, p48
 Girard, D. (1997) Actors on Guard: A Practical Guide for the Use of the Rapier and Dagger for Stage and Screen, Routledge, London, p49
 Silver, G. (1968) Paradoxes of Defence, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Amsterdam, Holland; DaCapo Press, New York, (originally published 1599)
 Norman, V. (1970) Arms and Armour, Weidenfield and Nicolson, London, p103
 Turner, C. and Soper, T. (1990) Methods and Practices of Elizabethan Swordplay, Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, p9
 Anglo, S. (2000) The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe, Yale University Press, London, p36
 Sheen, G. (1958) Instructions to Young Fencers, Museum Press Ltd, London, p21
 This would mean interesting legal ramifications for the many fencing schools, which exist in the City of London. Such legal mistakes have been seen elsewhere as well, such as the late removal of the right to trial by combat, only repealed in 1819. (Baldick, R. (1965) The Duel, Chapman & Hall, London, p20)
 Valentine, E. (1968) Rapiers: An Illustrated Reference Guide to the Rapiers of the 16th and 17th Centuries with their Companions, Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, p7
 ibid1, pxx
 Silver, G. (1599) Paradoxes of Defence, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Amsterdam, Holland; DaCapo Press, New York, (originally published 1599), pA3
 de Beaumont, C-L. (1970) Fencing: Ancient Art and Modern Sport, Kaye & Ward Ltd., London, p258
 ibid1, pxiv
 Norman, V. (1970) Arms and Armour, Weidenfield and Nicolson, London p100
 ibid1, pxv
 ibid3, p21
 ibid1, p7
 ibid11, p12
 ibid11, p53
 ibid1, p1
 ibid1, pxiv
 Bevington, D. (ed) (1980) The Complete Works of Shakespeare (3rd ed.), Scott, Foresman and Company, Glenview Illinios. Othello, p1160, Act V, scene i, line 2.
 ibid1, Romeo and Juliet, p1002, Act I, scene v, line 55
 ibid1, Romeo and Juliet, p1008 Act II, scene iv, lines 25 –26
 ibid1, Hamlet, p1104 Act IV, scene i, lines 9-10
 ibid1, Hamlet, p1111 Act IV, scene vii, lines 95-98
 ibid1, Hamlet, p1117 Act V, scene ii, lines 143 – 144
 ibid1, Romeo and Juliet, p994, 995
 ibid1, Romeo and Juliet, p994, Act I, scene i, lines 8-10
 ibid1, Romeo and Juliet, p1008, Act II, scene iv, line 6-9
 ibid1, Hamlet, p1077 Act I, scene ii, line 40
 Swetnam, Joseph (1617) The Schoole of the Noble and Worthy Science of Defence, Nicholas Okes, London, (facsimile of original text), Epistle p11
 Anglo, S. (2000) The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe, Yale University Press, London, p271
 Bevington, D. (ed) (1980) The Complete Works of Shakespeare (3rd ed.), Scott, Foresman and Company, Glenview Illinios, Romeo and Juliet P1002 Act I, scene v, lines 59-60
 Dda, Maelgwyn (2002) The Duello in Elizabethan England, http://www.ansteorra.org/regnum/marshal/rapier/publications/acad9/duello.htm">http://www.ansteorra.org/regnum/marshal/rapier/publications/acad9/duello.htm
 ibid5, Hamlet, p1106 Act IV, scene iv, lines 53-56
(originally published 1595)
 Turner, C. and Soper, T. (1990) Methods and Practices of Elizabethan Swordplay, Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, pxxiii
 ibid5, Hamlet, p1080 Act II, scene i, line 23
 ibid11, p67
 Konstam, A. (2000) Buccaneers, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, p15
 Bevington, D. (ed) (1980) The Complete Works of Shakespeare (3rd ed.), Scott, Foresman and Company, Glenview Illinios, Hamlet, p1113, Act V, scene i
(originally published 1595)
 Castiglione, B. (1997) The Book of the Courtier, University of Oregon, USA, (originally published 1561)
 Swetnam, Joseph (1617) The Schoole of the Noble and Worthy Science of Defence, Nicholas
Okes, London, (facsimile of original text), p76
 ibid1, Romeo and Juliet, p1008 Act II, scene iv, lines 19 –26
 ibid4, p64
 ibid1, Romeo and Juliet, p1012 Act III, scene i,
 ibid4, p65
 ibid4, p66
 ibid1, Hamlet, p1080 Act I, scene iii, lines 59-74
 Turner, C. and Soper, T. (1990) Methods and Practices of Elizabethan Swordplay, Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, p11
 McKaughan, Joshua (2002) Paper Topic 6: The Renaissance Man, http://oit.vgcc.cc.nc.us/his121/_disc6/00000026.htm
(originally published 1595)
 Coe, M. (et. al.)(1996) Swords and Hilt Weapons, Prion Books Limited, London, p56
 ibid1, pxix
 Clements, J. (1997) Renaissance Swordsmanship: The Illustrated Use of Rapier and Cut-and-Thrust Swords, Paladin Press, Boulder, Colorado, p122
 Anglo, S. (2000) The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe, Yale University Press, London, p12
 ibid1, p55
 Swetnam, Joseph (1617) The Schoole of the Noble and Worthy Science of Defence, Nicholas
Okes, London, (facsimile of original text), p8
 Ibid8, p9
 ibid1, pxx
 ibid1, p62
 Dda, Maelgwyn (2002) The Duello in Elizabethan England, http://www.ansteorra.org/regnum/marshal/rapier/publications/acad9/duello.htm">http://www.ansteorra.org/regnum/marshal/rapier/publications/acad9/duello.htm
 Clements, J. (1997) Renaissance Swordsmanship: The Illustrated Use of Rapier and Cut-and-Thrust Swords, Paladin Press, Boulder, Colorado, p110
 Anglo, S. (2000) The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe, Yale University Press, London, p273
 ibid3, p273
 Turner, C. and Soper, T. (1990) Methods and Practices of Elizabethan Swordplay, Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, p1
 Garret, M. and Heinecke, M. (1971) Fencing, Allyn and Bacon Inc., Boston, p98
 ibid5, p2
 Palffy-Alpar, J. (1967) Sword and Masque, F. A. Davis Co., Philadelphia, p13
 ibid5, p5
 ibid3, p34
 ibid3, p35
 Baldick, R. (1965) The Duel, Chapman & Hall, London, p39
 ibid13, p33
 ibid13, p33
 ibid13, p45
 ibid8, p35
 Swetnam, Joseph (1617) The Schoole of the Noble and Worthy Science of Defence, Nicholas Okes, London, (facsimile of original text), p38
 ibid21, p41
 ibid3, p272
 Edge, D. & Paddock, J.M. (1996) Arms and Armour of the Medieval Knight, Saturn Books Ltd, London, p88
 ibid1 p149
 Akehurst, R. (1969) Antique Weapons for Pleasure and Investment, Arco Publishing Company Inc., New York, p8
 Anglo, S. (2000) The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe, Yale University Press, London, p17