Daughter of Death: A Song of Ice and Fire’s Shakespearean Tragic Hero



Lear. Hamlet. Othello…

And Daenerys.

GRRM draws explicit connections between these three timeless tragedies and Daenerys Targaryen, lighting the path for us to understand the trajectory of her story.

And when the bleak dawn broke over an empty horizon, Dany knew that he was truly lost to her. “When the sun rises in the west and sets in the east,” she said sadly. “When the seas go dry and mountains blow in the wind like leaves. When my womb quickens again, and I bear a living child. Then you will return, my sun-and-stars, and not before.”

Never, the darkness cried, never never never.

Inside the tent Dany found a cushion, soft silk stuffed with feathers. She clutched it to her breasts as she walked back out to Drogo, to her sun-and-stars. If I look back I am lost. It hurt even to walk, and she wanted to sleep, to…

View original post 17,178 more words

You Are Not Stones But Men: Ned Stark and Shakespeare’s Brutus

One can almost see the sombre face of Eddard Stark looming up behind these lines:


For let the gods so speed me as I love

The name of honour more than I fear death.

 – Julius Caesar, II.ii

Hailed as Shakespeare’s great political tragedy, Julius Caesar presents the delicate balance between the private and public self; a central conflict for both Ned and Brutus. The parallel is likely intentional, especially considering that George R. R. Martin has named Julius Caesar as one of his two favorite Shakespeare plays. Throughout A Song of Ice and Fire, the conflict of private self vs. public self persists as a vibrant theme–a duality of opposing concepts, much like ice and fire. It is also congruent with Martin’s ultimate conflict; the heart at war with itself.

By examining Ned’s orientation as a Brutus figure, we can identify how Martin incorporates thematic elements of Julius Caesar early on in his series.  We will also take a look at common symbols and motifs which solidify the parallel between Shakespeare’s play and A Game of Thrones.  Finally, we will review how Martin continues to build on this fundamentally Shakespearean conflict with other characters and plot-lines throughout his series.

Before delving into thematic analysis, let us first review the basic plot of Julius Caesar.

H. C. Selous (Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive)

There is growing concern amongst the Roman senate that Julius Caesar is becoming too powerful and a threat to the Roman republic. The senator Brutus is approached by another senator, Cassius, who has hatched a conspiracy to murder Caesar.  Caesar is Brutus’ friend, but Brutus fears that Cassius is right; Caesar might abuse his growing power to the detriment of the Roman state. After much internal philosophical debate and many ominous portents–thunderstorms, nightmares, comets, prophecies–Brutus decides to carry through with the plot for the greater public good. Caesar is stabbed to death on the Ides of March. Marc Antony finds Caesar dead and is appalled by this unconscionable act.  He employs the power of rhetoric, presenting Caesar’s will to sway public opinion. The Roman state tailspins into war and chaos in the power vacuum that follows. When Brutus loses a key battle and doom appears imminent, he commits suicide by impaling himself on his sword. Marc Antony finds his body and determines that Brutus was truly the most honorable of Romans.

At first, the likeness between Ned and Brutus might be difficult to see.  But taking a step back, the similarities in character structure sharpen into focus. Both Ned and Brutus dedicate themselves to the public sphere but are ultimately rejected by it. Both are reputed as the most honorable of men. Both are tragic heroes, their best intentions eclipsed by fatal flaws and the machine of politics. Even their differences are reflective of each other; Brutus carries out a murder conspiracy, and Ned seeks to solve one. Brutus is governed by his sense of public duty while Ned is ultimately governed by his personal loyalties.

Ned and Brutus are also positioned similarly in relation to a key figure in their stories; they are each the trusted friend and advisor of a great ruler, whose changing nature they begin to question:

“When I know the truth, I must go to Robert.” And pray that he is the man I think he is, he finished silently, and not the man I fear he has become.

– Eddard IV, A Game of Thrones


“[Caesar] would be crown’d:

How that might change his nature, there’s the question.”

 – Julius Caesar, II.i

Ultimately, it is their individual ideologies that lead them down very different paths. Brutus puts aside his friendship with Caesar and murders him, thinking that it is for the public good. Ned seeks to save Robert’s soul by urging him to act honorably and save the lives of children–specifically when he implores Robert not to kill Daenerys:

“Daenerys is a fourteen-year-old girl.” Ned knew he was pushing this well past the point of wisdom, yet he could not keep silent. “Robert, I ask you, what did we rise against Aerys Targaryen for, if not to put an end to the murder of children?”

– Eddard VIII, A Game of Thrones

Even though Ned’s ethics may be noble to the modern reader, it is nevertheless dangerous for him as he imposes his private values on the public sector. Ned is also consumed by personal matters and the trauma of his past–a side we don’t see as much in the show, but in the books we are witness to Ned’s nightmares and haunting memories from Robert’s Rebellion. On a subtextual level, it’s the weight of these private matters that prevent Ned from tending to the public dimension of his job.  

Brutus also imposes his private values on the public sector with dire consequences. Through his actions he endorses a policy that any act, no matter how bloody, is permissible if it is for the “general good.” (This is also reminiscent of Stannis, a thought which we’ll return to.) 

Despite these thematic parallels, one might still be skeptical of a Ned-Brutus character alignment due to broad differences in the narrative. After all, it’s difficult to divorce Brutus’ character from the act of murdering Caesar; even with the inverse parallel of Ned trying to save Robert’s soul, is it too much of a cognitive stretch to imagine any character as a Brutus analogue if they do not commit murder?

It almost seems that Martin himself felt the need to narratively address that cognitive dissonance. In Eddard’s last chapter, in the Black Cells, Varys suggests that Ned did kill Robert:

“It was not wine that killed the king. It was your mercy.
Ned had feared as much. “Gods forgive me.”

Eddard XV, A Game of Thrones

Only the dramaturgical, once-mummer Varys could deliver such a striking and theatrical line. The assumption of this murder by “mercy” statement is that Ned sacrificed Robert’s life by telling Cersei he knew the truth about Joffrey’s parentage, even though he was trying to be merciful to Cersei’s children. Therefore, Ned left Robert vulnerable, in effect “killing” him. Although it is murder in the abstract and clearly unmeditated, it nevertheless satisfies the Julius Caesar narrative parallel; both Ned and Brutus kill their friend and public leader due to through strict adherence to personal ethics.

Of course, the failure of Ned and Brutus to balance public and personal matters not only results in the death of a friend and public figure, but in an even more personal death–their own.

PicMonkey Collage-3
HBO (right)


Another commonality between Shakespeare and Martin is their love of poetic justice, which is the concept that characters are punished by the same injustice that they themselves have wielded. Our two tragic heroes of interest are no exception. In Act III, Brutus swears that he will kill himself on the same dagger with which he killed Caesar if it is for the benefit of Rome. In Act V, he does exactly that–and remarks that his intentions are twice as pure as they were when he killed Caesar.  

In both symbolic and literal fashion, Ned “falls” on his sword, Ice, once brandished in the deaths of others. In the beginning of the story, Ned executes a man of the Night’s Watch who has abandoned his public duty. At the end, Ned is beheaded for failing in his own public duty–with his own sword. Arguably, Ned couldn’t carry out his public office due to his own private trauma; the same might be said for the man who deserted the Night’s Watch after the horrors he witnessed beyond the Wall. Ned also dies because he yields his honor and honesty; it could be seen as a symbolic suicide, the death of his own integrity when he pronounces Joffrey the rightful heir and king. It is almost all too bitter, until one considers Ned’s fate in the context of the beheading of another innocent: Lady.  


In the direwolf incident at the Trident, Ned does what the King says. He chooses public duty over private loyalties, overruling Sansa’s pleas and killing her innocent direwolf to satisfy the queen.  Later on, when Ned is in the Black Cells, he tells Varys that he will not tell the queen what she wants to hear. But then Varys reminds him of Sansa:

“Surely you did not think I’d forgotten about your sweet innocent, my lord? The queen most certainly has not.”

“No,” Ned pleaded, his voice cracking. “Varys, gods have mercy, do as you like with me, but leave my daughter out of your schemes. Sansa’s no more than a child.”

– Eddard XV, A Game of Thrones

On his death day, when Ned “forsakes” his integrity and lies about Joffrey’s legitimacy, he is lying to protect Sansa. It can be seen as symbolic penance for once forsaking her and killing Lady. After all the turmoil of his time at King’s landing, Ned Stark chooses private loyalty over public duty to save his child–as he once did in saving Jon Snow.  And so his story comes to a close.


Martin alludes to Shakespeare not just by use of thematic and plot material, but also by heavy borrowing of symbols and motifs. This is how an author solidifies a literary parallel; by making connections on multiple analytical planes. To gain further insight into the parallels between A Game of Thrones and Julius Caesar, let’s take a closer look at some of their shared symbols and motifs.



Many written documents pass between hands in Julius Caesar and in Ned’s story. Like spoken rhetoric, the written word is powerful in politics; but it is more personal, wielding especially great power over the addressee.

Towards the beginning of each of these stories, an ominous letter serves as a call to action. Ned is in his bedchamber with Catelyn when Lysa’s letter arrives, accusing the Lannisters of murdering Jon Arryn. Ned might have been unsure whether to accept the handship before the letter came, but now he knows that he must.

In Julius Caesar, Brutus paces his garden, trying to decide whether to kill Caesar.  Then, a letter arrives–it reprimands him for sleeping on the job while Rome is at stake. The audience knows the letter was forged by Cassius, but Brutus does not know this. He takes the letter to heart, and it strengthens his resolve to act.

In addition, the written wills of Julius Caesar and Robert Baratheon both factor prominently into narrative turning points. It is often argued that if Ned had taken more public action with Robert’s will, he might have saved his own life. In fact, this is exactly what Marc Antony does with Caesar’s will and succeeds in swaying the public opinion.

H. C. Selous (Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive)

Unlike Ned and Brutus, Antony is a chameleon and master of rhetoric, able to finesse public opinion and quickly adapt to an ever-changing political climate. In terms of these qualities, Antony occupies the same juxtapositional character space as Tyrion, who proves a more successful Hand of the King than Ned. However, when we think about the big things that happen to Antony in the play, it’s interesting how similar he is to Ned. Like Ned, Antony finds the great leader dead and has to deal with the aftermath, conspirators all around. And, like Ned, Antony is entrusted with the will of his dead leader. Unfortunately, Ned fails as Antony due to his mishandling of Robert’s will and his absence of rhetoric.


Martin and Shakespeare take care to note when their characters are in a state of undress, often for thematic purpose.

Lewis Waller and Evelyn Millard as Brutus and Portia

For Ned and characters in Julius Caesar, these are almost always scenes which concern both personal matters and imminent danger:

[Thunder and lightning. Enter CAESAR, in his night-gown]


Nor heaven nor earth have been at peace to-night:

Thrice hath Calpurnia in her sleep cried out,

‘Help, ho! they murder Caesar!’ Who’s within?

 – Julius Caesar, II.ii

In this quote, Caesar tells how he has been awakened from sleep by his wife, screaming after a nightmare she had that he was murdered. Shakespeare does not have to include the stage direction of Caesar being in his nightgown, but he does so because it is important–he wants to illustrate the intrusion of the public sphere on the private sphere.

We see a similar intrusion in the two chapters where Ned is described in a state of undress. In Catelyn II, Ned stands naked before a window in their Winterfell bedchamber. Catelyn notes that he looks “small and vulnerable.” Then comes Lysa’s ominous letter. Later on, in Eddard XIII, Ned is “naked and stumbling” when he responds to a knock at his door. It is the summons to Robert Baratheon’s deathbed.

State of undress is a reminder of domestic privacy, a more personal life which the public arena should not reach. And yet it does; ominous portents and events bridge the gap until public and private life bleed into one other.


Speaking of ominous portents, this is another element that George R. R. Martin famously loves to import from classic literature. In fact, Martin has even revealed that the comet which makes its first appearance in A Game of Thrones was inspired by the herald comet in Julius Caesar (SSM).

Aside from the comet, Ned’s dream about Lyanna’s statue weeping blood is perhaps the most striking symbolic allusion to Julius Caesar:

“Promise me, Ned,” Lyanna’s statue whispered. She wore a garland of pale blue roses, and her eyes wept blood.

– Eddard XIII, A Game of Thrones


Ned has the dream the night before Robert dies. Interestingly, there’s also mention of a nightmare of a bleeding statue the night before Caesar dies:


“Calpurnia here, my wife, stays me at home:

She dreamt to-night she saw my statua,

Which, like a fountain with an hundred spouts,

Did run pure blood:”

– Julius Caesar, II.ii

But beyond the similarity of these portentous nightmares, statues by themselves are deeply important to the Starks of Winterfell and to the ancient Roman world. In ancient Rome, statues celebrate a man’s public persona. They are typically sculpted during his life and displayed outdoors for all to admire. In the Winterfell crypts, the statues are buried deep below the ground. They are private, constructed upon death, consulted in contemplation.

Taking this difference into account, perhaps these dreams of bleeding statues also indicate a subtle thematic inversion–the death of one’s public self is the nightmare in Julius Caesar, but in A Game of Thrones the nightmare is the bleeding out of the private self.  


Expressions of love and friendship appear frequently in Julius Caesar and Ned’s arc.


In both stories there’s a nostalgia for early days of friendship, yet the memory is at an emotional distance due to context. Characters in Julius Caesar fondly remember how they went to school together; Ned and Robert reminisce on their times as wards at the Eyrie, and fighting together in the Rebellion.

The word “love” is used in reference to true heartfelt feelings of friendship. It is also used in rhetoric, to leverage personal relationships for political gain:


If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of

Caesar’s, to him I say, that Brutus’ love to Caesar

was no less than his. If then that friend demand

why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer:

—Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved 

Rome more.

 – Julius Caesar, III.ii

Here we see Brutus appealing to the public and trying to sway their opinion, telling them how his love of Rome exceeded his love for Caesar and that was why he killed Caesar.  In A Game of Thrones, Ned also uses “love” in his public appeal to Robert after the direwolf incident at the Trident:

All Ned could do was take her in his arms and hold her while she wept. He looked across the room at Robert. His old friend, closer than any brother. “Please, Robert. For the love you bear me. For the love you bore my sister. Please.”

– Eddard III, A Game of Thrones

As readers, we understand that these are true heartfelt expressions–not shallow, courtly niceties. For Ned and Brutus, the use of “love” in rhetoric represents a dangerous cross-contamination of the private and public realm.


The conflicting interests of public vs. private self should ring familiar in the greater context of A Song of Ice and Fire. Jaime Lannister, Jon Snow, and Stannis Baratheon orbit this theme on different planes, each burdened with their own sense of honor.    

PicMonkey Collage-2

Jaime killed Aerys II in an act which saves the public from wildfire; however, he henceforth lives with a “shit for honor” reputation and privately suffers, trying to reckon the meaning of true honor. But, in Jaime’s story, that meaning of true honor feels subservient to the theme of loyalty. Brutus spends a mere scene determining his loyalties; Ned wavers once or twice, but ultimately chooses loyalty to his family. Jaime’s arc is an entire fantasia on all the oaths he has sworn, kept and broken. And yet he delays with his determination of loyalty–five books into the series, and readers are still waiting for Jaime to choose a side. In this manner, Jaime has very strong overtones of Hamlet, Shakespeare’s prince of procrastination. However, his fundamental inner conflict seems to be a variant of Brutus’s inner conflict–one that is more consciously focused on private matters to inform his public self.

Jon possesses perhaps the most directly allusive scene to Julius Caesar and Shakespeare in the entire series. In a callback to Caesar’s assassination scene, Jon is mass-stabbed by conspiring members of the Night’s Watch. Like the Roman senators, the Night’s Watch seek to execute their leader who seems too guided by his private principles (fighting for Winterfell) rather than his public duty (impartiality). In this way, Jon is positioned as Caesar, but with Brutus’ conflicts and the moral compass of Ned Stark. One could even say that the conflict is passed down from Ned as the family legacy.  

And, of course, there is Stannis Baratheon. Stannis more clearly aligns with Brutus’ character values than any other character in the ASOIAF series; he prioritizes the public good over private concerns. His willingness to burn children, including his own, is testament to that. It bears mentioning that in my essay Macbeth Revisited: Stannis Baratheon, I argue that Stannis is positioned as Macbeth with a twist: Stannis pursues the crown and commits atrocious deeds because he believes it is his public duty, not because it is his personal ambition. This claim is congruent with thoughts about shared qualities between Brutus and Stannis–especially considering how the Brutus’ inner conflict seems to inform Macbeth’s. As Ornstein alludes in his essay “Can we define the nature of the Shakespearean Tragedy?” no other tragic hero in Shakespeare endures the moral torment shared by Macbeth and Brutus (Ornstein 1985).  


An acknowledgement: so far, we have only discussed the private vs. public self conflicts as they relate to male characters. This is not to say that these themes cannot apply to female characters, because of course they can and they do. However, the reader experiences such conflicts as they are steeped through the setting of a highly patriarchal society, where a man’s political and social identity is defined by his public service, and a woman’s political and social identity is usually defined by the public service of her male relations. Both Shakespeare and Martin are hyper-aware of this and challenge the notion that women’s public service roles are merely auxiliary.

H. C. Selous (Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive)

To maintain the classical stoic tone of the Roman period, Shakespeare must challenge this idea largely through thematic material.  In Julius Caesar, Portia and Calpurnia appeal to their husbands, Brutus and Caesar, with their womanly instinct that they know something bad is afoot. Brutus’ and Caesar’s rejection of their wives’ concerns is a symbolic rejection of their private self, and a rejection which ultimately leads to the crumbling of their public selfhood.

In A Song of Ice and Fire, women like Daenerys, Catelyn, Cersei, Sansa, and Arianne are actively playing the game, telling their own stories, and revealing to the reader their struggles with private desires and public duty. Perhaps what bars us from thinking of these woman as analogues for male characters in Julius Caesar is the highly masculine nature of the play as it is associated with the rejection of women and emotions–which Shakespeare criticizes.


If Shakespeare’s message is that it is unwise to elevate public duty over private loyalties, Martin counters that message in A Game of Thrones by showing us that there is equally great danger when the duties of office aren’t tended to as well as personal loyalties. Therefore, the common fatal flaw that Ned and Brutus share is twofold:

  1.  Failure to balance private values and public duty
  2.  Misjudgment in translating their personal ideology into public policy and with little regard to the political consequences

From a meta-analysis point of view, perhaps Ned’s greatest legacy of all in A Song of Ice and Fire is this rich conflict of public and private self. It’s a thematic foundation which takes root and grows, branching out through the series and testing its characters and readers on the meaning of honor, loyalty, and mercy.

Literature will never solve the perennial problems of politics–Shakespeare and Martin both know this. However, what it can do is nourish our thinking about the human condition in a political context. In the words of Marc Antony, “You are not wood, you are not stones, but men.”


Con of Thrones 2018: Shakespeare and Psychedelia Influences in Game of Thrones

I Can't Possibly Be Wrong All the Time

Just over a month ago (at the time of this post’s creation) Con of Thrones 2018 was in full swing in Dallas, Texas.

In the past weeks I’ve shared a links to audio from panels that I was fortunate to be a presenter on, but I wanted to highlight a few of my favorite panels that I experienced as a member of the audience.

Two in particular are of note since they were the first two panels I saw at Con of Thrones and shared the similar theme of exploring the influences of other bodies of work on George RR Martin and his epic series A Song of Ice and Fire.

View original post 1,182 more words


Hello, and welcome!  On this site you will find comparative literary analysis of Shakespeare’s works and A Song of Ice and Fire, as well as original Shakespearean verse inspired by the HBO television adaptation Game of Thrones.  

William Shakespeare may have lived over 400 years ago, but make no mistake–he is the great-granddaddy of modern Western literature, with a legacy that is pervasive and enduring.  George R. R. Martin counts himself as a huge fan of the Bard, so it makes sense when we find tons of character and plot parallels between ASOIAF and Shakespeare’s works, as well as common thematic motifs.  In the essay section of this blog, we’ll break down those parallels in depth and discuss not only why George utilizes them where he does, but also how he tweaks them to ask new and provoking questions about some of the oldest narratives in our literary subconscious.  The verse section of this blog is dedicated to imagining how some of the more well-known scenes and monologues from Game of Thrones would read if they were scripted in Shakespearean verse–including iambic pentameter and rhyming couplets.

This blog is a labor of love and intended for anyone who enjoys A Song of Ice and Fire or Game of Thrones or Shakespeare (though an interest in at least one of the first two is highly recommended!).  The first essay which explores Stannis Baratheon’s connection with Macbeth will be up tomorrow.  In the meantime, feel free to give me a shout in the comments section below or on Twitter!

Jaime & Brienne

I admit, I went a little bit crazy writing verse for Jaime & Brienne.  They often remind me of my favorite Shakespeare couple Beatrice & Benedick. I have rescripted so many of their scenes together that I don’t have enough pictures to represent them all.  So, here is one scene with pictures–the rest are in text (and in narrative order).








Hold, enough! Another step I cannot take.


Shut thy abhorred mouth, and quick’n thy pace!


No further, good wench–my soles and soul do beg thee!


I care not for thy feet, nor thy honorless soul.


Nay? A wicked wench thou art, without a heart!

Do I not cry, honorless though I be?

Hast thou no regard for the likes of me?


And hast thou no regard for thine own good?

A bridge is not so safe as shaded wood;

We are but mice afield a grassless ground

Whilst hungry prey do circle all around.


[takes her sword]

The wench without regard hath lost her guard!

Now–mouse or prey, show me what thou art.


Lay thy sword upon the ground, Kingslayer.


To what end, pray?


Else thy life’s end, upon my blade.


Such wild, lusty boasts from but a maid!

Thou art the weaker sex; thou hast no blade.

Well, then—shall I thee teach thy first true dance?

Come spill thy blood upon my sword—advance!

[They fight]


Thou art good—green and lacking grace, but good.


I would not hurt thee, Kingslayer.


Thou coudst not hurt me if thou tried to do so.


Try me not!


Try thee? I would not try thee for all th’world.

Thou art too large and lumb’ring for my needs.


I would have thee show’t, if thou art man indeed.

[they fight, until Brienne is straddling Jaime in the river]


Gods, wench! This is a posture too advanc’d

For maids of Tarth just learning how to dance!


Yield, Kingslayer, yield! Or I shall thee drown!


But nay–thine oaths are hard and thick as lead,

Much like thy undesir’d maidenhead.

[enter the BRAVE COMPANIONS, laughing. Jaime and Brienne rise.]

JAIME [aside]

The blush upon her cheek doth give me right

T’imagine her in heat of love’s sweet fight.

And what a fight it was, I do concede.

The wench is strong; from several wounds I bleed.

But what uncomely strangers now are these?

I trust them not, and feel much worse at ease.

The path ahead winds long, now more than ever

The wench and I must hold together.




Behold thou moon, thou crescent hung with grace:

Why shine thy stars on my unworthy face?

This night so pure and bright doth honor all;

While I, the darkling knight, to dust must fall.

BRIENNE [aside]

Once loath’d I him, now hate and scorn do pause

To tend this wounded lion with no claws.

Was all to save mine honor? – nay, false thought;

And yet he changeth; I swear’t, on my heart.

[to JAIME]

How now, Ser Jaime? what dost thou yet?

JAIME [aside]

My rev’rie breaks, methinks me hears a noise;

Is’t brought by fev’rish pain and dreams, her voice?

But lo, ‘tis soft–like gentle waves ashore.


What doth I, wench?  I die, I sleep—no more.


Nay, Ser Jaime! that will never do.


It is the nobler thing to suffer death;

It pleases me besides.  Waste not your breath.


So craven art thou, ha? weakling scared and soft?


Many things hath I been named; craven, not!

What wouldst thou have me do, thou stubborn wench?


I would have thee live—fight, and seek revenge.

Thou knowest pain and loss from this great fall;

So fuel thy passion, prove thy name withal!

JAIME [aside]

Gods all be curs’d, she’ll never let me be;

To live in peace, or t’die peacefully,

But fie, this night she speaks an honest truth,

This knight so pure and true—I’ll live, forsooth.




