Game and Playe of the Chesse
The work uses the chessboard and its pieces to allegorize a political community whose citizens contribute to the common good. Readers first meet the king, queen, bishops (imagined as judges), knights, and rooks, here depicted as the king’s emissaries. They are then introduced in succession to the eight different pawns, which represent trades that range from farmers to messengers, and include innkeepers, moneychangers, doctors, notaries, blacksmiths, and several other professional artisans and tradesmen. Paired with each profession is a list of moral codes. The pawn that represents the moneychanger, for example, handles gold, silver, and valuable possessions, and thus ought to flee avarice and covetyse, and eschewe brekyng of the dayes of payment. The knights, entrusted with the safety of the realm, must be wyse, lyberalle, trewe, strong, and ful of mercy and pyté. The queen, charged with giving birth to the community’s future ruler, should take care to be chaste, wyse, of honest lyf, wel manerd, and so on. These pairings reinforce the idea of a kingdom organized around professional ties and associations, ties that are in turn regulated by moral law, rather than around kinship.