During medieval times, a knight was often torn between the chivalrous acts he was raised to perform and the horrific acts of violence he was forced to commit.
“They were supposed to show chivalry and protect women and do the right thing,” said Robert Rouse, an associate professor of English at the University of B.C. “But they were also soldiers trained in military practices. The two often didn’t sit well together.”
Rouse will explore that juxtaposition during a Feb. 16 lecture, Knighthood and Chivalry: Uneasy Companions, as part of the Vancouver International Swordplay Symposium, three-days of workshops taking place Feb. 15 to 17 at Academie Duello on West Hastings Street.
The lecture will address the development of the ideologies of knighthood and chivalry in the medieval West from 1000 to 1500 AD, with a focus on medieval England. Rouse will cover topics such as the Crusades, the origins of the orders of holy knights, the development of chivalry, the role of chivalric literature in the
medieval world, the rise of courtly love, the decline of knighthood in the 15th century and its revival in the 16th century.
“One part of the Crusades brought in the notion of Christian chivalry and some knights became the servants of God,” said Rouse, who recently served as chair of UBC’s Faculty of Arts Committee for Medieval Studies.
Other lectures taking place during the weekend include Deconstructing Film Fights 2, and Pen and Sword: Imagining weaponry in medieval manuscripts. And of course no swordplay symposium would be complete without actual swordplay, so other workshops taking place over the weekend include Burgundian Pollaxe, Italian Rapier and Liechtenauer’s Art in Three Weapons.
Devon Boorman, director and co-founder of Academie Duello, said many kids and adults have fantasized about one day becoming a sword fighter. “When I was a kid I watched Zorro reruns,” said Boorman of the fictional character famous for his swordplay. “And it was my first Halloween costume after a robot.”
Boorman was drawn to the chivalry of the sword-yielding characters he emulated as a child, including Errol Flynn’s interpretation of Robin Hood. “They spoke to me as a kid,” said Boorman. “They were daring and witty and such swordsmen.”
Demonstrations and competitions are also scheduled, which Boorman says are all safe thanks to the blunt ends of the weapons.
Boorman said the sport is also a great way to get and stay in shape. “It challenges the mind and body. And you don’t have to compete. It’s like a dance, which can be very graceful and powerful.”
Academie Duello houses the only museum in Vancouver dedicated to martial arts, arms and armour. For more information and photos about the Historical Western Martial Arts Museum, visit academieduello.com/museum. Many of the Feb. 15 to 17 events take place at Academie Duello, 412 West Hastings St. while others, including a gala party, will be held at various locations. Visit vancouverswordplay.com.