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An essay on the first stanza of 'A game of chess'

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An essay on the first stanza of 'A game of chess' Through calling this poem 'A game of chess', Eliot continues with the theme he starts in 'The burial of the dead' of people who are trapped in a wasteland and making no effort to escape it, so are therefore stuck like a those in a check-mate during a real game of chess. The title is also a reference to 'Women beware women' by Middletone, a story in which a mother-in-law is playing chess, unaware that each move she makes on the chess board is matched by a move in the seduction of her daughter-in-law by the duke in the story. The reference to Middleton's 'Women beware women' gives a depiction of passion and lust which Eliot uses as a contrast in the poem. ...read more.


He writes, "The Chair she sat in, like a burnished throne" in reference to the line from Shakespeare's 'Antony and Cleopatra' that says, "The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne." By doing this, Eliot compares Cleopatra, described as being of 'infinite variety' to the woman which stresses the fact that she is both artificial and sterile. Also, in the lady's room is an ornamental carv(d dolphin which Eliot mocks as the dolphin was a medieval symbol of love and something Cleopatra used to describe Antony, yet the woman has it in her sterile room which is empty of love. Eliot feels that the woman's existence violates that of those in myth. He shows this using references to Ovid's story of Philomel. ...read more.


We are told that the room is infused with colour as it mentions, "Sea wood fed with copper." A chemical reaction that, "Burned green and orange." The use of a chemical reaction reminds us that the room is very man-made and unnatural. This idea is re-enforced by, "Strange and synthetic perfume." All of these things create a stuffy atmosphere, almost blinding because of the bright colours. The presence of the chemical suggests a lack of fresh air and suggests that this woman would be having trouble breathing another sign that she is barely existing and not truly alive. The nightmare setting created in 'A game of chess', is an example of the world as Eliot sees it. A capitalist world filled with passionless people who he feels merely exist to fulfil their temporary and carnal desire. He criticises the woman as rather than trying to escape, she masks the atmosphere with her perfumes. ...read more.

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