Such glimm’ring steel is ne’er inferior;

This blade must be of old Valyria.


Thou speakest true; and now ‘tis thine to wield;

To thy firm hand this precious sword I yield. 


Nay, such a treasur’d prize I cannot take!


Thou must, an honest man of me to make.

An oath we swore to Cat’lyn both–but hark:

Thy duty now’s to find the daughters Stark.

Arya may lie dead, gods know the answer,

But take thou Eddard’s steel–rescue Sansa.

I’ve something else for thee beneath these throws,

[unveils armor]

I pray the fit I’ve measured well and close.


My words have all run dry, these gifts to see.

I shall find her. For Cat’lyn. And for thee.

[aside] Shut your mouth Brienne, words were those enough;

Look away–lest he see ’tis him you love.


The last of things hath nigh escap’ed me;

I have yet one more parting gift for thee.

[enter PODRICK, with BRONN close behind]


A squire need I not! 


Such pride thou needest not.


He’ll only burn the light of day for me.   


Yet safe at King’s Landing he can ne’er be.

I bid thee shield th’boy–lend thy chivalry.


No daylight shall I burn of thine, good Ser–

M’lady–’tis I will serve you well and sure.


See’st thou? A good lad, strong and brave.


‘Tis no glimm’ring sword of Valyrian

But take thee this axe from Lord Tyrion.

What willst thou, boy, slack-jawed and still?  A kiss?

These lovers want as much, ne’er to confess.


The best of swords are styled for luck and fame.

What thinkst thou for a strong and fitting name?


‘Twill be Oathkeeper.  For me, and for you.


I bid thee fond farewell, Brienne.  Adieu.

[exit Brienne]

JAIME [aside]

To watch her go, not knowing if or when

That I shall ever see the wench again

Stirs something in me–what? but quiet, heart–

There’s many a battle yet to be fought.



[enter JAIME led by GUARDS]


So harsh, so fierce! thy scouring’s well enough;

What good is clean should skin be scraped clean off?


What ho! What purpose hast thou here?


A bath, to wash this foul and sullied flesh.

To Bolton’s table I must show afresh;

Invited not my fleas, this Lord of Flay.

[to GUARD] I pray thee, rid me of these rags. Away.



I’ll dare to raise mine eyes, once to glimpse

This naked man through steam and mist

But O! though lively color’s dimm’d, skin sod

He rises half a corpse and half a god.

Will life’s light endure, or will he falter?

But lo, he means t’climb into my water!

[to JAIME]

Dost thou not see the other tub?


This one of thine doth please me well enough.

Tut–anguish not, thou enticeth me not.

But pray, should fever plague me sudden still

And I succumb to water’s hateful will

Be kind, thou wench, withdraw thy tragic foe;

‘Twould ne’er a lion do to perish so.


Wherefore care I, the manner of thy death?


Hast thou forgot thy solemn vow of old?

To King’s Landing must I be ferried whole.

See how thy efforts want! Yea, ‘tis no shock

Thy belov’d Renly perished on thy watch.

BRIENNE [rises]

Hark! naked and unarmored, here I stand;

I dare thee prod me ‘gain, thou bitter man.



O! gods be good, and help avert mine eyes;

Come, think to Cersei, not the wench’s thighs.


I beseech your pardon. ‘Twas base, that boast.

Thou hast me served a better shield than most.


Mock me not-


–‘tis a heart’s apology.

This fight I’ll suffer not—a truce, I beg.


Will she sit? my body betrays me yet.


On trust a truce doth rest—what wouldst thou do?


With all that I have left–I trust thee true.

[Brienne sits]

Look how thine eyes do glimmer discontent;

Yea, shining dark with hatred and contempt.

I know it well, this looking glass of shame;

In every eye I see’t; mine tarnish’d name.

The knight who was hath lost his luster–

I, the Oathbreaker, detested Kingslayer.

But hast thou heard of wildfire, wench?


Yea, as I have heard of evil.


The stuff consumed King Aerys, turn’d him mad

Long ‘ere I drove my sword into his back.

