Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion XV, ACOK


“His wits were coming back to him, however slowly. That was good. His wits were all he had.”

Synopsis: Tyrion wakes up to find he’s lost his nose, his job, and the credit for his victory.

SPOILER WARNING: This chapter analysis, and all following, will contain spoilers for all Song of Ice and Fire novels and Game of Thrones episodes. Caveat lector.

Political Analysis:

It’s hard to remember in the wake of the grand guignol of A Storm of Swords that A Clash of Kings ends with a brutal comedown of its own. Just last chapter, we we saw Theon in the hands of Ramsay. And here we see Tyrion, the main protagonist of this book (going by number of POV chapters), waking up in the aftermath of the Battle of Blackwater to find himself in a living nightmare:

Tyrion’s Work

In Tyrion XIII, I chided our protagonist for trying to offload his culpability for the devastation that the wildfire has wreaked on the soldiers on both sides who had to fight in the midst of the inferno. But now that he’s come down off of the battlements, which literally put him above the common soldier, and found himself on the battlefield, he is physically confronted by the human cost of his actions:

He found himself outside the city, walking through a world without color. Ravens soared through a grey sky on wide black wings, while carrion crows rose from their feasts in furious clouds wherever he set his steps. White maggots burrowed through black corruption. The wolves were grey, and so were the silent sisters; together they stripped the flesh from the fallen. There were corpses strewn all over the tourney fields. The sun was a hot white penny, shining down upon the grey river as it rushed around the charred bones of sunken ships. From the pyres of the dead rose black columns of smoke and white-hot ashes. My work, thought Tyrion Lannister. They died at my command.

The scene is deliberately made dreamlike and disorientating through the de-saturation of all color from the world, turning the aftermath of the battle into an eerie mix of blacks (ravens and crows, smoke from the pyres, rotting flesh), whites (maggots, the sun), and grays (probably allegorical wolves or more likely mis-perceived dogs, the Silent Sisters) that all symbolize death. The contrast with Ser Dontos’ description of the Tyrell charge and the Lannister celebrations could not be stronger; the rich colors exposed for the romantic lie that hides the awful reality of death from the knights of summer until it’s too late. One might be forgiven for thinking that Tyrion is dead, and indeed Tyrion himself is not quite sure.

But one thing he is sure of is that this is all his fault. It was Tyrion’s scheme with the wildfire and the boom chain that brought hell to earth, and unlike most noble commanders during the Middle Ages, he actually accepts his responsibility for the cost of his command decisions. Contrast his actions here with the famous scene in Shakespeare’s Henry V where the King goes in disguise among his men as “a little touch of Harry in the night.” In conversation with his soldiers, one of them has the temerity to raise that:

“But if the cause be not good, the King himself hath a heavy
reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopp’d
off in a battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all,
“We died at such a place”; some swearing, some crying for a
surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the
debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard
there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they
charitably dispose of anything, when blood is their argument?
Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter
for the King that led them to it; who to disobey were against
all proportion of subjection.”

To our modern eyes and ears, this stands as an indictment of the wealthy and the powerful who have ordered common soldiers to fight and die for bad causes all throughout history, never thinking of the human cost. But the problem is that Shakespeare wasn’t a modern, and so he gives the final word to King Henry’s rebuttal:

“So, if a son that is by his father sent about merchandise do
sinfully miscarry upon the sea, the imputation of his wickedness,
by your rule, should be imposed upon his father that sent him; or
if a servant, under his master’s command transporting a sum of
money, be assailed by robbers and die in many irreconcil’d
iniquities, you may call the business of the master the author of
the servant’s damnation. But this is not so. The King is not
bound to answer the particular endings of his soldiers, the father
of his son, nor the master of his servant; for they purpose not
their death, when they purpose their services.”

But George R.R Martin isn’t a loyal Elizabethan convinced of the divine right of kings and the great chain of being by which the social hierarchy of the premodern age was legitimized and justified. He’s an American, a native of Bayonne New Jersey, who came of age in the Vietnam War when a democratic people insisted on the right to question the cause for which wars were fought and to hold their leaders accountable. And so Tyrion’s responsibility for the death of thousands cannot be denied, because GRRM writes it into his flesh:

He would have asked one of the silent sisters, but when he tried to speak he found he had no mouth. Smooth seamless skin covered his teeth. The discovery terrified him. How could he live without a mouth? He began to run. The city was not far. He would be safe inside the city, away from all these dead. He did not belong with the dead. He had no mouth, but he was still a living man. No, a lion, a lion, and alive. But when he reached the city walls, the gates were shut against him… He was sweating. Fever, he thought groggily. He felt so weak, and the pain stabbed through him when he struggled to lift his hand. He gave up the effort. His head felt enormous, as big as the bed, too heavy to raise from the pillow. His body he could scarcely feel at all.

…He turned over the glass, and did not know whether he ought to laugh or cry. The gash was long and crooked, starting a hair under his left eye and ending on the right side of his jaw. Three-quarters of his nose was gone, and a chunk of his lip. Someone had sewn the torn flesh together with catgut, and their clumsy stitches were still in place across the seam of raw, red, half-healed flesh. “Pretty,” he croaked, flinging the glass aside.

The disorientation explained by a combination of fever and drugs (more on which later), GRRM adds Cronenbergian body horror (and just a touch of Tim Burton’s Joker) to the mix to torment Tyrion. The threatened loss of his mouth, as with the loss of wits, terrifies Tyrion out of consciousness because it threatens the loss of the foundation of his identity, the one thing he can be proud of. (In that, he is very much like his brother Jaime, whose sword hand is core to his identity and sense of pride.) No wonder, then, that he escapes into a dream in which he flees the battlefield where the price of victory was paid, for the city that was the battle’s prize.

Whether fortunate or unfortunate, the price that Tyrion has paid for his command at the Battle of Blackwater doesn’t strike at his inner self but rather at his outer self. The loss of his nose is a fundamental injury to his dignity – as battlefield wounds go, it would be regarded as minor compared to the loss of a hand and a foot (in terms of purely physical disabilities) while still being utterly debilitating socially, given how keyed in humans are to facial symmetry. And it only further confirms his public reputation as the “Imp,” whose hideous appearance is but the outward sign of his inner evil. As we’ll see shortly, this injury confirms every fear that Tyrion has that he is so ugly that no one would ever love him, which has driven his desperate, half-aware drive for unconditional love, and which will continue to drive him through to the tragic conclusion of his relationship with Shae. Thus begins the gradual process of internalization that, over the course of ASOS, will convince Tyrion that he should begin to act as others believe him to be, since no one believes that his character might not match his appearance.

Visitors, But No Grapes

Another indignity, although less noticeable at the moment, is the fact that Tyrion’s injuries have left him physically at the mercy of his enemies, who get to see him at his worst, when he is incapable of fighting back, reduced to a mere object rather than a subject:

He dreamed his sister was standing over his bed, with their lord father beside her, frowning. It had to be a dream, since Lord Tywin was a thousand leagues away, fighting Robb Stark in the west. Others came and went as well. Varys looked down on him and sighed, but Littlefinger made a quip. Bloody treacherous bastard, Tyrion thought venomously, we sent you to Bitterbridge and you never came back. Sometimes he could hear them talking to one another, but he did not understand the words. Their voices buzzed in his ears like wasps muffled in thick felt.

Unbeknownst to Tyrion, this is the critical moment where the narrative of the Battle of Blackwater is established by Cersei to Tywin – and as we’ll see in Tyrion I of ASOS, it’s a narrative that paints him in the worst light imaginable while carefully painting over all of Cersei’s misdeeds. One certainly gets the idea that Tywin, Cersei, et al. are there not so much out of any concern for his well-being, but to see whether or not Tyrion will die. And while there was a good deal of debate in the comment threads about my argument that Cersei is a leading suspect for the attempt on Tyrion’s life, one thing that appears beyond debate is that, once wounded, Cersei wanted to ensure that Tyrion would not wake from his sick-bed:

As the man leaned close, Tyrion’s fingers slid underneath his chain of many metals, grabbed, pulled. The maester dropped the flask, spilling milk of the poppy all over the blanket. Tyrion twisted until he could feel the links digging into the flesh of the man’s fat neck. “No. More,” he croaked, so hoarse he was not certain he had even spoken. But he must have, for the maester choked out a reply. “Unhand, please, my lord…need your milk, the pain…the chain, don’t, unhand, no…”

“You are not yet healed, the queen would…”

The mention of his sister made Tyrion growl. Are you one of hers, then? He pointed a finger at the maester, then coiled his hand into a fist. Crushing, choking, a promise, unless the fool did as he was bid.

“You are in Maegor’s Holdfast, my lord. A chamber over the Queen’s Ballroom. Her Grace wanted you kept close, so that she might watch over you herself.” 

Whether Cersei trying to keep Tyrion drugged to the gills (speaks to her culpability on the attempt on his life, Tyrion certainly believes that to be the case: “If I had not pulled back, that cut would have taken off the top of my head…I should never have trusted any of them. He’d known that Ser Meryn and Ser Boros were his sister’s, and Ser Osmund later, but he had let himself believe that the others were not wholly lost to honor. Cersei must have paid him to see that I never came back from the battle. Why else? I never did Ser Mandon any harm that I know of.” Between this, their earlier conversation, and the fact that he describes the wound as “another gift from my sweet sister,” I’m actually surprised that Tyrion wasn’t more pro-active about trying to get revenge against his sister.

Dreaming of Tysha

Thanks to copious amounts of painkillers, Tyrion spends much of the rest of the chapter lost in drug-fueled dreams. And due to the law of conservation of detail, these dreams aren’t just random psychedelica but highly meaningful revelations about his past and his desires. The first of which involves his history with Tysha:

He dreamed of a better place, a snug little cottage by the sunset sea. The walls were lopsided and cracked and the floor had been made of packed earth, but he had always been warm there, even when they let the fire go out. She used to tease me about that, he remembered. I never thought to feed the fire, that had always been a servant’s task. “We have no servants,” she would remind me, and I would say, “You have me, I’m your servant,” and she would say, “A lazy servant. What do they do with lazy servants in Casterly Rock, my lord?” and he would tell her, “They kiss them.” That would always make her giggle. “They do not neither. They beat them, I bet,” she would say, but he would insist, “No, they kiss them, just like this.” He would show her how. “They kiss their fingers first, every one, and they kiss their wrists, yes, and inside their elbows. Then they kiss their funny ears, all our servants have funny ears. Stop laughing! And they kiss their cheeks and they kiss their noses with the little bump in them, there, so, like that, and they kiss their sweet brows and their hair and their lips, their…mmmm…mouths…so…”

They would kiss for hours, and spend whole days doing no more than lolling in bed, listening to the waves, and touching each other. Her body was a wonder to him, and she seemed to find delight in his. Sometimes she would sing to him. I loved a maid as fair as summer, with sunlight in her hair. “I love you, Tyrion,” she would whisper before they went to sleep at night. “I love your lips. I love your voice, and the words you say to me, and how you treat me gentle. I love your face.”

…Lies, he thought, all feigned, all for gold, she was a whore, Jaime’s whore, Jaime’s gift, my lady of the lie.”

We already knew the details of his relationship with Tysha, but what this dream gives us in far more detail is the emotional content of the relationship, which helps to explain its potency in shaping Tyrion’s reactions in the future. It’s interesting to see how important class was to their relationship – that Tysha didn’t let him forget that he was a nobleman used to the comforts of his station, and that clearly part of the allure of the relationship for Tyrion was that he got to pretend he wasn’t a Lannister and got a little Carnival-esque thrill out of acting like a servant to his wife. Indeed, the game he and Tysha play about “what do they do with lazy servants in Casterly Rock” reads as Tyrion re-writing the harsh discipline that his father imposed on all he surveyed, inventing a fantasy world in which love and not violence was the rule.

Equally importantly, Tysha loved Tyrion’s body. Given his father’s attitudes to both sexuality and disability, for Tyrion not only to love someone else but to be loved in return was an enormously liberatory moment. The destruction of that moment by his father (and to an extent, by Jaime’s lie) has contributed to an enormous amount of self-loathing that his injury has and will raise to new heights. This is why I have argued that Tyrion’s relationship with Shae is a bomb just waiting for the right spark to go off, because it’s constructed out of such contradictory elements – he desperately wants unconditional love, but he believes he is fundamentally unworthy of it, but if his fears are confirmed he will lash out violently. Leaving aside the Purple Wedding and his trial, the moment that Tywin decided to enact his Atreus-like sexual drama with Shae, bloody murder was inevitable.

Waking Up from the Dream

While Tyrion’s dream of Tysha is definitely more important in the long run, Tyrion’s second dream speaks more directly to his immediate ideas and concerns:

This time he dreamed he was at a feast, a victory feast in some great hall. He had a high seat on the dais, and men were lifting their goblets and hailing him as hero. Marillion was there, the singer who’d journeyed with them through the Mountains of the Moon. He played his woodharp and sang of the Imp’s daring deeds. Even his father was smiling with approval. When the song was over, Jaime rose from his place, commanded Tyrion to kneel, and touched him first on one shoulder and then on the other with his golden sword, and he rose up a knight. Shae was waiting to embrace him. She took him by the hand, laughing and teasing, calling him her giant of Lannister.

In one paragraph, here is Tyrion’s desire for acceptance and recognition in all its myriad forms: the man who believes himself to be incapable of being loved transformed into a popular hero admired by all and the singer who insulted Tyrion by playing songs of his father’s victories and of his own defeat now sings of Tyrion’s victory. More importantly, we see Tywin expressing love and approval in a fashion that he has only ever done for Tyrion’s mother; Jaime himself inducts Tyrion into knighthood, the Westerosi stamp of approval for performance of masculinity. And then at the end, there is Shae, genuinely in love with him and using the pet name that symbolizes for him the unwriting of his disability, completing the fatal trinity that will spur Tyrion on to enact his tragedy.

This is the dream that Tyrion wakes from to find himself literally evicted from his position, unceremoniously moved from his quarters in the Hand’s Tower to a glorified cell under Cersei’s thumb. As a fall from grace grows, this is shockingly swift and complete:

“I. Am. King’s Hand…”

“No, my lord, I…you were wounded, near death. Your lord father has taken up those duties now. Lord Tywin he… Lord Tywin saved us all. The smallfolk say it was King Renly’s ghost, but wiser men know better. It was your father and Lord Tyrell, with the Knight of Flowers and Lord Littlefinger. They rode through the ashes and took the usurper Stannis in the rear. It was a great victory, and now Lord Tywin has settled into the Tower of the Hand to help His Grace set the realm to rights, gods be praised.”

