He who knows most, doubts most.  — Jerónimo de Carranza

Dedicated to researching historical Spanish fencing and sharing the knowledge with the public.

Fencing History and Tales

Introduction | Literary Allusions | Famous Duels and Duellists | Women and Combat

Literary Allusions to Destreza, Carranza, & Pacheco

Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616)
Don Quijote (Shelton) | Don Quijote (Modern) | Galatea

Excerpt from Don Quijote, Part II, (1614) Chapter 19
Translation by J.M. Cohen, published by Penguin Books (1950)
Excerpt submitted by Manuel Valle

'If you had not prided yourself more on knowing how to manage the foils you carry than your tongue,' said the other student, 'you would have come out first in your degree examination instead of last.'

'Look you, Bachelor Corchuelo,' replied the licentiate, 'if you consider skill in swordsmanship useless you hold the most erroneous opinion possible on the subject.'

'It is no mere opinion of mine,' answered Corchuelo, 'but a well-founded truth. And if you want me to prove it by experiment, you are carrying the swords. Here is a convenient spot. I have muscles and strength, and with my spirit, which is no poor one, I will make you admit that I am not in the wrong. Dismount, and make use of your measured paces, your circles, your angles and your science. Raw and clumsy and unskilled though I am, I hope to make you see stars at noonday. For I trust to God that the man is yet unborn who will make me turn my back, and there is no one on earth I will not force to give ground.'

'As to your turning your back or not,' replied the swordsman, 'it is no affair of mine, although your grave may well open for you on the spot where you first plant your foot - I mean that you will be struck dead there by the skill you despise.'

'We shall see now,' replied Corchuelo. And dismounting briskly from his ass, he snatched one of the swords the licentiate was carrying.

'That is not the way,' broke in Don Quijote. 'For I will be umpire of this duel, and see that this long unsettled question is fairly decided.' Then, alighting from Rocinante and grasping his lance, he took up his position in the middle of the road, at the moment when the licentiate was advancing gracefully and with measured steps against Corchuelo, who rushed at him, his eyes darting fire, as the saying is. The two peasants with them did not dismount from their fillies, but looked on as spectators of the mortal tragedy. Corchuelo's thrusts, lunges, down-strokes, back-strokes and double strokes were innumerable and thicker than hail. He rushed like an angry lion, but was met at full tilt by a blow on the mouth from the button of the licentiate's foil, which stopped him in the midst of his fury. In fact he had to kiss it as if it were a relic, although not with as much devotion as relics generally and rightfully receive. IN the end the licentiate's lunges accounted for every one of the buttons of the short cassock his opponent was wearing, and cut his skirts to ribbons like the arms of cuttle-fish. Twice he knocked off his opponent's hat, and so wore him out that, in his vexation, anger and fury, he took his sword by the hilt and flung it into the air with such force that one of the peasant spectators, a clerk, who went for it afterwards, stated on oath that it had travelled a good two miles - which testimony has served, and still serves, to show and prove that, in very truth, brute strength is conquered by skill.

Corchuelo had sat down exhausted, when Sancho approached him and said: 'My goodness, Master Bachelor, if you'll take my advice, you won't challenge anyone to fence after this. Choose wrestling or pitching the bar instead, for you have the youth and strength for that. But as for these crack fighters, I've heard they can put a swordpoint through the eye of a needle.'

'I am satisfied,' replied Corchuelo, 'to have been tumbled off my hobby-horse, and to have learnt by experience a truth I was far from believing.'

So, getting up, he embraced the licentiate, and they remained better friends than before.