EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Ibrahiim, thank you very much for the addendum on poor D'Anthes, who was really a victim of this distorted 'honor' syndrome. Pushkin really sought reasons to call persons out over ridiculous notions and perceived slights.
As you have shown, regardless of the fact he was forced into this by Pushkin, who intended to kill him (self defense should have been the case).
It is hard to reasonably understand the legal ramifications with dueling.
The distorted causal factors bringing men to the field of honor exceeded any sort of reason in most cases, and often simply the act of showing up to face each other satisfied these almost perverse notions. This conundrum in the scope of legality has been troubled over throughout history it seems.
With the more commonly known sword duels, the phenomenon known as the ' mensur' , a type of qualifying duel with schlager, a specifically designed sabre for these contests. These were effectively outlawed in modern times but still practiced, and dictated as a manly assertion in societal circumstances where the objective seems to acquire a rakishly attractive scar on the face. Christoph Amberger, who is a well known fencing master fought seven of these 1985 to 1987 ( "By the Sword", Cohen, 2002, p.317, where he describes the events) though illegal.
Returning to the weapon 'of choice', the pistol, I am glad to see the period of the 'Wild West' being brought up, as while not specifically by 'code', these events were certainly contests in similar sense. Actually, I do remember the movie, and have been a great fan of Kirk Douglas. The dramatic idea of the deliberately unloaded gun in a confrontation has come up in a number of instances as an element of emotional finality.
I personally had an 'affair of honor' I guess it might be regarded (as often the case over a woman). Unfortunately in my situation, he had a gun, I didn't, but had even more unfortunately, a sharp tongue, not enough common sense and too much testosterone. I think, like d'Anthes, he meant to fire a threatening but not fatal shot (as we were facing each other from about 40 feet and he fired with rifle from the hip), but as there, in the heat of the moment, the shot took effect with my sustained wound thankfully not fatal but serious.
I think these kinds of situations, with gestures rather than fatal intent being the case, and fatality being more an incidental accident than intended end, were more commonplace than literature would have us believe.
The 'coup de Jarnac' has become a term applied to dirty tricks in dueling, but in some cases collectively used as a metaphor. It refers to the duel between a challenged novice and a seasoned duelist stubbornly honor addled as we have discussed. In an almost accidental event, the novice (Jarnac) takes an opportunity to deliver what he hopes will be an incapacitating wound by hamstringing the obsessed duelist. He stubbornly continues, but offset, again he is severely wounded.
He would have survived, but in his obsessive rage at being outdone, tears away his bandages and dies.
With the romanticized duelist seen as being outdone by an unscrupulous nobody, and unfairly by the populace, the term became notorious in the usual literary distortion (= romanticizing).