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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

GRRM and Shakespeare, Part 2: An Ungrateful Public

I was going for family problems, but considering the timing of episode 406 of the TV series, I thought I'd throw this one in.

Late in A Storm of Swords, Tyrion Lannister went on trial for the murder of King Joffrey, his nephew, which is indisputably inspired by the homicidal Richard III in Shakespeare's eponymous play. During the trial, Tyrion declared bitterly to the ungrateful people of King's Landing that he wished he had let their enemy sacked the city, rather than risking his neck to save it, only to be publicly humiliated and condemned for a crime he had not commit.

Subsequently, Tyrion fled King's Landing and sought to join his family's enemy, Queen Daenerys Targaryen, in the east. The last we heard (in leaked chapters from Book 6, The Winds of Winter), he at least made it into the Second Sons mercenary army who apparently were loyal to Daenerys.

An immediate comparison can be made to Coriolanus. In that play, Roman General Caius Marcius Coriolanus defeated Rome's enemy with unspeakable bravery and brutality. Upon his return, the people of Rome first embraced him as a hero, but then quickly turned on him in his political campaign to win a seat in the senate. Already of misanthropic tendencies, Coriolanus raged against the ungrateful Romans. He was banished from Rome and found refuge among his former enemies. He led them to attack Rome. The desperate Roman leadership came to regret their treatment of Coriolanus and sent his mother and wife to beg him for peace. Coriolanus was persuaded by his mother and forced his former enemy/now ally to abandon their plans to conquer Rome. Rome was saved. Coriolanus was killed for his betrayal.

Obviously, Tyrion Lannister and Coriolanus are the opposite in physical stature, strength, and warrior quality. Nevertheless both saved their cities heroically and were banished by the people they had saved. Both were embittered by this betrayal and returned the favor with their own betrayal. There are so many rounds of betrayal I can hardly keep track.

A similar theme is conveyed in Timon of Athens, which I have not seen or read beyond a synopsis. The misanthropic bitterness over people's ingratitude is the same.

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