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Shakespeare and Game Of Thrones – Cymbeline and A Song of Ice and FireShakespeare and Game Of Thrones – Cymbeline and A Song of Ice and Fire

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In an online forum a member going by the nickname ‘AlbertTheSamurai’ asks the online community if they agree that “Game of Thrones is greatly inspired by Shakespeare”. He wonders

whether George R. R. Martin coincedentally made many of his characters like those found in Shakespeare plays (especially the Othello, Macbeth and Hamlet plays) or whether he specifically drew inspiration from these plays and decided that throwing them all together would make a kick-ass fantasy. […] Is Game of Thrones perhaps one of the best creations inspired by Shakespeare’s huge and completely crazy cast of characters to ever be created, or are these connections merely coincedental, nothing more than proff that no new story is completely original anymore, but just an interesting remix of existing conventions?


‘AlbertTheSamurai’ is not the only one trying to find connections between Shakespeare’s works and the famous book series A Song of Ice and Fire (aka Game of Thrones) by George R. R. Martin. On the website of publisher “Barnes & Noble”, blogger Kelly Anderson confronts some characters from A Song of Ice and Fire with their Shakespearean counterparts to see who would win a fight.

There once was a website called “History behind Game of Thrones”, on which the historical background of certain events and characters of the series were highlighted. Since Shakespeare had been highly influenced by history, he and his works and their influence on Martin were also a side-aspect in some articles. It seems that there are a lot of scholars (and non-scholars) wondering if Martin has been influenced by Shakespeare or has even based some of his characters or plot lines on Shakespeare’s works. Especially Macbeth appears quite often in these comparisons, though Othello, Hamlet and King Lear are also mentioned from time to time. However, something that rarely comes up are the so-called ‘romances’, the plays (presumably) from Shakespeare’s last period. On first glance this might not seem odd, since the romances themselves are quite difficult to categorize in Shakespeare’s body of work. But when one looks at them, some similarities to the fantasy genre spring to the eye. There are wicked kings and queens, magic, apparitions of gods and fairy-tale-like figures, battles, fights, and much more that nowadays seems to be stereotypical of fantasy fiction. Since A Song of Ice and Fire uses many of these stereotypes, the series can be seen as prototypical for the high fantasy genre. As for the romances it is more difficult to pick out one certain play that represents them, but Cymbeline (called by some a “medley” of Shakespeare plays)includes at least all of the features that are attributed to the romances.

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Mapping William Shakespare’s romances

The ‘romances’ is a name “given to the plays of Shakespeare’s final period”, consisting of “Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, The Tempest and perhaps The Two Noble Kinsmen” (Halliday 1964: 419). It is hard to define them in comparison to the history plays, the comedies and the tragedies. Still, “they have certain common characteristics”, as “they are tragic-comedies”, have “a few comic figures” and “the only memorable characters are the heroines” (ibid).

Alison Thorne (2003: 1) sees a connection between the mentioned plays

owing to their mutual reliance on a set of readily identifiable thematic motifs and structural devices: the loss and recovery of royal children; flawed rulers, who, after enduring many years of hardship, find redemption through the restitution of their families; miraculous twists of fate, reunions and resurrections of characters presumed dead engineered by some divine agency, providential force or mage-like figure.


She adds that “on the other hand, the action of these same plays is replete with incidents so bizarre, fantastical and uncanny as to evade rational exegesis.”

The play Cymbeline was most likely written in 1609-10 (cf. Nosworthy 2004: xv) and it was definitely performed in 1611 at the Globe Theatre. As for sources, Shakespeare used Holinshed’s Chronicles, a history chronicle including the reign of Cymbeline, described here as a British king in 33 B.C, who was brought up in Rome and was absolved, by Augustus Caesar, of obligation to pay tribute. In their Annals of English Drama Harbage & Wagonheim define Cymbeline as a “Tragicomedy” (1989: 101). Alison Thorne (2003: 2) describes Cymbeline as “a play with no recognisable tragic protagonists, and deaths that are represented in a comically grotesque vein.”

