Sunday, February 3, 2013

Game of Thrones vs. The Wars of the Roses

I watched the Game of Thrones series last year, on dvd  - season 2 is coming out later this month.  I really enjoyed it.  It's incredibly violent, and sexual - so your mileage may vary.  I had a sinus infection earlier this month - and I spent about a week and a half reading books 2, 3 and 4. 

It's not a secret that the series is loosely based on the wars of the roses in 15th century England.  Even the family names, Stark and Lannister sound more than a little like York and Lancaster.  I know only a bit about the history, but the war of the roses involved incompetent kings who were deposed, teenage kings who mysteriously disappeared, even people drowned in casks of wine

I've also been reading Alison Weir's The Princes in the Tower.  The similarities are striking. The king (Edward IV) secretly marries a so-called commoner, Elizabeth Woodville. (Her mother is a noblewoman, her father was a knight).  Her large family is then promoted in positions of power.  Not surprisingly, many people are unhappy about this. There are all sorts of houses with associated lands that the kings redistribute.

And there is this tension between north and south -at one point the author points out that British people in the north and south really thought of themselves as separate races or people.  It was also common to believe that physical deformity (if Richard III really did have a hunchback) was a sign of moral depravity or sin.  Families are opposed to one another (and intensely suspicious) for no other reason than politics - if the other person isn't a part of your family, they are inherently untrustworthy.

The Stark children - won't be this way for long!
So there's a large part of me that is incredibly grateful to not live in that time period - dependent on nobility and family wealth.  Most people were wholly dependent on the whims of potentially insane people, no rule of law, fair trials, etc.  While many women have some power in the Game of Thrones series, it's always very clear that women are completely dependent on men, and cannot have power in their own right. It was a brutish time (the Middle Ages). 

I'm not sure why this time period (or the series) are so engrossing for me.  I've always enjoyed medieval British history (who knows why).  I enjoy the history in spite the fact that I know how many problems the British monarchy (and others) caused throughout the world.  The Game of Thrones series also has just enough fantasy as well, with dragons and zombies - some magic that actually appears to be real. There are many strong female characters in the series, as well as fully developed male and female characters.  I recommend it.

1 comment:

Brian Inman said...

I agree. I think living back in those days your days were numbered. No wonder the average life expectancy was like 40.