Skip to main content
Log in

Chess & Schizophrenia: Murphy v Mr Endon, Beckett v Bion

Journal of Medical Humanities Aims and scope Submit manuscript


This paper reconvenes Samuel Beckett’s psychotherapy with Wilfred Bion during 1934–1936 during which time Beckett’s conceived and began writing this second novel, Murphy. Based on Beckett’s visits to the Bethlem & Maudsley Hospital and his observation of the male nurses, the climax of Murphy is a chess match between Mr Endon (a male schizophrenic patient) and Murphy (a male psychiatric nurse). The precise notation of the Endon v Murphy chess match tells us that the Beckett intended it to be an exemplar of an anti-match, perhaps a metaphor for the tragedy of being locked into madness. It is also argued that the match offers us insight into Beckett’s experience of the process of psychotherapy with Bion. Based on new information from Beckett’s nephew and Bion’s widow, hypotheses about the long term impact of the Bion-Beckett analysis are advanced as a mutual experience which shaped the lives and later literary output of both men, producing conjoined career writings which continue to offer us stark and sublime condensations of depression, psychosis, and the challenges of therapy and recovery.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Institutional subscriptions


  • Alvarez, A. Beckett. London: Woburn Press, 1974.

    Google Scholar 

  • Anzieu, D. Beckett and Bion. International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 16 (1989):163–169

    Google Scholar 

  • Bair, D. Samuel Beckett. London: Jonathan Cape, 1978.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beckett, S. Murphy. London: Routledge, 1937.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bion, W.R. Attacks on linking. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 40 (1959): 308–315.

    Google Scholar 

  • —— Learning from Experience. London: Maresfield Press, 1963.

    Google Scholar 

  • —— War Memoirs. London: Karnac Books, 1997.

    Google Scholar 

  • —— The imaginary twin. In: Second Thoughts [3–23]. NY: Jason Aronson, 1950.

  • Casement, P. Samuel Beckett’s Relationship to his Mother-Tongue. International Review of Psycho-Analysis 9 (1982): 35–44.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fehsenfeld, M.D. and & L.M. Overbeck, eds. The Letters of Samuel Beckett. Volume One: 1929–1940. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

  • Hinshelwood, R.D. Personal communication. 12 August 2009.

  • Klein, M. Notes on some Schizoid Mechanisms. In: Collected Works: 1946–1963. Virago: London, 1988.

  • Knowlson, J.R. Damned to Fame. London: Bloomsbury, 1996.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mercier, V. Beckett/Beckett. Oxford: University Press, 1977.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pines, M., ed. Preface to: Bion & Group Psychotherapy. London. Routledge, 1985.

  • Rustin, M. and M. Rustin. Mirror to Nature: Drama, Psychoanalysis & Society. London: Karnac Books, 2002.

    Google Scholar 

  • Simon, B. The Imaginary Twins: The Case of Beckett and Bion. International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 15 (1988): 331–352.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gary Winship.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Winship, G. Chess & Schizophrenia: Murphy v Mr Endon, Beckett v Bion. J Med Humanit 32, 339–351 (2011).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: