The first of Alfieri’s publications, La Bandiera presents a largely performative art, but one intimately tied to war. Alfieri includes brief instructions on self-defence with the flag, and several plays present obvious parallels with fencing actions. Alfieri employs fencing terminology throughout and states “There is no guard or blow in fencing that cannot be adapted to the art of the flag”.
Alfieri further recommends manipulating a heavy flag-pole as a conditioning exercise for fencing:
“To be secure with the blows which you learn in this art it is essential to build dexterity and agility, as indicated above, through training. To achieve this it is of great benefit to get used to handling poles or other heavy objects to strengthen the wrist and make the sword feel light in the hand.”
In the context of a military academy in seventeenth-century Italy, there would have been nothing incongruous about the ludic aspects of Alfieri’s La Bandiera, and he seamlessly switches from discussing the use of the flag in play to delight a crowd, to its use in war or self-defence.