One of the things I had genuinely forgotten about this chapter is how much of the reveal of the extent of Tyrion’s fall from power is kept hidden – Bronn’s elevation to knighthood is mentioned but largely in passing, the news about Jacelyn Bywater is held back, as is the fact that he’s been stripped of his hill-clan allies. GRRM focuses on the heart of the matter – that Tyrion has lost the office of Hand of the King that gave him the first political power he has ever enjoyed in his life, that his father has taken it back (along with his rooms, which will be the center of their Atreus-like psycho-sexual drama) showing that Tyrion only ever was a temporary substitute, and (worst of all?) that all of the credit for the victory of the Battle of Blackwater, everything that he bought with the bodies of thousands as well as his own, has gone to his father.

And with that, there is only one place that Tyrion can turn to for validation…as we’ll see in Tyrion I of ASOS.

Historical Analysis:

If you thought the Byzantine history would end with the end of the Battle of Blackwater, I’m afraid to tell you that is not the case. Because there is really no better way to discuss Tyrion’s mutilation than a discussion of the Byzantines and their practice of nose-slitting. Like many premodern cultures, the Byzantines believed that only those without bodily flaws (by which they meant major deformities or injuries; keep in mind we’re talking about a world without plastic surgery or modern dermatology, so standards were different) could become the Emperor – after all, as God’s vicar on earth, the Emperor’s bodily purity was a synecdoche for the spiritual purity necessary for the task. Thus rather than kill their enemies, one of the ways that usurpers and Emperors dealt with former Emperors and/or usurpers was to mutilate their bodies so that they could never don the purple again. Blinding was common, but so was cutting off or slitting the nose, because it was impossible to hide.

This brings us to the example of Justinian II, last emperor of the Heraclian dynasty, and son of the great Emperor Constantine IV, who had beat back the Arabs during the First Arab Siege of Constantinople.Taking the purple in 681 and ruling alone by 685 CE, Justinian II saw initial success – he defeated the Arabs in Cyprus, got the Umayyads to pay him a tribute, retook part of Cyprus, and retook the Balkans from the Bulgars and the Slavs, the latter of whom he resettled in Anatolia to serve in his armies. However, Justinian II’s defeat at the Battle of Sebastopolis (where the Arabs bribed his Slavic troops to switch sides) lead to the loss of Armenia. His Quinisext Council at Constantinople, meant to highlight his Orthodox credentials, lead to an embarrassing split with Pope Sergius I, and when Justinian II ordered the Pope arrested, Rome and Ravenna both revolted against him. Defeat in war, religious conflict, and the higher taxes caused by losing wars and his taste for the good life lead to a rebellion, where the strategos Leontios rose up against him in 695 CE. Justinian’s nose was cut off to prevent him from ever returning to power.

credit to Simulyaton

But however unlucky or unwise he had been, Justinian II was too strong-willed to let it end there. Exiled to Crimea, he escaped to the lands of the Khazars, where he married the khagan’s sister and began to plot his rise to power. When his plans were complete, he and his small band of followers sailed west across the Black Sea in search of followers. The story goes that the ships were caught in a storm as they crossed, and one of his men hit upon the idea that if Justinian swore an oath to God that he would not seek revenge on his enemies when he returned to Consantinople, God would spare them. Instead, Justinian vowed that “if I spare a single one of them, may God drown me here.” The storm passed, and Justinian took that as a sign that the Divine approved of his plans.

In 705, Justinian appeared before the walls of Constantinople with an army of 15,000 Bulgars, having made peace with his former enemies. After a daring midnight raid where he and his men snuck into the city through an unused water main, Justinian took the capitol and retook his place. Wearing a golden nose as a prosthetic, he appeared in the Hippodrome along with Leontios and Tiberios (the man who had overthrown Leontios) and stood on their necks as a sign of his triumph. And then he called for their heads, and the heads of their followers, and for the blinding of the Patriarch. Justinian was back, and he would show no mercy to those who had wronged him.

So Tyrion’s hiring of the Second Sons to help him take Casterly Rock is a bad sign indeed…

What If?

There’s only really one good hypothetical for this chapter: what if Tyrion had died? To begin with, Sansa gets married to Lancel, which might well mean that her marriage gets dissolved legally when Lancel has his born-again experience and joins the Warrior’s Sons.

More interesting is the question of what happens when Joffrey dies at the Purple Wedding without Tyrion there to take the blame – most likely option is that Cersei interprets the prophecy to mean that Sansa was the culprit, but without a prisoner in hand to put on trial things start to change. Oberyn has no opportunity to put himself forward as a champion during a trial by combat, Jaime has no-one to free from prison (which probably makes him a lot less guilty in AFFC), and Tywin isn’t going to die in the same way. However, it’s quite probable that Varys will have Tywin killed regardless, because he needs to destabilize the Lannister/Tyrell alliance in advance of Aegon’s landing.

The next major change, to me, is what happens with the Golden Company. It’s possible that Aegon might be killed or tainted by a Stone Man, but more likely someone else sacrifices themselves to save him. The major difference, to me, is that without Tyrion, Aegon, Griff, and the Golden Company head to Meereen to win Dany’s hand and break the siege of Meereen (and while the forces of New Ghis and Yunkai would still have the numbers, the superior quality of the Unsullied and the Golden Company would most likely win the day).

What happens next is unclear. I’m of the opinion that Dany would consider Aegon far more attractive a candidate than Quentyn, given both the army in the hand and his personal beauty, but there are others who disagree. I also think it’s unclear whether Dany would regard him as a potential treason to be avoided or a mount to be ridden. Regardless, I do think that Aegon would have enough Targaryen blood to successfully pull off the stunt that Quentyn attempted and failed.

Book vs. Show:

In terms of how the show handled this chapter, I am not so much a purist that I mind the change to Tyrion’s face – a missing nose would mean incredible expense and difficulty of both makeup and CGI, and the long scar does a good enough job of changing Peter Dinklage’s face to have the thematic resonance that it needs to have.

Moreover, I actually think that Varys being present to give the bad news to Tyrion about the comprehensive loss of his power is a good change. His speech to Tyrion that “there are many who know that without you this city faced certain defeat. The king won’t give you any honors, the histories won’t mention you, but we will not forget,” is an excellent coda to both character’s arcs in Season 2, while nicely setting up how Varys will be involved in saving Tyrion’s life in Season 4.

And I’ll even go to bat for the change to Shae’s storyline. Her speech reaffirming their love and begging Tyrion to leave with her and go to Pentos instead is a great change, making their relationship a far more interesting functional adult relationship and there’s precious few of those on Game of Thrones. The problem to me is that, if you’re going to make that change, you need a plan for how to get from there to Tywin’s bedchamber in Season 4 and the writers never developed that plan, despite having a full interstitial season for them to come up with one. When they finally had to pull the trigger, the result was a mess with Shae becoming irrationally jealous of Sansa and then trying to kill Tyrion – all in an unnecessary effort to make Tyrion a more sympathetic character when the audience’s sympathies had been won years earlier.

Rather, I think they should have played up tragic timing instead – have Tyrion send Shae ahead of him to Pentos but have her be intercepted by Cersei and Tywin’s agents, have a scene where she’s alternately threatened with death and bribed with the promise that Tyrion’s life will be spared if she testifies against him. Hell, show that last scene out of order so that the audience has that moment of betrayal along with Tyrion but then the one-sided revelation of what’s going on. Then all you need is a line from Tywin about having Shae brought to his chambers, and you’re set up for a classic tragic moment where Tyrion has every reason to believe he’s been betrayed and kills Shae in a furious rage before she can tell him the truth.



75 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion XV, ACOK

  1. Winnief says:

    Brilliant analysis as usual Steve. Couldn’t agree more with your assessment of how the Shae storyline should have been handled. Tyrion/Varys though, the show handled brilliantly-and that dynamic was one of the best parts of Season Four.

