Publication details [#416]

Alsop, Derek. 2012. Playing on: chess and its metaphors in the life and work of Samuel Beckett. Critical Quarterly 54 (4) : 26–40. 15 pp.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
John Wiley & Sons, Wiley Online Library


This paper investigates the use of chess metaphors in Samuel Beckett’s life and work. One of Beckett’s characters who seems to be emblematically represented by this metaphor is Hamm, the protagonist of Endgame and the king in chess game. Hamm is viewed as both player and piece, as both actor and sufferer. Hamm is fully responsible of his actions and moves. Rather than being a hero, he symbolizes weakness and hopelessness, with the metaphor of chess suggesting a range of moves bound by rules that are far from existential choice. Many scholars have read this and other characters of Beckett’s works figuratively, but the author of this article suggests that a literal understanding of chess might produce better results.