HEY HEY! GAME OF THRONES SPOILER WARNING. READ AT YOUR PERIL.
Similarities between Game of Thrones Season five’s finale and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
“Et tu, Brute?” Those are Caesar’s famous last words in Shakespeare’s play, guess what? Julius Caesar. “Olly” is Jon Snow’s in episode 5×10 of Game of Thrones. Indeed, they both refer to a friend whom has betrayed them This is one of the many connections I’ve spotted between this last scene in the famous TV series and the Shakespearean tragedy, brace yourselves (I know you’re doing it for real.)
I’m not going to also take the Game of Thrones books into consideration, as it would be better to explore them in a dedicated post. I’m just going to focus on the TV series. The background info that you might wanna know is that Julius Caesar is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare presumably in 1599, following the historical events which developed around Julius Caesar’s figure. On the other hand, Game of Thrones is an HBO TV series based on G.R.R Martin’s epic fantasy saga “A song of ice and fire” first published in 1996.
Now, back to the story. The most important link I found between the tragedy and the GOT episode is, indeed, the resemblance between Jon and Caesar’s deaths. They both got stabbed repeatedly. Fun fact: Romans loved stabbing. Caesar was not the only emperor who was stabbed to death, it also happened to Caligula, Domitian and Julius Nepos, as Josh Fruhlinger in his listacle Roman Emperors, Up To AD 476 And Not Including Usurpers, In Order Of How Hardcore Their Deaths Were. wrote. We also know very well how much Martin, and showrunners Benioff and Weiss like bloody deaths, so we should have expected such a reference to the “Roman way” in a season finale as 5×10.
The reason why our heroes were assassinated is also pretty strikingly similar. The conspiration against Caesar was organized because of the “greater good”, which was liberating Rome by the possible tyranny that Ceasar would have established if he had decided to accept the crown. Moreover, Shakespeare makes it clear that Brutus decides to kill Caesar, after a long inner conflict, out of love for Rome and its Republic despite Julius being a close friend to our Brutus. In Game of Thrones however, Jon Snow –who holds a position of command in the Night’s Watch- is stabbed by his own brothers –just as Caesar by his own fellow-politicians- because they were convinced that the alliance with the Wildlings against the White Walkers could have damaged all of the Seven Kingdoms, and not to mention, the Order itself. (If you got lost in this brief GOT context, go check the Wikipedia page up in the post). For this Reason, right before hitting Jon the first time, first ranger Alliser Thorne, and all his friends with him say “For the watch”. Here you can watch the famous scene, hold your tears, I know it will be hard.
As you may have noticed, Jon is led outside his lodging with an excuse –his beloved uncle Benjen came back from the terrible north of the Wall safe and sound- and so is Caesar. His conspirators let him to the Capitol telling him that he had to examine Metellus’s case who is pleading for his banished brother Publius. In this moment, as Julius explains how wise and resolute he his, the conspirators manage to put themselves in killing position, and surround Caesar, stabbing him. You can read the whole action from Act 3, scene 1..
Metellus Cimber. Is there no voice more worthy than my own
To sound more sweetly in great Caesar’s ear
For the repealing of my banish’d brother? 1255
Brutus. I kiss thy hand, but not in flattery, Caesar;
Desiring thee that Publius Cimber may
Have an immediate freedom of repeal.
Caesar. What, Brutus!
Cassius. Pardon, Caesar; Caesar, pardon: 1260
As low as to thy foot doth Cassius fall,
To beg enfranchisement for Publius Cimber.
Cassius. I could be well moved, if I were as you:
If I could pray to move, prayers would move me:
But I am constant as the northern star, 1265
Of whose true-fix’d and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament.
The skies are painted with unnumber’d sparks,
They are all fire and every one doth shine,
But there’s but one in all doth hold his place: 1270
So in the world; ’tis furnish’d well with men,
And men are flesh and blood, and apprehensive;
Yet in the number I do know but one
That unassailable holds on his rank,
Unshaked of motion: and that I am he, 1275
Let me a little show it, even in this;
That I was constant Cimber should be banish’d,
And constant do remain to keep him so.
Cinna. O Caesar,—
Caesar. Hence! wilt thou lift up Olympus? 1280
Decius Brutus. Great Caesar,—
Caesar. Doth not Brutus bootless kneel?
Casca. Speak, hands for me!
[CASCA first, then the other Conspirators and
BRUTUS stab CAESAR] 1285
Caesar. Et tu, Brute! Then fall, Caesar.
Impressive, isn’t it? Shakespearean tragedies are really full of blood and intrigues, just as Game of Thrones is. And as Cersei Lannister affirmed in Season 1 “When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” Well, I’m afraid Jon and Caesar lost their jackpot.
Cheers, grim readers!