Trust and Betrayal

“Game of Chess” explores the ramifications that result when the natural order of marriage becomes disrupted; approximately halfway through book II, the shell-shocked veteran’s wife attempts to stimulate his memory by reciting a verse from “The Shakespearean Rag,” a song essentially about ill-fated relationships and betrayal.  The song references three particular instances in Shakespeare’s plays: Desdemona’s “unnatural” marriage culminating in her eventual murder by her husband, Othello, Romeo and Juliet committing suicide as a result of their inability to pursue their love, and Brutus betraying Julius Caesar.  By referencing this song, the wife encourages her mentally debilitated husband to reflect on and to remember chaos rather than attempting to pacify him.  She, like Elliot, promotes a sense of being present in the moment and self-awareness as opposed to idealizing the past or future in attempt to escape the current ill state of affairs.  It is interesting to note that she utters an appropriation of the song’s chorus “It’s so elegant/so intelligent.”  In doing so, she seems to channel the song’s didactic tone which cautions against imparting too much trust in loved ones.  Her husband becomes a casualty of this cautionary tale when he allows his sense of duty to his beloved country to dictate his participation in the war and in doing so destroys his mental well-being and marital relationship.  After the wife’s lines, the husband responds “What shall I do now? What shall I do?”  While up until this this point the couple’s conversation appears disjointed and out of sync, this response actually seems like a logical reaction to the song’s central message and the overall theme of The Waste Land.

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