1. How would you fight a duel? What weapon would you choose? If
a sword, what kind-a broadsword, a rapier, a nineteenth-century
dueling épée? A samurai's katana? How would you behave-and what
would you expect from your opponent?
2. Why has the sword proved to be such an object of fascination
over the centuries? Will its symbolic value survive? Now that
fencing is "only" a sport, will interest in swordplay wane?
Will its symbolic value survive? Now that fencing is "only" a
sport, will interest
in swordplay wane?
3. Does fencing have a moral or philosophical significance? Much
of By the Sword discusses different ideas of honor. Do you
agree with the author's analysis? How does the book judge the
conduct of Mayer, Pawlowski, Onishenko, and Beck?
Do you think honor has any part to play in modern swordplay, or is
it, in Ben
Jonson's words, "a mere term invented to awe fools"?
4. How well did the code of personal honor, derived from
chivalry, control the violence of dueling from the sixteenth
5. The novelist Sebastian Faulks has described By the
Sword as reading at times "like an alternative social history
of the West." What do you find to support this view? Another
reviewer noted that the "antagonism of the aristocratic and
plebeian are the twin strands of a teasing dualism that lies at the
heart of nearly all swordplay," and that this "emerges as the
unspoken theme of the book." Do you agree?
6. To what kind of person does fencing appeal? Why did so many
right-wing politicians find it attractive? Do you think that
individual nations can be characterized by the way they fence?
7. The relationship between master and pupil is a theme that
runs through the book. What makes a good master? What makes a good
pupil? Are there inherent dangers in the relationship?
8. Richard Cohen describes swordplay as romantic. Is it? How do
you think modern fencing compares with that of previous ages? Has
something important been destroyed, or has fencing evolved in the
same way any sport evolves?