    Love the stuff about the Byzantines. Maybe Tyrion WILL wear a golden nose, when he takes back the Rock!

    Great play Henry V, but one of my favorite adaptions has to be the Kenneth Branagh one, explicitly because it *does* pose questions about the validity of Henry’s whole cause and the price it comes at. Though the Hiddleston version at least has the whole War of the Roses subtext to it and that’s something.

    Two quibbles though with your ‘what if’ section…another difference is that if Tyrion dies, Cersei won’t be worried about the Valonqar which might negate *some* of her craziness in AFFC, though of course she’ll still be focusing on the YMBQ. But a lot of innocent dwarves in that scenario would have lived.

    Secondly, I’m not so sure that fAegon and the GC would have sailed east instead of west if it hadn’t been for Tyrion. Yeah his words to Aegon didn’t help, but they were already miffed that Dany wasn’t in Volantis when expected, and its quite possible they would have just sailed on to Westeros anyway.

    Of course the biggest difference in ‘what if’ is one we’ve yet to see about what part (if any) Tyrion has in getting *Dany* to sail west and to plan HER invasion, (which is now guaranteed to include Casterly Rock.) And even more importantly the question of whether Tyrion is the third Dragon Rider-and I think he is.

    OT, but one thing I wish we had more insight into here was Tywin’s coming disillusionment with Cersei. We can see originally he takes everything she says on faith, (which conveniently allows him to once more treat his hated dwarf son like dirt and avoid sharing any credit with Tyrion or giving him his right to CR.) But by ASOS, Tywin’s obviously pretty fed up with Cersei and seems *desperate* to marry her off and get her the hell out of KL. It probably has something to do with getting to know Joffrey better but also I wonder if he started hearing from other sources, (say Kevan) stuff about her bad decisions and maybe her behavior in Maegor’s Holdfast during the battle. In any event Tywin, facing *some* of the truth about Cersei is something I really miss seeing. What do you think?

    • Regarding Henry V, I’m not sure Shakespeare is as unequivocally on Henry’s side as is presented here. Shakespeare is notoriously difficult to pin down at the best of times (as opposed to someone like Wilde or Bronte), and Henry V in particular is exquisitely balanced between pro and anti-war readings. It can’t be an accident that, with virtually no alterations in the text, Henry can be played as either a mass-murdering war criminal or an inspirational leader (or both). After all, this is the same writer who gave us Falstaff – it’s hard to imagine a more positive attitude than ambivalence.

      • winnief says:

        Yeah the key to the Bard’s longevity (besides that beautiful language) is that his plays always allow for so many different interpretations and re-imaginings.

      • I agree about Shakespeare. His plays offer many different interpretations, and it’s not like he was able to openly tell whatever he really thought. “Henry V” has many subversive elements, and its critical interpretations range from seeing it as a jingoistic play fully in support of Henry (which was, no doubt, what Shakespeare wanted it to seem on the surface, since he had to follow the official line), to seeing it as a deeply subversive play that seems to glorify him but is really full of irony and exposing him as an asshole.

        I’m confused about your reference to “Bronte”, though. Which Bronte are you talking about? It’s always odd when people refer to the three very different writers as a single entity (“the Brontes”), but it’s even odder to use just the last name. I can be sure you aren’t referring to Anne, but Emily and Charlotte are both equally famous and renowned – and extremely different as writers. Charlotte is pretty straightforward and I don’t think we need a deep analysis to figure out how she feels about the characters from her novels, but Emily’s narrative style was far trickier, with the use of outside unreliable narrators, who don’t seem like they were really spokespeople for the author’s voice. Different readers seem to have quite different ideas about how she felt about her characters and the events and actions, though one could try to guess based on her reported personality and her poems.

      • I know a lot of people think that, and I understand the desire to think of Shakespeare as this amazing humanist centuries ahead of his time. But I’ve grown skeptical about those readings – Merchant of Venice was meant to be read as a comedy, Falstaff is a great character but I don’t think Bloom’s right that we’re meant to side with him rather than to see him as a comedy miles gloriosus.

        Not that people can’t read and perform the play that way, but I don’t think you can do it while arguing from authorial intent.

        • artihcus022 says:

          Shakespeare doesn’t have to be an amazing humanist to be suggestive of alternative readings. Dostoevsky, a 19th Century man and certainly a little more progressive than Shakespeare, was a raging anti-semite and Russian nationalist and yet his books are full of contradictory, conflicting meanings.

          The fact that Falstaff has more lines of dialogue than anyone except Hamlet proves, from a writing perspective, that Shakespeare put more work on him than usual, which means that he would certainly have considered the multiple ways Falstaff would appear.

          • Or that Will Kempe was bugging him for a larger role.

          • Well, Falstaff is the most prominent example of what I’m talking about, but far from the only one – cynicism or ambivalence towards military strong men is a fairly consistent strain in his work…Thersites is the most coruscating one I can think of off the top of my head, but I know there are others. (The endings of Macbeth or Hamlet certainly argue against an uncomplicated heroism). About the best example of a military man I can think of in the plays (I mean best as in best and most attractive human being) is Mark Antony…and half the characters in the play won’t shut up about how he’s a disgrace!

          • artihcus022 says:

            The best play to consider Shakespeare’s anti-war sentiments is Troilus and Cressida, where the heroes of the Iliad are shown as a pack of meatheads. That was something that Shakespeare alone introduced. Now of course it’s possible that Shakespeare, who as we all know, spoke little Latin and Greek, might have misinterpreted the original myth, but one should still give him a little credit.

          • Shakespeare generally doesn’t portray great conquerors, historical or mythical, in the best of light.

            Mythical heroes like Achilles etc. – very negative portrayal in Troilus and Cressida
            Julius Caesar – not the most flattering portrayal in the play (where he’s not even the main character)
            Alexander the Great – see the “Alexander the Pig” dialogue from “Henry V” I quoted in another post
            Henry V…. -questionable, a flattering portrayal on the surface, but if you dig a bit deeper and start thinking about the text, arguably it becomes rather unflattering

        • Well, Merchant of Venice is a different matter – it’s incredibly difficult (I would argue effectively impossible) to pull away from the anti-Semitic implications of the text in performance. But no writer deserves to be evaluated purely on their worst work, and the Shakespeare of Henry V is a far more skilled and mature writer than the Shakespeare of Merchant. I will stand by my point that there is a lot of flexibility in how Henry V can be interpreted. Directors can depict Henry V as hero or villain without working against the text, and that degree of balance doesn’t just happen. No matter how hard the director works to deconstruct Hamlet or Macbeth, we’re never in any doubt as to who the goody or baddy is SUPPOSED to be (we may not agree, mind you) – but Henry V really can be played as a hero or a villain, and I doubt that’s accidental (mind you, I’m struggling to think of any ‘warrior’ in Shakespeare who IS presented unequivocally positively – Hotspur maybe, or Falconbridge?) Now as to what Shakespeare’s intent in doing that was, that’s another matter – though I find the argument that may reflect cultural anxieties at the time about the Nine Years War at least…interesting. (There’s a similar balance at work in Julius Caesar, where he avoids endorsing either side throughout the entire play, though I won’t speculate as to why)

        • Well, if Shakespeare absolutely did not intend the play to be anything but an unequivocal praise of Henry V, and was not aware of how a lot of it could be read subversively, he must have been a bit dim, and it would be an amazing coincidence that he wrote things that so easily could be read as sarcastic and subversive. I don’t think one needs to be a modern reader with modern sensibilities to see it that way. The “Alexander the Pig” dialogue I quoted in another post is the most obvious example, but there are other things as well.

