Misperceiving Masculinity, Misreading the Duel

  • Jennifer Low
Part of the Early Modern Cultural Series book series


This chapter examines how status-based notions of honor modified the idea of manliness when the phenomenon of duelling became popular in early modern English society and on the dramatic stage. The texts I examine are in some sense working through the contradictions in humanist thought about the relation of essence to being; as social documents they work out the answer relationally, by offering different answers to men of different ranks. Status alters both one’s definition of honor and one’s valuation of it. Because the authors of anti-duelling tracts failed to comprehend the significance of honor for the gentry and aristocracy, their publications failed in large part to mitigate the popularity of the duel. Only James I acknowledged the importance of honor in his edict against duelling, but by assuming that royal recognition was the fount of all honor, he, too, failed to perceive the instability of the concept.


Early Modern Period Final Scene Single Combat Military Elite Exact Truth 
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© Jennifer Low 2003

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  • Jennifer Low

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