Dueling According to Saviolo’s Honor and Honorable Quarrels: Giving The Lie

Image from Saviolo's PracticeDueling in the 16th century was often used as a form of private judicial combat between two individuals in order to settle disagreements over reputation and honor.  “Giving the lie” began the process of the duel itself and there were two basic injuries over which the lie was given: injuries caused by words and injuries caused by deeds. 

Injuries Caused by Words:

As an example of an injury caused by words Edward says to Michael that he is a spy and a traitor.  Michael answers by saying Edward lies (this is the giving of the lie).  In this scenario Edward now becomes the Challenger because the burden of proof has been placed on him to prove that he has not spoken falsely. 

Injuries Caused by Deeds: 

As an example of an injury caused by deeds Edward strikes Michael by beating him violently in some way.  How he strikes him does not really matter, only that he does.  Michael answers the offence by accusing Edward of abusing him or using violence against him (effectively the accusation is that Edward has not behaved as a gentleman should).  Here though it is Edward that gives the lie, saying that Michael lies about the abuse and thus his behavior.  Now the burden of proof is on Michael and he becomes the Challenger. 

The Role of Challenger: 

The role of challenger does not fall based on the righteousness of an individual’s cause.  The role of challenger is assumed by whoever is given the lie falsely.  The man who receives the lie wrongfully must prove that he is not a liar, thus he is the one that must challenge the man who gave him the lie. 

Saviolo maintains that the reason the role of challenger falls to the man who wrongfully receives the lie is because in court every man is assumed to be honest, honorable, and just until it is proved that he is not.  So if a man is accused of a crime he has only to deny it to be set free, unless there is other proof of his guilt.  Thus the man who receives the lie must prove that his original words were true.

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