          For instance, here’s this big chunk of expository text at the beginning of the play (scene 2), where the Archbishop of Canterbury is basically telling Henry V: “Yes, your claim to the throne of France is totally valid!” Like Littlefinger’s long speech to Sansa in Alayne II in AFFC where he goes on about the complicated Arryn genealogy, this is the kind of monologue that those who are into genealogical data and explanations of claims would find really interesting, while everyone else would find their mind trailing off and just get the basic gist of it:

          God and his angels guard your sacred throne
          And make you long become it!
          KING HENRY V
          Sure, we thank you.
          My learned lord, we pray you to proceed
          And justly and religiously unfold
          Why the law Salique that they have in France
          Or should, or should not, bar us in our claim:
          And God forbid, my dear and faithful lord,
          That you should fashion, wrest, or bow your reading,
          Or nicely charge your understanding soul
          With opening titles miscreate, whose right
          Suits not in native colours with the truth;
          For God doth know how many now in health
          Shall drop their blood in approbation
          Of what your reverence shall incite us to.
          Therefore take heed how you impawn our person,
          How you awake our sleeping sword of war:
          We charge you, in the name of God, take heed;
          For never two such kingdoms did contend
          Without much fall of blood; whose guiltless drops
          Are every one a woe, a sore complaint
          ‘Gainst him whose wrong gives edge unto the swords
          That make such waste in brief mortality.
          Under this conjuration, speak, my lord;
          For we will hear, note and believe in heart
          That what you speak is in your conscience wash’d
          As pure as sin with baptism.
          Then hear me, gracious sovereign, and you peers,
          That owe yourselves, your lives and services
          To this imperial throne. There is no bar
          To make against your highness’ claim to France
          But this, which they produce from Pharamond,
          ‘In terram Salicam mulieres ne succedant:’
          ‘No woman shall succeed in Salique land:’
          Which Salique land the French unjustly gloze
          To be the realm of France, and Pharamond
          The founder of this law and female bar.
          Yet their own authors faithfully affirm
          That the land Salique is in Germany,
          Between the floods of Sala and of Elbe;
          Where Charles the Great, having subdued the Saxons,
          There left behind and settled certain French;
          Who, holding in disdain the German women
          For some dishonest manners of their life,
          Establish’d then this law; to wit, no female
          Should be inheritrix in Salique land:
          Which Salique, as I said, ‘twixt Elbe and Sala,
          Is at this day in Germany call’d Meisen.
          Then doth it well appear that Salique law
          Was not devised for the realm of France:
          Nor did the French possess the Salique land
          Until four hundred one and twenty years
          After defunction of King Pharamond,
          Idly supposed the founder of this law;
          Who died within the year of our redemption
          Four hundred twenty-six; and Charles the Great
          Subdued the Saxons, and did seat the French
          Beyond the river Sala, in the year
          Eight hundred five. Besides, their writers say,
          King Pepin, which deposed Childeric,
          Did, as heir general, being descended
          Of Blithild, which was daughter to King Clothair,
          Make claim and title to the crown of France.
          Hugh Capet also, who usurped the crown
          Of Charles the duke of Lorraine, sole heir male
          Of the true line and stock of Charles the Great,
          To find his title with some shows of truth,
          ‘Through, in pure truth, it was corrupt and naught,
          Convey’d himself as heir to the Lady Lingare,
          Daughter to Charlemain, who was the son
          To Lewis the emperor, and Lewis the son
          Of Charles the Great. Also King Lewis the Tenth,
          Who was sole heir to the usurper Capet,
          Could not keep quiet in his conscience,
          Wearing the crown of France, till satisfied
          That fair Queen Isabel, his grandmother,
          Was lineal of the Lady Ermengare,
          Daughter to Charles the foresaid duke of Lorraine:
          By the which marriage the line of Charles the Great
          Was re-united to the crown of France.
          So that, as clear as is the summer’s sun.
          King Pepin’s title and Hugh Capet’s claim,
          King Lewis his satisfaction, all appear
          To hold in right and title of the female:
          So do the kings of France unto this day;
          Howbeit they would hold up this Salique law
          To bar your highness claiming from the female,
          And rather choose to hide them in a net
          Than amply to imbar their crooked titles
          Usurp’d from you and your progenitors.
          KING HENRY V
          May I with right and conscience make this claim?
          The sin upon my head, dread sovereign!
          For in the book of Numbers is it writ,
          When the man dies, let the inheritance
          Descend unto the daughter. Gracious lord,
          Stand for your own; unwind your bloody flag;
          Look back into your mighty ancestors:
          Go, my dread lord, to your great-grandsire’s tomb,
          From whom you claim; invoke his warlike spirit,
          And your great-uncle’s, Edward the Black Prince,
          Who on the French ground play’d a tragedy,
          Making defeat on the full power of France,
          Whiles his most mighty father on a hill
          Stood smiling to behold his lion’s whelp
          Forage in blood of French nobility.
          O noble English. that could entertain
          With half their forces the full Pride of France
          And let another half stand laughing by,
          All out of work and cold for action!

          …Basically, the Archbishop says that the French have been totally bullshitting when they invoke the Salic Law to deny the English kings their hereditary right to the throne of France by completely barring inheritance through the female line, because, first off, it wasn’t even their law, they invoked it specifically to bar Edward III from his right to inherit the throne as the grandson of king Philip IV le Bel through his mother – because he otherwise had a better claim than any of the French nobility – and, since their dynasty had in the past used female line descent to justify their claim to the throne; in short, the French are being really hypocritical.

          Now, keeping that in mind, it’s interesting that, not long after, in Act II, we get Henry V condemning the participants in the Southampton Plot to depose and kill Henry. Which is here presented as if Cambridge and other participants in the plot were paid by the French – something that’s probably not true. So, Shakespeare is towing the official line here. (Henry V was Henry VIII’s idol and role model, BTW.) And it gives Henry another reason to be against the French…
          But to anyone who knows what the Southampton plot was about (and anyone with some knowledge of history and genealogy should have known that in Elizabethan times), Archbishop’s speech from the previous act becomes more interesting. Cambridge and others wanted to put Edmund Mortimer on the throne, as the real heir to Richard II, instead of Henry V, who was seen as the son of a usurper. Since the Mortimers were direct descendants, through the female line, of Lionel, second son of Edward III (while Henry IV and Henry V were son and grandson of the third son of Edward III), that put them ahead of Henry IV and Henry V in the line of succession, unless one invoked the Salic Law and denied inheritance through the female line…which was not even English law.. and in spite of the fact that his ancestors had inherited the throne through the female line (Henry II)… and that Henry V is simultaneously pursuing his claim to the throne of France, through the female line. Which would make him pretty damn hypocritical.

          Again, one has to wonder if Shakespeare was a bit dim and missed all those implications, or if maybe he knew what he was writing and deliberately inserted subversive layers of text. But in any case, “Henry V” is an interesting play because, the more one thinks about the text, the worse Henry V ends up looking.

      • Grant says:

        Careful writing is probably best when official censorship of writing is still a thing and you’re one of the few who’s actually allowed to put on plays for London. Look at Macbeth, Shakespeare was being very careful there.

      • Jack says:

        Courtesy of a friend who was in grad school at the time, I actually got the chance to attend a reading of Henry V in Boston put on by the Federalist Society ft both Johns Ashcroft and Yoo. You can guess which side they came down on!

        You can probably also guess I wasn’t willing to go sober

    • Andrew says:

      Well, Jaime did start wearing a gold hand when he lost his old one. Maybe Tyrion will get a golden nose.