The story of Cymbeline is hard to tell in a few sentences. Cymbeline himself is King of Britain, his daughter Imogen has secretly married Posthumus. Cymbeline’s wife wishes her son, Cloten, to marry Imogen, but finds out about the secret marriage. Posthumus is banished and flees to Rome, where he meets Iachimo, who bets that he can seduce Imogen. He travels to Britain, gains access to Imogen’s bedroom while she is asleep, and steals her bracelet and sees a mole under her breast. Returning to Rome, he uses his knowledge and the bracelet to convince Posthumus of her unchastity, who writes Imogen a letter to meet him at Milford Haven and orders his servant Pisanio to kill her on the way. Pisanio disobeys, persuading Imogen to disguise herself as a man named Fidele, and to join Lucius, a Roman general, who is invading Britain. On her way she meets the banished lord Belarius and her two brothers, the sons of Cymbeline, whom Belarius stole as infants, and whom he has brought up in a mountain cave. Cloten, searching for Imogen, meets them and is killed and beheaded. Meanwhile, Imogen, feeling ill, takes a drug which makes the brothers think she is dead, and she is left beside the headless body of Cloten. When she awakes, she mistakes the headless body for Posthumus. Then, she is found by Lucius, with whom she travels on as a page. In the following battle, the Romans are defeated, mainly due to the courageous action of Belarius and his/Cymbeline’s sons and Posthumus, who has returned from Rome. In the end, all are brought before Cymbeline, and the recognition scene follows and ends the play (cf. Halliday 1964: 125 f.).

Nosworthy (2004: xvi) thinks that “Cymbeline has sufficient points of contact with Anthony and Cleopatra on the one hand, and with Pericles and The Winter’s Tale on the other”, “that all these plays belong to one fairly narrow area of Shakespeare chronology” and admits the so-called romances share “indisputable similarities of style, matter, characterization, and outlook, but like all generalizations, it must not be trusted over far” and that “it serves only to narrow down the range of the inquiry, and does not, in itself, settle individual dating problems.”

One can see that the romances are difficult to narrow down. In the romances, Shakespeare revises “his earlier experiments with generic form […] inasmuch as they appear to recapitulate, subsume and thereby transcend all his previous foray into the comic, tragic and historical modes” (Thorne 2003: 3).

The influence of Cymbeline in A Song of Ice and Fire

A Song of Ice and Fire is an ongoing series of fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin, having been published since 1996 and having been turned into a successful TV series by HBO. Up to now, there are five books of the series: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons[1].

The series is set in the country Westeros and the action starts when the “everlasting winter is beginning to arrive in the Seven Kingdoms after decades of summer.” In the north of Westeros, “beyond the Wall, the Others like feral Wildings and creatures much more bellicose begin to invade the south starting with assaults on the House Stark fiefdom loyal to King Robert Baratheon.” Head of the Stark family is “the King’s Councilor Eddard Stark of Winterfell”, who becomes “Hand of the King” when his predecessor is found “mysteriously dead; leaving a power vacuum for those ambitious enough to make a move.” After a visit of “Robert and his extended family […] to Eddard’s home Winterfell” they all travel to “the capital King’s Landing.” Loyalties are tested as “winter emboldens some to grab power deploying various means from armed combat to magic to assassination.” Another danger comes from “Across the Narrow Sea”, where “Prince Viserys of the once proud House Targaryen, former rulers of Westeros, plans to regain what his family lost by selling his sister Daenerys to Dothraki the barbarian in exchange for his military support” (Klausner 2012).

Over the run of the series, a huge story is told, where the reader has to “follow multiple story lines, each packed with numerous important characters, set in a vast imaginary realm […] being full of sex and violence” (Sloan 2011). The series has received many positive receptions and prices and “has drawn comparisons to J.R.R. Tolkien[’s work], because both are period epics set in imagined lands” with one difference: “Martin has eschewed Tolkien’s good-vs.-evil theme in favor of flawed characters from seven noble families” (Fleming 2007).

