II. A GAME OF CHESS
This chapter title is taken from two plays by the early-17th playwright Thomas Middleton, in which the theme of one play is, a move in a game of chess denotes stages in seduction. This poem can be divided into three distinct parts; part 1 from line 77-110, part 2 from line 111-138, and part 3 from line 139 – 172. Each part has a different narrator accompanied with totally different settings, tones, and language usage. Interestingly, they all convey a very similar mood to the audiences. This is the most paradoxical poem in the whole chapter with two sets of opposing scenes.
The first opposing scene is the juxtaposition between the exquisite furnishings inside a beautiful-looking castle from the outside(part 1) compared to paranoid and devastated state inside of the London people after World War 1 (part 2). The second opposing scene juxtaposes two women, one of high-class and one of low-class. The first part of this chapter depicts a very high-class women (seemingly equal to Cleopatra) being placed on a “burnished throne” in a surreal, mystic chamber full of ivory and colored glass. On the other hand, this last part can be any typical low-class gossiper talking about her friend (who is also low-class and should get her teeth replaced) whose husband is coming home from the army.
All of these oxymoron appear as fix differences just in order to cover up the desolation everyone was in. Castle or just dirty London street, the woman in part 1 (which is alluded to many women with fail romance) is drowning and confused in her ocean of thoughts, the state of London is similar with zombified people who don’t have any particular purpose in life. Low-class or high-class, both women are suffering and crying alone helplessly while one hides her desperation in glorious furniture and the other conceals her sadness by speaking like nothing could ever put her down.
The word ‘throne’ serves as a big clue to the setting of this chapter. It paints a faint picture of a mysterious venue such as an ancient castle with a woman being who could be Cleopatra, beautiful but strong in her political power. It reminded me of Ayesha. The scenery is opulent in nature, filled with riches and the author italicizes the word “gold” to draw attention to the precious metal used to build up Cupid and “candelabra” to showcase the crystal on the ceiling.
We don’t just “see” the room, we can smell it too as incense “drowns” us
The word ‘drowned’ appeared again, after ‘troubled’ and ‘confused’, signified a state of desperation (probably of the sailors) that has been previously mentioned on line 47, chapter I. Figuratively, this could be interpreted as the drowning of reason in the flood of emotions, the unstable mood of the sailor when it came to his romantic life. But if this was taken literally, then drowning in this case sure meant death and separation. Either way, it did not forecast a delightful future of anyone.
* Laquearia means a fancy paneled roof, which in a way complemented perfectly well with the magnificent setting of the castle.
|“My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.|
|Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.|
|What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?|
|I never know what you are thinking. Think.”|
As a narrator, she is ruled by emotions, appears unsure, jumps from thought to imperative action, to command. She seems mad. She’s a sample of how people thought back then and how they talked in the city, all broken up. The city is also a place of decay and rot where rats can be found. This can be the world post-war where a murderer can be found behind the door if the wind is not blowing. If the answer is “nothing, nothing” – it’s like a hush-hush word said to calm children down. Nothing can also symbolize what’s left once war has been and gone.
Did you notice how the Mysterious Rag became the Shakesperian Rag? And how it’s so elegant, so intelligent. Those words sound like sarcasm – when the person speaking can think of other things that are more elegant and intelligent than the paper.
This lovely lament shows how lost she feels, how truly alone. You’ve most likely heard the expression: “You have to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going.” Loneliness also serves as a life signal to indicate you’re in search of something. It’s when we’re in the midst of solitude that answers come from true soul searching. Often those who are feeling isolated and unto themselves will develop a defeatist attitude. This does nothing but feed negativity and perpetuate the situation.
The wife in this chapter is refered as Lil, which can be short for either the Lilly flower or Lilith (Adam’s first wife in Jewish folklore)
In our present days, when we picture the white fragile lilly flower, we immeditaely think of compassion, innocence and virginity because obviously that is what white represents for.
Ironically, according to Jewish folklore, Lilith is Adam’s first wife before she was banished from the Garden of Eden. Lilly was actually the wife that was created from the same time as Adam while Eve was created from one of Adam’s ribs. Lil was casted down because she refused God’s word that man represents dominance and decided to not be subservient to Adam by insisting to be on top during intercourse.
What could be the author’s intention when he named her Lil? Is he foreshadowing, hinting, implying that Lilly will soon be Adam’s ex-wife? Is he saying Lilly seems very gentle on the outside but inside she has her own set of thoughts and is just as determined as Lilith?
Lilly has a good intuition that the person whom her husband might cheat with is no one else but the narrator, the very friend that is talking to her. And she knows he *will* cheat as he’s been in the war and once he’s back, he will look for sex and if she won’t give it to him, there will be someone else who will.
These few last lines of the poem alludes to a fictional character in “Hamlet” called Ophelia. She was mad and bewildered after her dad’s death, commited by her lover Hamlet. Ophelia’s dad – Polonius told her that she should not love Hamlet but she insisted. Before the night Hamlet kills Polonius, he even sits with Ophelia that evening as he makes sexually suggestive remarks and tells her that “A woman’s love is brief”. Everynight, Ophelia sings songs about death and maidens losing virginity while she gives flowers to girls. To end her songs, she always announces, “Goodnight, Goodnight, Goodnight”. She also gives one flower to herself and only that one kind of flower named, Rue “… there’s rue for you, and here’s some for me; we may call it herb of grace o’Sundays; O, you must wear your rue with a difference”. The flower rue is a symbolic meaning of regret which fits the circumstance very well.
Note: “Ta ta” is just a nursery rhyme for good night.