    • Well, I think a big part of Cersei’s craziness comes from Joffrey dying and then Tywin dying. If that happens, Tyrion or no Tyrion, I think she’s going off the rails.

      I’m a little more sure about that, because if they were never going to go east, then Tyrion does a lot less in ADWD. My version has more plot impact.

      I’ll discuss the disillusionment when we get to Tywin encountering Joffrey.

      • Winnief says:

        Sadly, I think you may be giving too much credit to Tyrion’s journey in ADWD in terms of plot impact. I think Martin was more interested in Tyrion’s psychological disintegration rather than moving the plot forward there…another reason why D&D abbreviated it so much add added Varys, Jorah, and Drogon to make it all more relevant before he met Dany.

        Of course, that could be my notorious dislike for the whole fAegon storyline in general talking. There are elements of the books that I miss seeing in the show-that is definitely not one of them.

        • poorquentyn says:

          Tyrion’s the direct inspiration for Aegon’s decision to sail west; there’s a good chance the Golden Company would have tried the demon road otherwise. D&D didn’t add Jorah, he was in Tyrion’s storyline in the books.

          I’d say Tyrion participates in the wider story throughout: Illyrio’s plans, the Aegon reveal, the various factions in Volantis, the various factions at Slaver’s Bay…it’s as plot-dense as ACOK, just set on the road. GRRM uses Tyrion’s story in ADWD to lay the groundwork for the explosions to come in TWOW: Aegon’s conquest in Westeros, the slave revolt in Volantis, Dany turning on Illyrio, etc.

  2. Sean C. says:

    Ironically, of all the ways Tyrion was overlooked for his role at the Blackwater and denied adequate credit, this chapter focuses entirely on the loss of the Handship, the area where he legitimately has no ground for complaint, because that always supposed to be a temp gig.

  3. Brett says:

    Regardless, I do think that Aegon would have enough Targaryen blood to successfully pull off the stunt that Quentyn attempted and failed.

    I don’t know. I think Daenerys is going to force him to try and mount one of them in TWoW to prove he’s not a false Targaryen, and he’s going to get roasted in the same way that he froze up at the Bridge of Dream. That way you can have Jon be the third and final person to try, who does it successfully after both Victarion and fAegon fail.

    • Why would Aegon fail? Even if he’s an f, Blackfyres are more Targaryen than the Targaryens are.

      • Brett says:

        He’d fail for personal reasons rather than just because of blood. Like I said, I think his freezing-up on the Bridge of Dream was foreshadowing for that.

      • How are the Blackfyres “more Targaryen than the Targaryens are”?!

        • Sean C. says:

          I assume he means because their line is more Valyrian (at least through Daemon and his Tyroshi wife) versus the Targaryen main line, which married into various First Men and Rhoynar houses.

          We have no idea what the later generations of the Blackfyres did for brides, admittedly.

          • Are Tyroshi of Valyrian descent? Even if they are/Rohanne of Tyrosh was, that would only potentially make them more Valyrian, not more Targaryen.

            Daemon was not more Targaryen than Daeron the Good – or the first Daenerys, for that matter. There is no evidence there

          • That posted before I could finish the comment. The last sentence was supposed to read – there is no evidence that the Blackfyres have more Targaryen blood than the Martells, let alone the Targaryens.

          • Sean C. says:

            Tyrosh was a Valyrian colony. The natives aren’t remarked upon as being really Valyrian-looking in the same way people from Lys and Volantis are, though that may just be because of their love of colourful hair dye.

            He wasn’t comparing Daeron and Daemon; he was comparing Quentyn and Aegon. This is, of course, kind of dependent on whether the Blackfyres practiced incestuous marriage, but that’s not a big stretch based on what we know of them.

          • How does being descended from the Tyroshi make you more Targaryen?

          • Sean C. says:

            Like I said, he’s using “Targaryen” as an expression for “Valyrian”; it’s more likely that the latter is what matters. “More Targaryen than the Targaryens” is snappier.

          • That’s just an assumption with no proof. And it still wouldn’t explain how the Blackfyres are supposedly more Targaryen than the Targaryens. In that case, he wasn’t comparing Aegon to Quentyn, but Aegon to Dany (whose parents and grandparents had incestuous marriages).

          • Sean C. says:

            Dany’s previous two generations were incestuous, but before that she has Blackwood and Dayne blood in addition to the Martell.

          • If being of randon Valyrian descent is all that matters, why doesn’t Dany marry any random Lyseni, or go to Lys to find dragonriders there?

          • If Aegon’s father is Illyrio and Illyrio is not a Blackfyre himself, or in any case if just one of his parents is not a Blackfyre descendant, that’s already 50% of his DNA from a completely non-Targ person. And Aegon could have any other descendants in his family tree. We don’t know.

          • Sean C. says:

            If being of randon Valyrian descent is all that matters, why doesn’t Dany marry any random Lyseni, or go to Lys to find dragonriders there?

            Story constraints, one imagines. Though Dany hasn’t even thought about finding dragonriders, as far as I can recall, and doesn’t know anything about dragonlore anyway.

    • winnief says:

      Agreed. Faegon is NOT gonna ride any of Dany’s dragons whatever he may believe.

      And as self-serving as Tyrion’s advice was I think he had a point about why Dany at this stage is gonna be sceptical of her ‘nephews’ suit. She’s been too successful as a conqueror herself by now to need the GC or to be influenced by Varys or Illyrio.

      No ultimately the big difference is what Tyrion does when he teams up with the Dragon queen himself.

      • Sean C. says:

        I don’t know how the politics would play out, but I would expect Dany, lonely as she is, would be at a minimum intrigued by the idea that there were other Targaryens still out there.

        • poorquentyn says:

          “Mummer’s Dragon” is the big problem here. There’s no way Dany doesn’t immediately make the connection to the House of the Undying when she hears about Aegon, especially if it’s from Tyrion; it’s pretty heavily implied he doesn’t believe Aegon is Rhaegar and Elia’s kid.

          • winnief says:

            Precisely. Whereas Dany’s dreams of the blue rose at the Wall of ice and about Rhaegar saying the dragon has three heads actually confirm Jon’s origins.

            And of course Jon’s trump card will be that he really can ride a dragon.

  4. What makes you think that Aegon has more Targaryen blood than Quentyn?

    If he is a Blackfyre, which I think he is, then he probably has about the same amount of Targaryen blood as Quentyn, as far as we know. Sure, it’s possible that the Blackfyres practiced incestuous marriages between themselves, or that some of them married descendants of Aerion Brightflame, but we don’t know that. As far as we know, the last source of Targaryen blood in the Blackfyre line was Daemon Blackfyre, and the last source of Targaryen blood in Quentin’s line was Daenerys Targaryen, and they had the exact same amount of Targaryen blood. Daemon’s parents were Aegon IV and Daena the Defiant, Daenerys’ were Aegon IV and Naerys. Out of the four possible grandparents, Daenerys had Viserys II (twice) and Larra Rogare (twice) while Daemon had Aegon III, Viserys II, Larra Rogare, and Daenyra Velaryon. Daenyra and Larra were both of Valyrian descent, but not Targaryens. It is possible that Daenyra may have had some additional Targ ancestor, due to the close ties between the two families, but her family tree shows no proof of that.