One of the main characters in A Song of Ice and Fire is “Queen Cersei Lannister”, later known as “Queen Regent”, who is set “trying to get rid of anyone in her way” (Kennedy 2006). In a comment on Martin’s blog, dealing with a trailer of season 2 of the Game of Thrones TVseries, someone by the nickname ‘Jon Snow’ writes about Cersei that “her ambition reminds me of Lady Macbeth and i have a feeling they will come to a similar end” (2012). As mentioned earlier, on the website of the publisher “Barnes & Noble”, blogger Kelly Anderson confronts some characters from A Song of Ice and Fire with their Shakespearean counterparts to see who would win a fight. She also plays “Cersei vs. Lady Macbeth” and describes them both as “power-craving, strong-minded, scheming women”, who “both want to make it to the top and stay there”, simply because they believe that they “deserve it, by their own effort of will and whatever religious excuse they’ve got going [emphasis in the original]” (2013). The comparison with Lady Macbeth certainly works, but one could easily compare Cersei to Cymbeline’s Queen as well. In fact, the Queen is not that different to Lady Macbeth. Just like her, Cymbeline’s wife is a “wicked queen who induces her husband into war with Rome” (Bate 1996: 40). Still, it should be pointed out – and that is probably due to the romance-factor of the play –, that “the Queen […] is embodiment of malevolence in the person, not of Goneril or Lady Macbeth, but of the fairy-tale witch” (Nosworthy 2004: lii). But let the witches wait for a moment.

Cersei Lannister has a similar attitude to Cymbeline’s Queen. It may be shown most prominently in her saying that “when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground” (Martin 2012b: 488). Just like Cymbeline’s Queen, she knows how to use men, saying “Love is poison. A sweet poison, yes, but it will kill you all the same” (Martin 2011a: 761). After a fight between Ned Stark’s daughter Arya, her direwolf (a sort of wolf in the A Song of Ice and Fire universe) and Cersei’s son Joffrey, she wants Arya to be punished or even to be executed. During a ‘trial’, she shouts at Ned Stark: “How dare you speak to your king in that manner!” Her husband Robert replies “Quiet woman” (Martin 2012b: 155) and when she realizes that she cannot have Arya punished the way she wants, she changes direction and asks “And what about the direwolf?” (Ibid 157), whereupon Robert orders to kill the direwolf. It proofs that Cersei knows how to handle situations – and men. In Cersei’s case this works for Robert as well as it does for her brother Jaime, with whom she has an “incestuous and adulterous relationship” (Ferreday 2015: 28). Another example of her manipulating her husband is revealed by Varys, another manipulative figure at the court, when he explains that “she forbade him to fight, in front of his brother, his knights, and half the court. Tell me truly, do you know any surer way to force King Robert into a melee?” (Martin 2012b: 320). We find that in a similar way in Cymbeline, where the king “is deluded by his wicked queen, who persuades him to seek war with Rome” (Solway 1987: 621).

Once Robert is dead, Cersei puts her son Joffrey on the throne, acting just like Cymbeline’s Queen, who wants her son to be king. Joffrey himself fits into this constellation, too, as he is similar to Cloten. Ruth Nevo gives a good characterization of Cloten: “Cloten is introduced as early as Act I, scene ii in all his gross, rank, brute libidinality. Pretending to machismo, he is derided by his attendant lords with a flattery the irony of which is so palpable that only a Cloten-fool could miss it” (in Thorne 2003: 100). Nosworthy adds that “combined with his folly, there is a proneness to vice, lechery, and violence”, he is portrayed as “a creature half-brute, half-human” (2004: lvi).

Joffrey is described by Jon Snow as “truly a little shit” (Martin 2012b: 74). Robert Baratehon is afraid of “the thought of Joffrey on the throne, with Cersei standing behind him whispering in his ear” (ibid 310). Joffrey is as brutal and macho as Cloten, when he orders Sansa to be beaten (cf. ibid 743) and seems not to realise that people around him make fun of him. And just like Cymbeline’s Queen wastes away due to the disappearance of her son Cloten and later on his death, “Cersei is in mourning for their [Jaime’s and hers] murdered son, the psychopathic King Joffrey”, when “they meet in his funeral chamber”, where Cersei turns to Jaime in her grief, weeping ‘my baby boy…our son’” (Ferreday 2015: 21).

