The Queen of Spades

Inspiration

The character of the old countess was inspired by Princess Natalya Petrovna Golitsyna who served as the lady-in-waiting for five Russian emperors and was 92 at the time Pushkin wrote "The Queen of Spades".[4] According to legend, Galitzine had been a successful gambler. When her grandson lost a considerable amount of money playing cards and came to her to beg her for money, Galitzine instead revealed to him the secret three cards that Count Saint-Germain showed to her in Paris.[5] However, while the Countess died in the story, Galitzine outlived Pushkin and reached the age of ninety-seven.[6]

Critics have argued that the Count Saint-Germain holds historical importance in the story. Saint-Germain serves as the namesake for the story's protagonist, Hermann. Beyond this, the historical Saint-Germain may represent a father figure for Hermann, the antithesis to Hermann's character, or a former love interest of the countess who seeks revenge for her death by causing Hermann to pick the wrong cards.[7]

The card game of faro also plays an important role in Pushkin's story. The game is played by having a player bet on a winning card. The dealer then begins turning over cards, burning the first (known as 'soda') to his left. The second card is placed face up to his right; this is the first winning card. The third card is placed face up in the left pile, as a losing card. The dealer continues turning over cards, alternating piles until the bet has been won or lost.[8]


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