    Furthermore, is “the amount of Targaryen blood” really the decisive factor? (Aside from the question whether Targaryens are really that special compared to other people of Valyrian descent, considering the fact that they certainly weren’t the only Valyrians who rode dragons.) The only people we know for sure managed to ride adult dragons they hadn’t previously bonded with while the dragons were growing up were Maegor the Cruel, Aemond One-Eye, Addam Velaryon, Ulf the White, Hugh Hammer and Nettles. (Someone correct me if there’s someone else as well.) Looking at that list, it would seem that the deciding factor may have been confidence. It’s debatable what amount of Targaryen blood, if any some of these people had – or, in Nettles’ case, whether she even had any Valyrian blood. (Addam presumably had Velaryon blood.) Although Nettles’ way of taming the dragon was specific, but while the five former rode dragons that had been ridden before by people who were dead, she was the only one who tamed a wild, previously untamed dragon.

    • So I’ll explain my thinking here rather than in the thread above.

      Daemon is the son of Aegon IV (son of Viserys II and Larra) and Daena (Aegon III and Daenaera). Daeron was the son of Aegon IV and his sister Naerys. Pretty equal right? Except that Daena had more Targaryen blood than Viserys II or Aegon IV did – she’s the daughter of Aegon III and Daenaera, with no Rogarre in her. So Daemon had more Targaryen/Valyrian blood than Daeron did, albeit from the maternal side.

      Then you add on that Daeron marries into the Martells and Daemon into Tyrosh, and then Maekar marries a Dayne, and then Aegon V marries into the Blackwoods. And I think the Blackfyres practiced more incest in those intervening years to emphasize their Targness, hence Maelys the Monstrous.

      • I’m not sure why you are counting Daemon’s Tyroshi wife as Valyrian, when I don’t think there’s been any mention of her looks or whether most Tyroshi are descended from Valyrians, while you aren’t counting Larra Rogarre as Valyrian, even though Lyseni are supposed to be of Valyrian descent, and we know that Larra had Valyrian looks.

        The Blackfyres may have practiced incest, but we don’t know for sure, or how often. Physical deformities are not not necessarily the result of inbreeding, or vice versa. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that GRRM seems clueless about how genetics work, as evidenced by the Baratheon super gene plot point, I would point out that Maelys’ deformity is unlikely to have been caused by inbreeding, since there is no indication that Targs or Blackfyres ever had a history of a congenital disease whose symptom was having two heads, or that such a disease exists in the world of ASoIAF. It could be a genetic mutation, or an undeveloped Siamese twin.

  5. This is one of my favorite chapters from ACOK, and in my top 20 overall ASOAIF chapters. I tend to like these introspective chapters that focus on characters.

    Tyrion’s memories of Tysha, his fantasies of validation by his family, and his half-memories, half-visions of the wounded and dying men around him (and his feelings of guilt: “Why did I kill them all?”) are some of the most heartbreaking moments of the book.

    When I was first reading the series, I did not suspect that Jaime had been lying about having hired Tysha, but Tyrion’s memories of Tysha nevertheless convinced me that she really loved him. Everything she said and did in those flashbacks sounded like genuine emotion – in contrast to Shae (and Shae is the one who should be practiced in acting and pretending to love men when they hire her to do so, not Tysha, who – even if she had decided to try prostitution to feed herself, would have been completely inexperienced, since we know she had been a virgin when she had sex with Tyrion). This is a part that particularly convinced me:

    “I love to say your name. Tyrion Lannister. It goes with mine. Not the Lannister, the other part. Tyrion and Tysha. Tysha and Tyrion. Tyrion. My lord Tyrion…”

    This is such a classic “teenage girl in love” moment, the way she says their names together (which is why I don’t like Dinklage’s pronunciation of “Tysha” as “Tai-sha” – it would make her name go with “Tywin” instead of “Tyrion”!) – and I thought it was deliberately contrasted with the way Shae always stressed Tyrion’s family name – “my giant of Lannister”. It’s the fact that he was a Lannister – and the gold and power and status that went with it – that mattered to her most about Tyrion.

  6. Keith B says:

    King Henry’s response seems to be a non sequitur. What led up to the exchange::

    Henry: …methinks I could not die any where so contented as in the king’s company; his cause being just and his quarrel honorable.

    Williams: That’s more than we know.

    Bates: Ay, or more than we should seek after; for we know enough, if we know we are the king’s subjects: if his cause be wrong, our obedience to the king wipes the crime of it out of us.

    Bates says the soldier isn’t guilty if he fights in an unjust cause, because it’s not his duty to make that determination. Williams responds that, in that case, if the cause is unjust, the King has a lot to answer for. Henry’s rejoinder then completely ignores the premise of Williams’ argument, and starts talking about the King’s responsibility for the soldier’s misdeeds.

    It’s hard to believe that Shakespeare didn’t realize that Henry’s answer was non-responsive. Did he think the audience wouldn’t notice? Or am I missing something?

    • It’s the context of the origins of the Wars of the Roses. Henry’s guilt about his cause comes from the fact that his father usurped the throne from Richard II, the son of the Black Prince who was the heir of Edward III who had originally staked a claim to the throne of France.

      Hence the scene a bit later where Henry, now alone, launches into a desperate prayer to God:

      Not to-day, O Lord,
      O, not to-day, think not upon the fault
      My father made in compassing the crown!
      I Richard’s body have interred anew;
      And on it have bestow’d more contrite tears
      Than from it issued forced drops of blood:
      Five hundred poor I have in yearly pay,
      Who twice a-day their wither’d hands hold up
      Toward heaven, to pardon blood; and I have built
      Two chantries, where the sad and solemn priests
      Sing still for Richard’s soul. More will I do;
      Though all that I can do is nothing worth,
      Since that my penitence comes after all,
      Imploring pardon.

    • I think he did think most of the audience wouldn’t notice, oe think too deeply about it. Just like he presumably thought that most of the audience would just laugh at the sikly Welshman character who cannot proununce his Bs and calls Alexander the Great “Alexander the Pig” (Big), rather than think that the author was saying something about what he really thought of great men like Alexander or Henry, considering the fact that that conversation was about explicitly comparing Henry to Alexander, in the context of their bad deeds, with the conclusion that great rulers/conquerors sometimes must do things like kill people dishonorably, or hurt and betray their closeset friends.

    • And this is the scene I was talking about in my other comment (here comes the copy paste! Thank the gods for the fact that texts of Shakespeare’s plays can be found online):

      Scene VII, Another part of the field (*this is right after Henry V orders the French prisoners to be killed*)

      Enter FLUELLEN and GOWER
      Kill the poys and the luggage! ’tis expressly
      against the law of arms: ’tis as arrant a piece of
      knavery, mark you now, as can be offer’t; in your
      conscience, now, is it not?
      ‘Tis certain there’s not a boy left alive; and the
      cowardly rascals that ran from the battle ha’ done
      this slaughter: besides, they have burned and
      carried away all that was in the king’s tent;
      wherefore the king, most worthily, hath caused every
      soldier to cut his prisoner’s throat. O, ’tis a
      gallant king!
      Ay, he was porn at Monmouth, Captain Gower. What
      call you the town’s name where Alexander the Pig was born!
      Alexander the Great.
      Why, I pray you, is not pig great? the pig, or the
      great, or the mighty, or the huge, or the
      magnanimous, are all one reckonings, save the phrase
      is a little variations.
      I think Alexander the Great was born in Macedon; his
      father was called Philip of Macedon, as I take it.
      I think it is in Macedon where Alexander is porn. I
      tell you, captain, if you look in the maps of the
      ‘orld, I warrant you sall find, in the comparisons
      between Macedon and Monmouth, that the situations,
      look you, is both alike. There is a river in
      Macedon; and there is also moreover a river at
      Monmouth: it is called Wye at Monmouth; but it is
      out of my prains what is the name of the other
      river; but ’tis all one, ’tis alike as my fingers is
      to my fingers, and there is salmons in both. If you
      mark Alexander’s life well, Harry of Monmouth’s life
      is come after it indifferent well; for there is
      figures in all things. Alexander, God knows, and
      you know, in his rages, and his furies, and his
      wraths, and his cholers, and his moods, and his
      displeasures, and his indignations, and also being a
      little intoxicates in his prains, did, in his ales and
      his angers, look you, kill his best friend, Cleitus.
      Our king is not like him in that: he never killed
      any of his friends.
      It is not well done, mark you now take the tales out
      of my mouth, ere it is made and finished. I speak
      but in the figures and comparisons of it: as
      Alexander killed his friend Cleitus, being in his
      ales and his cups; so also Harry Monmouth, being in
      his right wits and his good judgments, turned away
      the fat knight with the great belly-doublet: he
      was full of jests, and gipes, and knaveries, and
      mocks; I have forgot his name.
      Sir John Falstaff.
      That is he: I’ll tell you there is good men porn at Monmouth.