[1] cf. Martin’s website:

When her son Tommen, whom she thinks to be too young and inexperienced, is to become king, she puts herself in the place of ‘Queen Regent’. Her thoughts reveal her way of manipulating and achieving power:

I waited, so can he. I waited half my life. She had played the dutiful daughter, the blushing bride, the pliant wife. She had suffered Robert’s drunken groping, Jaime’s jealousy, Renly’s mockery, Varys with his titters, Stannis endlessly grinding his teeth. She had contended with Jon Arryn, Ned Stark, and her vile, treacherous, murderous dwarf brother, all the while promising herself that one day it would be her turn.

Martin (2011b: 491).

Petyr Baelish, another conniving character in A Song of Ice and Fire, summarizes the character of Cersei very nicely, when he says that

every man’s a piece to start with, and every maid as well. Even some who think they are players. […] Cersei, for one. She thinks herself sly, but in truth she is utterly predictable. Her strength rests on her beauty, birth, and riches. Only the first of those is truly her own, and it will soon desert her. I pity her then. She wants power, but has no notion what to do with it when she gets it.

(Ibid 933).

Baelish has already been compared to another Shakespearean character: Iago from Othello (cf. Anderson 2015). This leads to another comparison: Since Iachimo can be translated as “little Iago”, Baelish and Iachimo seem to be quite similar in character. Iachimo “has been compared to Edmund and Iago”, he “is a vainglorious, self-dramatizing rogue” (Nosworthy 2004: lvii). Baelish is described as “a clever, smiling, genial man, everyone’s friends, always able to find whatever gold the king or his Hand required, and yet of such undistinguished birth” (Martin 2011a: 272) and at the same time as “the second most devious man in the Seven Kingdoms” (Martin 2012b: 636).  For him goes the same as for Iachimo: He “would rather poison Posthumus’ mind than possess Imogen’s body” (Nevo in Thorne 2003: 101).

We even find Imogen in A Song of Ice and Fire. The female characters of Daenerys Targaryen, Sansa Stark and especially Arya Stark represent Imogen. Just like Sansa, Imogen is “hard-pressed” and remains “alone, in virtual imprisonment, in the absence of her lover, beset by the coarse lout she detests as much as she detests his mother” (ibid 103). Sansa is locked “in the tower room at the heart of Maegor’s Holdfast” (Martin 2012b: 741), she once “had loved Prince Joffrey with all her heart, and admired and trusted his mother, the queen. They had repaid that love and trust with her father’s head” (Martin 2011a: 52). Here, the constellation of Cloten-Imogen and Joffrey-Sansa also fits.

But the strongest connection is between Imogen and Arya Stark, Ned Stark’s youngest daughter. After her father’s beheading – something that we also have in Cymbeline, but in a different manner – she roams the country, disguised as “Arry the orphan boy” (Martin 2011a: 30), similar to “Imogen (‘Fidele’).” Both of them represent “a living and brave girl, who does find her family and cause the final peal of truths to ring out” (Daniell in Wells 1986: 118) in their respective stories. The roaming makes Imogen “footsore and weary, she discovers that ‘a man’s life is a tedious one’ (, as she remarks with a wry humour” (Nevo in Thorne 2003: 106). Nevo calls her

a post-tragic heroine, abused, vilified, hunted, and not in possession of crucial knowledge. She may know what she is doing when she defies her tyrant father (‘I beseech you, sir, / Harm not yourself with your vexation, / I am senseless of your wrath’ [I.i.133-5]), but she (like everyone else in Cymbeline, indeed) is at every point unaware of or deceived about the major facts effecting her situation.

(in Thorne 2003: 92)

Exactly the same can be said about Arya. It is also important to point out that she and everyone else in A Song of Ice and Fire is also at every point unaware of the major facts effecting their situations. This whole statement could have been written about Martin’s fantasy plot.

Ruth Nevo (in Thorne 2003: 106) calls Imogen’s “membership in the reconstituted family of Belarius” a “hermaphrodite membership”. Arya Stark is described by her mother Catelyn: “Ned’s visitors would often mistake her for a stableboy if they rode into the yard unannounced. Arya was a trial, it must be said. Half a boy and half a wolf pup. […] I despaired of ever making a lady of her” (Martin 2011a: 786). In that sense, Arya was “hermaphrodite” too in the Stark family, but unlike Imogen, she seems to have no lady-like manners or behaviours at all.

