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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: October ::
Women Fencing
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1931 Friday, 3 October 2003

[1]     From:   James McNelis <
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        Date:   Thursday, 2 Oct 2003 08:01:47 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1925  Women Fencing

[2]     From:   Stevie Gamble <
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        Date:   Thursday, 2 Oct 2003 15:34:02 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1925 Women Fencing

[3]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Thursday, 2 Oct 2003 11:59:38 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.1925 Women Fencing


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James McNelis <
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Date:           Thursday, 2 Oct 2003 08:01:47 EDT
Subject: 14.1925  Women Fencing
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1925  Women Fencing

"Stage combat" is the term for any theatrical enactment of fighting,
with or without weapons.

James McNelis

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stevie Gamble <
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Date:           Thursday, 2 Oct 2003 15:34:02 +0100
Subject: 14.1925 Women Fencing
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1925 Women Fencing

Don Bloom wrote, in response to my observation that:

>>Fighting and fencing are completely different activities; the challenge
>>for the actor is to convey that without the bloodshed that real fighting
>>occasions.

>Very apt. It might be easier in all circumstances to reserve the term
>"fencing" for the sport (with its rules, judging, and scoring), and use
>"fighting" for the swordplay when people are trying to kill one another.
>But it may be too late.
>
>With that in mind, we can see that the swordplay in *Macbeth* and *1
>Henry IV" is fighting. Young Siward and Macbeth are killed on stage in
>the former; Blount and Hotspur in the latter -- no judging, no points.
>Victory is determined by whether you leave the field under your own
>power.

>In *Hamlet* the swordplay begins as fencing (or at least ostensibly as
>such) and then switches to fighting when the frustrated Laertes
>scratches Hamlet to poison him.

I suppose we could characterise that as one person fencing with an
opponent who is fighting...

>I have always assumed that the swordplay in *R&J* was likewise fighting,
>though I have seen it suggested that the battles between Tybalt and
>Benvolio in the opening scene and between Tybalt and Mercutio in III, i,
>were not necessarily intended to be duels to death, but an opportunity
>to assert mastery over an enemy and humiliate him by disarming him (a la
>Zorro), wounding him, forcing him to beg for life, and so forth. Death
>for one would be a possible, but not a necessary, result.

Not so much Zorro as a 'coup' raid, I think; one doesn't need to do
anything so crude as to make your opponent beg for his life. The
humiliation lies in being bested; perhaps a fate worse than death in
some societies, or for some people.

>This, unfortunately, rather muddies our differentiation of fencing and
>fighting, but it certainly would have connections to Medieval battles
>(in wars as well as tournaments) in which people who were worth
>something could surrender and force their families (or, in Chaucer's
>case, the government) to ransom them.

I think you are envisaging lethal bloodshed, rather than bloodshed per
se; your analysis only works if you assume that medieval battles always
resulted in death or capture of the combatants.  There was, of course, a
third and popular possibility; running away. I gather the software
developed for the LOTR battles caused some problems to the programmers,
since the orcs etc who were given independent choices demonstrated their
intelligence by scarpering every time they were thrown into the fray...

Best wishes,
Stevie

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Thursday, 2 Oct 2003 11:59:38 -0700
Subject: 14.1925 Women Fencing
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.1925 Women Fencing

While I appreciate what Stevie has said about the differences between
fighting and fencing, I would like to point out that they grow from a
common root.  The process is not very dissimilar from how many
activities become rarefied into sports and lose all practical
application.  Cross-country skiing comes to my mind, not least because I
grew up across from a club whose members found the idea of skiing
anywhere off carefully groomed and prepared trails slightly
preposterous.

The common links between fencing as a sport and as combat survived into
the early twentieth century, when Parisian fencing clubs would still
train men who were actually preparing for duels (not mortal duels, but
the relationship still holds).  I understand that Sydney Anglo, in _The
martial arts of Renaissance Europe_ (Yale UP, 2000), considers the
martial arts of the time to have taught and studied in the expectation
that they would be used in extremis.

Conversely, we may be underestimating certain customary brakes on
violence that might apply to early modern fighting, as they probably do
to many sorts of contemporary fighting as well.  If the goal is
assassination, why bother with a sword at all, rather than a gun or a
barrel of gunpowder?

Yours,
Sean Lawrence.

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