He loved it all; skin melting, blist’ring crisp–

‘Twould bring him mirth, put dancing in his eyes.

And any lord or hand who pleased him not

Would th’mad king burn without a moment’s thought.

While half the country were all protesters

The madness of King Aerys festered.

He thought that traitors swarmed King’s Landing,

So bid his pyromancer plant the seeds

Of fiery war below the city’s slums,

‘Neath the houses, stables, taverns—ye gods:

Even ‘neath the blessed Sept of Baelor.

At long last came the day of reckoning

When Robert marched hence on the capital

Yet mine own father rode afore him to th’gates

The whole of Lann’ster army on his back

And swearing to defend his king ‘gainst harm.

I knew my father better; lions lie

Long ‘ere they rise for losing sides.

Thus spake I, and begg’d the king surrender;

He turned his cheek to me, the spider Varys,

To all but he who whispered honeyed words–

Pycelle, that grey and sunken cunt who said

“Thou canst e’er trust the Lann’sters, goodly king.”

So ope’d we up the gates, and Tywin raged.

Once more bade I the king let go his pride;

Then bade he me mine father’s head to fetch.

He spake into his pyromancer’s ear:

“All shall burn; set aflame their houses, beds.”

So now, thou wench of honor, tell me true

Had thine beloved Renly bade thee thus–

To slay thy father, watch as thousands burned,

Men, women, little babes–wouldst thou have done‘t?

What then of precious oaths, devoutly sworn?

I slew the pyromancer, then the king.

“All shall burn,” quoth he, enraged. “All shall burn.”

Perchance he dreamed he would outlive us all,

Survive the flames, reborn as dragons rise

To smite their foes to ash; I slit his throat

And thereby smote his madness from this world.


If such be true… wherefore wast thou silent?

Reported thou thy tale to Eddard Stark?


What, Stark?  Thinkest thou the honorable Ned

Would lend his ear to me, the Kingslayer?

Pray, by what right shall wolf judge lion, ha?

By what right, I pray–

[he falls into the water]


O! Help! The Kingslayer!


Jaime. Mine name is Jaime.



JAIME [solil.]

Though battle’s won, my swordless heart fights woe;

‘Tis full of words not for this world; but lo!

The river breaks and drifts a lonesome boat!

Tarth’s maid and squire fly by light of moon;

Yea, steal away Brienne–but nay, too soon.

So quick apace my heart doth gallop, she’ll hear;

And yet I’ll have her turn, if no one’s near.


But see–about, m’lady, turn thy head;

Ser Jaime watches from the battlements.

BRIENNE [solil.]

Ye gods! this precious gift is given me,

His fine and honor’d face, once ‘gain to see.

I long for words—what say we from afar,

When even near, heart’s words are distant stars?

Our speech is dulled by tangled oaths betwixt,

But soft–his golden hand to me he lifts!

JAIME [solil.]

This night is dark, but full of treasure trove;

She lifts her hand, returns my gesture, O!

My heart, my sword–words these breathe enough:

If ne’er before I knew: ‘tis thee I love.

BRIENNE [solil.]

Dare I believe that love doth swell this night?

Is all that I have longed for in this knight?

I’ll north to ice, but in my heart burns fire,

To save this parting glance of deep desire.



Prithee now Ser Jaime –


‘Twas well to gaze upon thee, wench, but woe;

When next we meet, I fear ‘twill be as foes.



Avaunt, this hollow guise of disregard–

Such noise, when bittered tongue betrays the heart!

[to JAIME]

Thine eye and mine both fell upon the sight;

A thing of death and darkness, monster-like!


Such things the more of which I’m loathe to see


And yet, would take arms ‘gainst them all with thee.


Alas, my loyal sword’s sworn to my queen—not thine,

Whose doltish brother ne’er hast learnt to lie.


O fie on loyalty–fie!


Fie on loyalty? How now, what meanest thou?


Houses, honor, oaths—nothing shall they mean

When life’s own flame burns out. Persuade thy queen.


What wouldst thou have me say, ha?

What wouldst thou have me do?

[exit JAIME]



I would thou couldst but be the man thou art;

The one who lives inside thy golden heart.