There is also a situation similar to Belarius’s and his (i.e., Cymbeline’s) sons. The two ‘lost heirs to the king’ that had to flee are in this case Viserys and Danaerys Targaryen and their ‘father’, once a loyal soldier to the king, is Ser Jorah Mormont, an “exile [who] had offered […] his sword the night Dany had been sold to Khal Drogo; Viserys had accepted eagerly. Mormont had been their constant companion ever since” (Martin 2012a: 99 f.).

In Cymbeline, “the gods play a big part […], and are throughout represented as responsive to supplication”, so “the appearance of Jupiter is the logical consequence of Posthumus’ prayer at v. i. 7-17” (Nosworthy 2004: xxxiv). Magic and the apparitions of gods also play a big part in A Song of Ice and Fire. A god famous in the country of Essos is R’hollor, also known as The Lord of Light. He does not appear directly in A Song of Ice and Fire, but through the visions and the magic of Melisandre of Asshai,

a priestess devoted to the Lord of Light, who has become the counsellor of Stannis Baratheon, the Lord of Dragonstone, a lonely island in the Narrow Sea. Stannis is the younger brother of Robert Baratheon, king of the Seven Kingdoms, whose death in A Game of Thrones triggers a crisis of leadership in the land the subsequent books in the series chronicle.

Melisandre uses “her prophetic intensity” to manipulate “Stannis, whom she convinces eventually to turn his attention away from fighting battle in the Seven Kingdoms to pitting his powers against the supernatural forces massing beyond the Wall” (O’Leary 2015: 9 f.).  Stannis Baratheon is persuaded by Melisandre’s creation of a shadow assassin, saying that “she talks of prophecies… […] she speaks of signs and swear they point to me. […] Last night, gazing into that hearth, I saw things in the flames as well. I saw a king, a crown of fire on his brows, burning…burning, Davos” (Martin 2011b: 727 f.). This may be not the same as the apparition of a god and the ghosts of Posthumus’ family in Cymbeline, but the supernatural forces appear in both works. With Melisandre, there is also a witch-like character. If one takes the mentioned statement that Cymbeline’s Queen is more of a fairy-tale witch, then Melisandre and Stannis can be read as similar to her and Cymbeline.

Also, the idea that king’s sons and daughters get married to chosen partners can be found both in Cymbeline and A Song of Ice and Fire. But this is, like many of the things mentioned before, based on the history that both, Shakespeare and Martin, have taken as a source for their respective works.

Nosworthy (2004: xxxiii) thinks of Cymbeline that “the danger of tragic thought and feeling overwhelming the comic in this untried romance form was a considerable one, especially with the wager plot thrown in” and explains further that “we have noticed that Shakespeare was now confronted with the problem of blending tragedy and comedy in the right amounts and of sustaining a balance throughout the greater part of the play…” (ibid l). In A Song of Ice and Fire, Martin also keeps the balance between tragic and comic elements, a usual feature of the fantasy genre in general, so if this is one of the features that make the play a romance, it can be said that Shakespeare’s romances and the fantasy genre are also similar in this aspect. It also fits that in Cymbeline “gross and brutal elements of imagery occur chiefly in those sections of the play which deviate into tragedy, and may, therefore, be intrusive” (ibid lxxi). In A Song of Ice and Fire the fights and killing mainly appear in ‘tragic’ moments, although at times there are comic elements even within these scenes, and often the tragic and comic elements are mingled, as described above.

Also, Cymbeline’s “first four acts, as we have noticed, result in such wholesale chaos that order can be restored only by a beneficent but mechanical deity” (ibid l). A Song of Ice and Fire becomes more and more chaotic during the course of the story, and since the series has not been finished yet, one can only hope that the end will bring ‘restoring order’ to the chaos.

Another new feature for the romances is that “suspense and amazement are not limited simply to isolated episodes. They cover the whole length and breadth of the play” (ibid lxxiv), which can be said of Martin’s works as well. An example in Cymbeline is best described by Nosworthy (2004: lxxv):

There have been some curious incidents, some odd soliloquies and asides, but everything is clearly leading up to the slaying of Imogen and, no doubt, to the slaughter of many of the others in battle. […] And then – Enter Belarius, Guiderius, and Arviragus. Suspense and perplexity are renewed, for here are three entirely new and unexpected characters who, in their idyllic setting, are quite out of keeping with all that has gone before.

