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The double tragedies of houses Stark and Lannister

A few days ago I wrote that I noticed how the stories of House Stark and of House Lannister are both tragedies, the former being a Greek tragedy and the latter being Shakespearean.

I noticed this while reading Arya’s sample chapter from TWOW, titled “Mercy”, in which we observe a Braavosi play called “The Bloody Hand”, presented before the visiting Master-of-Coin Lord Swyft, telling the highly-twisted story of Tyrion as Hand of the King to please the Westerosi emissary. IIRC, one of the opening scenes of the play is the Tyrion character making a big speech about how the world wronged him, and how he intends to strike revenge against those who caused it. And it reminded me a lot of the opening speech in Richard III, or of several scenes in Coriolanus. And I realized that this isn’t just because both Richard III and the Bloody Hand are intended as propaganda, or that ASOIAF is also based on the Wars of the Roses, there actually is a point to be made about the story of the entire house Lannister resembling a Shakespearean tragedy.

Well before that, I also noticed that Robb Stark’s story is one of a tragedy. He’s not a POV character, so it’s perhaps a little hard to notice that, but the structure of his tale, and the main themes addressed, are very much a Greek tragedy in nature: a Hero rises, through his virtue, into a position of greatness, but his hubris - born from his virtue - also leads to his bloody end. The only missing element was that of Catharsis, the cleansing at the end of the tragedy, when things are restored to their rightful place and virtue is restored. But with the Lannister tragedy in mind, the picture is complete, because the tragedy isn’t just Robb’s, but all of House Stark’s, and catharsis is still yet to come.

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