      Now: did Shakespeare really write this by accident and was completely unaware of the implications and didn’t see that this could be taken as anything but a totally earnest praise of Henry V, or was he actually smart and fully aware of it but knew he could get away with it?

  7. artihcus022 says:

    Shakespeare was a loyal Elizabethan for reason. Marlowe got whacked by Francis Walsingham and Thomas Kyd was tortured with a hammer smashed into his writing hand, he had to be loyal to live.

    For me the important thing about Henry V is Henry IV…the fact that John Falstaff has more lines of dialogue than any character aside from Hamlet, and the most beautiful passage in Henry V is Mistress Quickly’s eulogy for the fat knight. Falstaff’s “Greater part of valour is discretion” is more representative of his views.

    But great chapter read on the whole…for me the final lines of Tyrion is really striking each time I reread it:He lay back and closed his eyes. Perhaps he would dream of Tysha again. I wonder how she’d like my face now, he thought bitterly.

  8. HTB says:

    A big What if for me: What if Tyrion doesn’t get injured? Does this change anything post battle with Tywin and Cersei?

    • I did that in Tyrion XIV.

    • winnief says:

      Steve believes that if Tyrion hadn’t been injured he could have claimed his share of the credit before Cersei poisoned the well and maybe that’s true.

      But I wonder I just wonder if at this point Tyrion could have gotten Tywin to believe *him* over Cersei since Tywin’s so prejudiced against Tyrion and still seemed to have a lot more faith in Cersei. …at least until later events in ASOS. Which again makes me wish we’d gotten more insight into when exactly Tywin’s opinion of Cersei began to change. (Which also should have made him reevaluate anything Cersei said about Tyrion but again prejudice not to mention stubborn pride kept Tywin from any second guessing there.)

      • Grant says:

        Tyrion would be on hand to give a full report about what’s happened and has plenty of witnesses he can bring forward. That and the clearly awful character of their king could at least make Tywin stop and reconsider his children, after all he sent Tyrion to be Hand in the first place after Cersei made a mess of things at court. I don’t believe that Tywin would ever love, or even more than very grudgingly respect, Tyrion but Tyrion could expect a good position.

        • John says:

          Of course, Tyrion should have been keeping Tywin at least generally updated as to what he was doing, and what the situation in King’s Landing was, throughout his time as Hand.

  9. priddy says:

    Thanks for another great chapter analysis, Steven.
    I had watched the first two seasons of “Game of Thrones” before I read any of the novels, so I didn’t particularly cared for Tyrion’s former relationship. However, after reading ACOK, I realize how similiar Tysha’s description is to Shae’s (with the difference that Shae is just acting like the Girl-next-Door, while Tysha was genuine). Here lies in my opinion the heart of Tyrion’s tragedy, because despite his cynism, what he really wants with Shae is on a subconscious level to turn back time.
    Love your comments in the “Book vs. Show”-Section. Yeah, the problem is not that the writers of the show have been making changes. They already began to alter the storyline from the books in Season 1, and I loved that season. The problem is, that somewhere during Season 3 the changes started to become less creative and more illogical and clichéd.

    • Laural H says:

      The problem is more that despite the changes, they still try to insert the same plot points that should not result from the changes. One of my bigger peeves is Balon not dying before Stannis…

      But in this case, Steve’s ideas actually almost match one deleted scene – Bronn and Shae discussing how different the nobles are from people who have been working for a living. Not that this single scene would have done the job, but it was better than nothing at all.

  10. Tywin of the Hill says:

    We need a translator for the Shakespeare texts.

    • Well, the soldier basically says: “Hey man, I sure hope the King has a good reason to send us into the war. Because, if he’s sending us to die for a shitty reason, then he’s guilty when a bunch of us dies horribly or gets maimed for nothing.” And disguised Henry says: “So, you’re saying that the King is guilty when the soldiers he sent to war are doing bad things in war on their own, or when they have bad luck and die by accident? He’s not!” Oddly enough, the soldier doesn’t reply: “Dude, what are you on about? That’s not what I was talking about, at all!”

      • Tywin of the Hill says:


      • Andrew says:

        Shakespeare could be passing the Kool Aid, or he could be making a stealth criticism of the Divine Right of Kings; it’s quite common for political criticism of the time to use satire and stealthed language, for obvious reasons of self preservation. Writers in general seemed to make it a habit to be cagey about their intentions…

        Thomas More, for instance, wrote a whole book, Utopia, basically putting forward an alternative to the current way things were. Ironically the name itself meant “no-place” so the whole question of whether this was an actual ideal or a satire or something else is an open question. Didn’t stop Henry from chopping off his head, though that was for being a Catholic when he was in an Anglican mood.

  11. Tywin of the Hill says:

    Regarding the nose, I think the missing nose would distract viewers from Peter Dinklage’s acting.

  12. vandalcabbage says:

    It’s interesting to imagine what would have happened if Tyrion had been able to properly get rewarded for his actions on the Blackwater. With Cersei on the outs instead of Tyrion, he might actually start getting some respect from his father (or at least not the outright dismissal he gets), which in turn means Cersei might not get free reign to bring all the witnesses in after the Purple Wedding, and might not get imprisoned. In any case, Tywin dies, but I believe from Oberyn poisoning him – Varys only directly acted with Kevan and Pycelle because he could blame it on Tyrion.

  13. Winnief says:

    Totally OT, but if anyone has yet to check out the 2015 BBC adaption of “And Then There Were None,” starring Charles Dance (who is of course fantastic,) I highly recommend you do so. IN fact my review will be up at Woman Around Town in the next couple days and it seems like something that would be up Steve’s alley as well without its historical setting on the cusp of WWII and themes on class, colonialism, and etc. Plus it’s just so damn *good*.

  14. […] It’s an interesting choice of final chapters – George R.R Martin chose to end not with Tyrion’s downfall (which would have privileged the King’s Landing/Battle of Blackwater arc) or with Dany (as […]

  15. […] little evidence there might be for Cersei’s immediate murderous intent, Tyrion is more convinced than ever that Cersei is behind Ser Mandon Moore’s attempt on his […]

  16. […] first post-Blackwater encounter with Varys, the arch-spymaster who dropped him like a hot rock when Tyrion fell from power. The opening words of the chapter establishes the dynamics of their relationship […]

  17. […] a shock after his wounding, but a lot of the mental transformation takes place between the end of ACOK and the beginning of ASOS and will be overshadowed by the one he’ll undergo between the end of […]

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