This essay examines representations of knightly physicality in two fifteenth-century English texts: the Middle English Secreta Secretorum and Knyghthode and Bataile. These neglected texts are examples of mirrors for princes and Vegetian military manuals, respectively, and both of these genres were standard reading for fifteenth-century English readers ranging from gentry to royal families. Even if they were not knights, many in this audience saw themselves in knightly terms, making it useful to pair these texts to consider how knightly bodies were represented to such an audience. Long before large, muscled male bodies were popularized in 1980s and 1990s action cinema, these medieval texts foreground the necessity of building muscular bodies to knightly identity, while simultaneously describing them through a rhetoric of hardness that characterized their envisioned use as physical and psychological weapons.

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