In A Song of Ice and Fire there are similar situations, an example here would be the Battle of the Blackwater. Stannis Baratheon attacks the capital King’s Landing with a fleet, but all of a sudden, he is attacked and defeated by another fleet, which no one had expected (cf. Martin 2011a: 868 f.).

In Cymbeline “natural images, covering trees, flowers, and especially, birds are very frequent. […] These are all concordant with the play’s romantic function” (Nosworthy 2004: lxxi). The same goes for A Song of Ice and Fire. Especially birds are important, as ravens are used to carry letters and messages between castles and people (cf. Martin 2012b: 661). This is mainly due to their cleverness and funnily, in Cymbeline, we find the description of Belarius, who is wise, “like a crow” (Nosworthy 2004: lxxiii).

Finally, as Daniell (in Wells 1986: 118) puts it: “Cymbeline produces, as if a conjurer were showing off, a dozen distinct dénouements at the end (some count two dozen)”. There are just as many – and probably even many more – in A Song of Ice and Fire.

Shakespeare’s Cymbeline and A Song Of Ice and Fire

So, what is there to say about the influence of Shakespeare’s romanceson the fantasy genre? Is there enough to connect Cymbeline and A Song of Ice and Fire? Are the chosen similarities appropriate?

Both writers, Shakespeare and Martin, were heavily influenced by history and took it as a source and mixed different events from different periods to include them in their fictional works. Daniell (in Wells 1986: 118) points out that “we note the cool way Shakespeare mixes ancient and Roman Britain, Renaissance Italian sexual intrigue, Stuart court propaganda, and Jupiter descending on wires ‘in thunder and lightning, sitting upon an eagle. He throws a thunderbolt. The Ghosts fall on their knees.’ [emphasis in the original]”. Thorne (2003: 7) does not seem to be too positive about it, saying “worse still, they may inhabit more than one geographical and temporal frame simultaneously: Cymbeline conflates ancient Rome with Renaissance Italy.” Leah Marcus sees “Cymbeline as an elaborate allegorical commentary on [King] James’s pet project of forging a united ‘empire’ of great Britain and the problems which beset this” (ibid 13).

Just like Shakespeare, who “at the end of the 1580s, began to contemplate his plays on the War of the Roses” (Smallwood in Wells 1986: 145), Martin says that “In A Song of Ice and Fire, I take stuff from the Wars of the Roses and other fantasy things, and all these things work around in my head and somehow they jell into what I hope is uniquely my own.”. He adds: “You look at Shakespeare, who borrowed all of his plots” (Gilmore 2014).

Of course, one could say that Martin borrowed from the romances, just like he probably did from other Shakespearean plays. The list of comparisons that can be found online is a proof to that wide imagination of fans. But then, Shakespeare was influenced by history and literature as well and, just like Martin, put it all together in a nice and neat context.

Nevo sums this up in a nice way:

The three plots in Cymbeline: the individual marital (Imogen and Posthumus); the familial (the kidnapped brothers); and the national (the rebellion of a province against the Empire) are interlocked with a craft which it is customary to admire. The play is like a jigsaw puzzle whose broken-apart and mixed-up pieces must be matched and put together. It is like its families. Children are orphaned, or kidnapped, parents bereaved, a wife and husband separated, siblings parted. The confederation of an empire and its province disrupted.

(in Thorne 2003: 94 f.)

This statement could have been written about A Song of Ice and Fire. Nevo (ibid 92) also adds that “there are more recognitions and revelations in Act V than most readers can confidently count. […] Cymbeline presents some of the knottiest problems in Shakespeare genre criticism, appearing to be neither fish, flesh nor good herring; readable neither as history, comedy nor romance.” So, if none of these ‘genres’ fit, is it maybe fantasy? Also, one has to keep in mind that in the definition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is mentioned as an early example for fantasy. This play also includes many supernatural, mystic elements, just like the ones in the romances.

