Daggers initially came into use as a simple utility item. Everyone had one, everyone needed one to use in daily tasks. Later, the dagger progressed into becoming a sidearm used in battle by knights and warriors. It wasn't until this time that daggers began to get a sinister reputation. This reputation came from the fact that daggers were small weapons that could easily be concealed and used to surprise an enemy in close quarters.
There were many different styles of daggers in use during the Middle Ages and Early Renaissance periods. Two that seemed to influence popular concepts of daggers were the Rondel and the Stiletto daggers. The rondel dagger blade was typically long and slim, with a round disk forming its hand guard and pommel. A stiletto dagger blade is long and thin, narrowing down to a point.
Rondel daggers heightened the ‘shady’ reputation of daggers also during medieval times. They were ideal in battle for puncturing through the chain links in chainmail but were not strong enough to go through plate mail armor. Because of this lack of strength they were often used to dispatch downed knights by being forced between the joints in a suit of armor and the helmet, thus killing the knight. This could be done honorably – giving the mercy stroke to comrades too wounded to survive. This dagger could also be used to threaten the wounded knights into surrendering rather than submitting to death.
Stiletto daggers were also used during the early renaissance period in the same way – stabbing through chain mail and through the gaps of plate armor. These too contributed to the “shady" reputation of daggers as they were often used by assassins due to the ease of hiding the thin dagger.
Because of the way these daggers were crafted, their usage was limited to stabbing during combat rather than slashing like most swords. This made it apparent how a man was killed in battle, if it be by a sword or dagger. Death by dagger was not an honorable death, as just about everyone carried a dagger be it peasant or nobleman.
A dagger's reputation is questionable, just like any other weapon. If it is used with nefarious intent it surely is a “shady" weapon. It is the hand of the wielder that dictates whether the weapon be used for defense, offense, or murderous intent. In this case it's not the dagger that kills, but the hand that wields it.
Allyson Huggett is the owner of Merlin's Forge , an online shop specializing in the sale medieval and fantasy weapons, including daggers and swords .