II. A GAME OF CHESS
This echoes the title of a play by Thomas Middleton, A Game at Chess.
The game of chess is probably a surrogate for the game of loooove.
In Eliot’s own notes (verse 138), he references a chess playing scene in another of Thomas Middleton’s works, Women Beware Women, which is descriptive of a love triangle. Love triangles are a motif in this section. (Listen up King Geedorah.)
But, as usual, Eliot is probably choosing not to mention one of the major allusions he has in mind. There is a famous chess-playing scene between Ferdinand and Miranda in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the work that provides perhaps more of The Waste Land’s allusions than any other. In The Tempest the chess players are blissful young lovers; here they are a terribly unhappy married couple.
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