Methods and Practice of Elizabethan Swordplay

Front Cover
"This important addition to a neglected area of Renaissance studies examines the only three existing Elizabethan fencing manuals written in English before 1600: Giacomo Di Grassi's His True Arte of Defence (1594), Vincentio Saviolo's His Practise in Two Bookes (1595), and George Silver's Paradoxes of Defence and Bref Instructions Upon my Paradoxes of Defence (1599). The Italian swordsmen Di Grassi and Saviolo describe rapier techniques. Their works were instrumental in popularizing the rapier in the late 16th century. The Silver tract is a challenge to the rapier style from an older, more conservative swordsman. Analyzing these three works, Turner and Soper illuminate an important transitional period in the history of personal defense. They review the main technical and theoretical ideas from each manual, comparing and contrasting their viewpoints. Period drawings and prints of swordplay supplement the discussion. The result is a clear picture of what personal combat looked and felt like in Elizabethan England in the alleys, streets, and dueling fields. More than a technical manual on swordplay, this book explores the influence of a new form of violence introduced into Elizabethan culture by the invention of the rapier. The authors examine the rapier's influence on the various social classes; the clash between the traditional English fencing masters and those embracing the new style; the growing concern with unregulated dueling; and the frequent references to rapier play in the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. A concluding chapter reconstructs typical Elizabethan swordplay by combining the primary techniques from all three manuals. Through descriptions and illustrations, Turner and Soper show what fighting looked like at the time of Shakespeare. After reconstructing real swordplay of the period, they conclude by making suggestions to modern directors who seek authenticity in their productions."--Jacket.

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Giacomo Di
Demonstration from Di Grassi comparing cuts and thrusts
Grassis high ward and low ward
Demonstration from Di Grassi of straight pace crooked pace and circular half pace
His Practise in Two Bookes
Saviolos basic stance
Two fighters in Saviolos basic stance prior to attack
Illustration from Saviolo of rapier and dagger
George Silver and His Paradoxes
Determination of perfect sword length as shown by Silver

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About the author (1990)

Craig Turner is Associate Professor of Theater at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Tony Soper is an actor and fight director who has handled fight roles ranging from Shakespeare to samurai.

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