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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: April ::
Re: Tempest, Renaissance Education and Chess
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0808  Tuesday, 10 April 2001

[1]     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Monday, 9 Apr 2001 08:09:17 -0700
        Subj:   Re: Tempest, Renaissance Education and Chess

[2]     From:   Marti Markus <
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        Date:   Monday, 09 Apr 2001 17:28:33 +0100
        Subj:   Cheating at chess

[3]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Monday, 09 Apr 2001 09:05:54 -0700
        Subj:   SHK 12.0793 Re: Tempest, Renaissance Education and Chess

[4]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Monday, 9 Apr 2001 16:13:46 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Tempest, Renaissance Education and Chess


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Monday, 9 Apr 2001 08:09:17 -0700
Subject: 12.0793 Re: Tempest, Renaissance Education and Chess
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0793 Re: Tempest, Renaissance Education and Chess

Regarding the chess game in The Tempest: as is so often the case in
Shakespeare, we simply do not know enough to come up with a good reason
for these two to be playing chess. There is a great deal of business in
Shakespeare that remains opaque to us. With regard to those things that
we can figure out, we can see that Shakespeare doesn't do much without a
good reason, so the strong likelihood is that we simply don't understand
his reason for this or many other similar things.

The greatest likelihood, to my mind, is that he was saying something to
his local audience, the one for whom he wrote, not for us, the audience
of posterity. He did have many things to say to us, but this is not one
of them. This begs the question, who was his local audience in this
case? An audience of chess players, no doubt. Was that the great
unwashed? I don't think so.

Stephanie Hughes

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marti Markus <
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Date:           Monday, 09 Apr 2001 17:28:33 +0100
Subject:        Cheating at chess

> it's pretty much impossible to cheat at chess.

Not in tournament chess, where you have to write down every move, but
even there you may try some tricks when your opponent does not watch.
But rules were different in older times.

Alfonso el Sabio (1221-1284) published one of the first European books
on chess: "Libros de acedrex, dados e tablas" - "book on the game of
chess, dice and tables", with a description of the game, openings and
chess problems. We know from this book (and from other sources) that the
figures moved differently then. Bishops were only allowed to move three
(no more, no less) fields diagonally, but they could jump over other
figures like knights. The Queen could only move one field diagonally and
was the weakest figure in the play.  Chess in the Middle Ages was an
activity that was considered close to gambling.  There were many
discussions among Church leaders whether it ought to be forbidden or
not, very strange at first sight also a lot of disputes whether it had
to be regarded as a dice play or not. Alexander Cockburn, ("Idle
Passion.  Chess and the Dance of Death". Weidenfeld and Nicolson,
London  1974, p. 119) mentions a bishop defending himself after having
played chess all night, that "chess [was] one thing, dice another" and
that "authority therefore forbade dice play, but by its silence
permitted chess."

The point of this story [and many others] is that chess was indeed
played with dice.

(Why don't you try it once too, it's quite fun and it's very simple:
Throw one die, and, let's say, with a 1 you are allowed to move a pawn,
2 = rook, 3 = knight, 4 = bishop, 5 = Q, 6 = K; if you can't move the
piece corresponding to your throw, it's the opponent's turn again; your
King may be attacked, but as long as your opponent can't take it, you
may leave it where it is. First to take the opponent's King has won...
Playing with two or more dice will allow alternative moves.)

With a game of that sort cheating may well have been possible.  Only
about 1480 the "modern" rules (for the moves of Queens and bishops) got
introduced, probably first in northern Italy. With the new rules the
game got more complicated and it was soon taken over by professional
chess players. At the same time female attendance at the board started
to wane, although Elizabeth I was still a keen player (Cockburn, p.
122).

But it is well possible that the dice game continued to be played for a
long time.

Markus Marti
University of Basel

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Monday, 09 Apr 2001 09:05:54 -0700
Subject: Re: Tempest, Renaissance Education and Chess
Comment:        SHK 12.0793 Re: Tempest, Renaissance Education and Chess

Hi, Andy,

> Can't help there's a double-meaning to Miranda's
> line about not playing fair... no disrespect to those
> who seek deeper meaning in this bit, but I wonder
> whether it's depth that's called for in reconciliation scenes like this.

I understand your well-made point.  If you are right, Shakespeare could
have had Miranda and Ferdinand discussing just about anything: how
Ferdinand misses his Father, the weather, that strange music that comes
out of nowhere, how her Dad really isn't all that bad, and the all
important matter of what they like on their pizza.  He didn't.  He had
them playfully mention something that resonates importantly throughout
the play, while playing a game that is about taking kingdoms and
deposing the king.  I can't help but think there is something to that.

All the best,
Mike Jensen

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Monday, 9 Apr 2001 16:13:46 -0400
Subject: 12.0793 Re: Tempest, Renaissance Education and Chess
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0793 Re: Tempest, Renaissance Education and Chess

> it's pretty much impossible to cheat at chess.

Anyone who played chess as a youth probably is aware that there are ways
to cheat. They all involve the opponent taking his/her eyes off the
board, at which point you can a) palm one of his/her pieces b) return
one of your captured pieces to the board c) move a piece (yours or your
opponent's).  Perhaps the reference is to the missing son of Antonio
(method a)?

Clifford Stetner
CUNY
http://phoenix.liu.edu/~cstetner/cds.html

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