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Play, Repetition and Testimony: Meditations on Death and Truth

Frost, Tom (2014) Play, Repetition and Testimony: Meditations on Death and Truth. In: Martinez, Francisco and Slabina, Klemen, eds. Playground: The Whereabouts of Play. Tallinn University Press, Tallinn, Estonia, pp. 109-129. ISBN 978-9985-58-774-4. (KAR id:102865)


I would like to posit that we have in The Seventh Seal an intimate connection between ‘play’ and ‘death’. The playing of the game of chess continues throughout the film. The Knight is playing for his life, all the while longing for the knowledge of whether God exists, seeing in Death no assurances as to what lays beyond his own demise.

What I want to extrapolate from this famous filmic example is this intimate connection between play and death, which, I argue, unconceals a mode of political existence which can form the basis for the politics-to-come. We have in The Seventh Seal a life (represented by the Knight), bounded by the knowledge of his own mortality. Despite, or even because of this fact, this life is given meaning through coming into contact with others, and performing an ethical act, which gives that life meaning. All the while the game of chess is being played; a life lived in the knowledge of its own mortality is structured through this play. These are metaphors, to be sure, but metaphors which I intend to explore through the thought of Martin Heidegger, Emmanuel Levinas and Giorgio Agamben.

This unconcealment is illustrated through drawing upon the movement which has been characterised as the ‘Arab Spring’. Political upheaval led to the fall of governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Yemen’s President was replaced after ongoing protests, and President Bashar al-Assad in Syria has been brutally suppressing an uprising which has continued, at the time of writing, for nearly a year.

Item Type: Book section
Uncontrolled keywords: Agamben; play; death; Heidegger; revolution; resistance
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
J Political Science
K Law
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > Kent Law School
Funders: Newcastle University (
Depositing User: Tom Frost
Date Deposited: 19 Sep 2023 16:46 UTC
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2023 16:46 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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