14th Century Chess

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Chess is a game of strategy; of being able to anticipate your opponents next move; to play the board to your advantage, and to finish victorious after the death-blow of 'Check Mate ' is uttered. Many may wonder why the game of chess is presented so frequently throughout secular art of the early 14th century, and why it is more often than not, present in scenes associated with love. In a period of time where secular art was dominated with love connotations, and the target audience was couples who could identify with the subject, chess, in this context, can be interpreted in several different ways. This being said, I believe the most plausible interpretation of the meaning behind the chessboard being ever present is due to the game of chess…show more content…
Marriage during this period was rarely for love, with a strong emphasis being placed on the economic, financial and societal benefits a pairing would provide for family of the bride and her betrothed. Courtly love was a paradox of desire and morally acceptable actions2 and was seen as both illicit and moral, creating the paradox that is courtly love.3 What association does courtly love have with the frequency of chess in 14th century secular art? Courtly love is often seen as a form of feudalism; the man or suitor, offers himself as the vassal of the lady, pledging his complete loyalty to her and pledging to fight for her honour. This image is synonymous today with the concept of courtly love, and the link between love and chess can therefore be seen in terms of the military nature of the game. Although in chess the players are effectively fighting each other until one loses or succumbs to the other, the similarities between this game and the game of love can be seen as striking. Chess is a game of strategy and, like chess, courtly love too…show more content…
The consummation of a couples love, and chess quickly became linked,5 however, chess was, and still continues to ultimately be, a war game before all else.6 The strategic comparison between chess and the game of love is not the only connection that can be made on a military level. Just as hunting was associated with the pursuit of love, so to can chess be seen as an expression of this concept of the 'hunt ' for love.7 While this imagery conjurers ideas of romance and those worthy of the great literacy of the time; in reality it offers a stark look at the realities of 'love ' during the medieval period. It was not always the case that this love was reciprocated fully by all parties involved, and the forceful nature of marriage at the time and the general representation of the 'weak ' female form lends an all more darker concept to the metaphor of chess for love. The forcefulness of the game, removing the protection of the king piece by piece until it is utterly defenceless can be seen as a reflection on the relatively defenceless position that a woman was placed in, in many aspects surrounding love during this time, namely arranged marriages and unwanted advances from male
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