The romances are something very difficult in Shakespeare’s body of work. Russ McDonald thinks that in the romances, “Shakespeare offers his audience […] the staple of romantic fiction: stolen infants, wicked stepmothers, wronged lives, Italian villains, shipwrecks, tearful reunions, oracles, witches, magic potions, airy spirits, and everybody’s favourite, a voracious bear” (in Alexander 2004: 283). Most, if not all of these things can be found in A Song of Ice and Fire. Thorne (2003: 8) suggests that “Shakespeare’s ‘romances’ are the product of an impulse to retreat from the bruising facts of ‘real life’ into pleasing fairy tales or daydreams, sublimely beautiful and morally uplifting perhaps but rather ‘facile’ nonetheless, and that they lack what Jonson called ‘art’.” Is that not what fantasy novels are made for as well? She even goes further and – maybe coincidentally – uses the term ‘fantasy’: “To those reluctant to surrender themselves to its imaginative premises, romantic fiction, in any shape or form, is therefore liable to seem suspect: a naïve, escapist and self-indulgent fantasy with nothing useful to teach us about ‘real life’” (Thorne 2003: 6). Nosworthy (2004: lxxix) summarizes that “Cymbeline is purely Shakespearean in its recognition that life itself is not a coherent pattern leading by orderly degrees to prosperity, as in comedy, or to destruction, as in tragedy, but a confused series of experiences, good and evil, gravy and gay, momentous and trivial.” Exactly this same statement could be given not only about life in general, but about Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. And maybe, both of them just represent life and reality in their own special way.

The only specific Shakespearean source to which Martin has admitted is Falstaff[1] as one of several sources for Robert Baratheon. There is often a thin line on how history influences literature and vice versa, there is often a “hazy distinction in medieval chronicles between history and fiction” (Wood 2000: 909).

[1] From Henry IV.

What can be said about both works is that both authors are greatly influenced by history, literature and their surroundings and both melt these influences in a great body of work. to now one can say that there are of course some similarities between the works, even if they are just ‘motives’ rather than direct connections. Who knows, if in a distant future Martin might have a similar position to the great authors (more likely to Tolkien than to Shakespeare, to be honest) and people compare new works with his motives and influences. But first of all, he should finish his A Song of Ice and Fire cycle. One will see how it ends and how many more Shakespearean influences will be found (apart from those that are already there). It surely is going to stay exciting.

List of references

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book One) | George R.R. Martin: Web. 31 October 2022.

AlbertTheSamurai (2013): Game of Thrones is greatly inspired by Shakespeare. Agree or disagree?: Web. 1 March 2016.

Alexander, Catherine M. S. (Hg.) (2004): Shakespeare and language. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Anderson, Kelly (2015): Character Showdown: Game of Thrones vs. Shakespeare: Web. 31 October 2022.

Bate, Jonathan (Hg.) (1996): Shakespeare. An illustrated stage history. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

Ferreday, Debra (2015): Game of Thrones, Rape Culture and Feminist Fandom. In: Australian Feminist Studies 30 (83), S. 21–36. DOI: 10.1080/08164649.2014.998453.

Fleming, Michael (2007): “HBO turns ‘Fire’ into fantasy series” Web. 1 November 2022.

Gilmore, Mikal (2014): “George R. R. Martin: The Rolling Stone Interview”: Web. 31 October 2022.

Halliday (1964): A Shakespeare Companion 1564-1964. Duckworth & Co. Ltd.

Harbage, Alfred; Schoenbaum, Sam; Wagonheim, Sylvia Stoler (1989): Annals of English drama, 975 – 1700. An analytical record of all plays, extant or lost, chronologically arranged and indexed by authors, titles, dramatic companies, &c. 3. ed. London: Routledge.

Jon Snow (2012): The Price of our sins: Web. 31 October 2022.

Kennedy, Victoria (2006): “A Feast Of Crows”: MBR: Reviewer’s Bookwatch, December 2006 (2007)., Web. 31 October 2022.

Klausner, Harriet (2012): “A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume One”:MBR: MBR Bookwatch, May 2012 (2012). Web. 1 November 2022.

Martin, George R. R. (2011a): A song of ice and fire. 2: A clash of kings. s.l.: Bantam Books.

Martin, George R. R. (2011b): A song of ice and fire. 4: A feast for crows. s.l.: Bantam Books.

Martin, George R. R. (2012a): A song of ice and fire. 5: A dance with dragons. s.l.: Bantam Books.

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