A brilliant short-story about a card gambler, by the Russian poet and writer Alexander Pushkin.
The story tells of Hermann, an ethnic German officer in the Imperial Russian Army, who has never participated at the gambling tables despite living off a decent sum of money. However, when he hears from an acquaintance the story of a Countess who somehow won back the fortune she lost at a faro (a gambling card game) in France with the secret of the three winning cards learned from the notorious Count of Saint-Germain, he takes an immediate interest.
Obsessed with gaining the secret for himself, Hermann plots out a way to get access to the Countess through her ward Lizaveta. When he does reach and accost the Countess, demanding her secret, things don't go to plan when fright kills her. But days later, after her funeral, he is visited by her ghost who tells him the secret three cards - three, seven and ace - and tells him to play once each night on the condition he marry Lizaveta.
Armed with the knowledge, Hermann takes his chance at the gambling table, where his success or failure will be decided by the three cards...
It has been adapted into opera and films, most notably the 1949 British film by Thorold Dickinson, starring Anton Walbrook.
Tropes provided by The Queen of Spades:
- Accidental Murder: Countess *** suffers a heart attack when Hermann points a gun to scare her.
- All or Nothing: Hermann places high bets, succeeding twice. But on the third round...
- Driven to Madness: Hermann loses all his money from the gambling and completely loses his mind as a result.
- Drowning My Sorrows: Hermann does this after the Countess's funeral in an attempt to rid himself of the guilt over what he'd done.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Lizaveta finally gets something good come her way when she marries the son of the Countess's former steward.
- Ghostly Glide: The countess's ghost does this when she appears before Hermann.
- Gold Digger: Hermann considers seducing the Countess to learn the three cards' secret. He only decides not to do it because it will take too long, and she is eighty-seven and might die at any moment, so he focuses on an easier target in Lizaveta.
- I Was Just Joking: Countess *** tried to use this to wave off Hermann's claims about her secret. It didn't work.
- Karmic Twist Ending: It seems like Hermann is doing well with his combination, as he wins everything when he first goes for three, and then the seven, just as the formula told to him by the countess suggested. When it comes for the final showdown, however, he expected to get an ace, in accordance with the formula, and so bet everything. Instead, he got the titular Queen of Spades, and goes completely broke.
- Madness Mantra: At the end, Hermann is driven into utter madness, and all he can mumble is "Three, seven, ace! Three, seven queen!"
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Did the magic formula really work? Did it ever exist in the first place?
- Rule of Three: According to rumors about the Countess, she won her wealth via the use of three specific cards.
- Spell My Name with a Blank: The old countess is usually referred to as ***. Only once does Tomsky mention her first name (Anna Fedotovna).
- Unfinished Business: The countess wasn't allowed to move on until she told Hermann the secret of the winning cards.
- Villain Protagonist: Hermann deliberately tricks Lizaveta into falling in love with him and he never truly cares for her feelings. His only motive is to gain the mysterious magical combination of cards that always wins.
- Weapon for Intimidation: Hermann attempts to force information out of Countess *** by holding a gun to intimidate her. It doesn't work. She ends up suffering a heart attack and dying without telling him anything.
- You Monster!: Lizaveta calls Hermann this once she realized he only corresponded with her in order to get to the countess.