Endpiece – Allegory

Folio 46 v. c


This bold man fled from me to a keep. I rode so hard I reached him at the keep, always riding at full speed. And with my sword I struck him under the armpit, which is a difficult place to protect with armour. Out of fear of his friends I want to turn back.


This play does not fit any pattern previously found in the book. Reasons for its inclusion are speculative.

The scholar in the picture does not either have a master, or fit into any context of the book. Following the pattern of the book, this should be the scholar of the master who appears in the picture above, with the lance tied to his saddle. This makes no sense though, in terms of play continuity. Outside of the fact that they are both on horseback, the two plays have no connection to each other.

The position of the horses is also quite strange. They are both rearing up and facing more or less in opposite directions. Given that the scholar has just ridden down his opponent at full gallop, it seems kind of odd that they would then find themselves at a complete stop facing each other.

While it is superficially easy to understand this play (stab your opponent where they have no protection), it raises a lot more questions than it answers. Three possible explanations are that it is an allegory, a memorial, or a sketch.

The allegory.

According to this idea, the play represents the principles of armizare. The player is ‘always riding at full speed’, strikes at a target ‘which is a difficult place to protect’, and then wants ‘to turn back.’ This can be seen to represent the need to break suddenly through your opponents defensive shield, make a critical hit, and then move back out of range under cover.

In the introduction, Fiore tells us that ‘few plays pass the third master in the art. And if they do more, it becomes dangerous,’ so the idea of a fast entry, a short engagement, and a quick withdrawal is not without its merits.  The theory of the allegory starts to fall apart, however, because in the dagger section, Fiore also tells us to ‘always do these five things. Take the dagger, strike, break the arms, bind them, and put him on the ground.’ If this play truly represented the principles of armizare, the scholar would follow the strike by catching the players arm in a lock, flinging his sword aside, breaking the arm while throwing the player to the ground, and then riding over the top of him, before looking around to see if he has any back up.

The memorial.

This play could well recall an actual event known to both Fiore and his sponsor, the Marquis d’Este. The scholar might represent either of those characters personally, or a favourite of the Marquis. Given the effort Fiore goes to in the introduction to name his own scholars, highlight his personal prowess, and heap praise upon the Marquis, however, it seems inconsistent not to name the main character in a picture which celebrates their achievements.

The sketch.

To produce a book of such high quality illustrations as this requires a lot of practice. What started off as a drawing exercise may well have taken on a life of its own. The inclusion of the tower looks like something of an afterthought. He may have just enjoyed the picture, realised it was on the back of a near complete folio, and figured that since it was the end of the book, it was easier to leave it in than start the whole page again, so he wrote a few lines to justify its inclusion. It seems a little odd, but no more so than either of the other theories.

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