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The Bloody Hand

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The Bloody Hand is a theatrical play performed in Braavos by Izembaro's troupe of actors.

Though it is loosely based on the events leading up to the War of the Five Kings in Westeros, it contains drastic plot condensations, glaring omissions, mischaracterizations, and lowbrow humor.

Performers and stageEdit

Cast


Crew

  • Unknown (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)...................Music
  • Mummer 1.........................................Stagehand
  • Mummer 2.........................................Stagehand/the boar
  • Mummer 3.........................................Stagehand
  • Unknown.........................................Sounds

The PlayEdit

Act IEdit

King Robert Baratheon is mortally wounded by a boar while hunting.

Robert hopes for his friend Ned Stark, the lord of The North, to serve as the Hand of the King while his son Joffrey is still underage. Robert considers Ned to be wise but he's crude and dim-witted.

The scheming and villainous Tyrion Lannister, however, convinces Ned to try to seize the throne, and Tyrion will be his Hand of the King. At the last minute, Tyrion then reveals the conspiracy by laying sole blame on Ned Stark. Sansa Stark begs the good prince Joffrey to show her father mercy, and he agrees, but Ned gets beheaded after Tyrion bribes the headsman.

Tyrion's plan to remove Ned worked, because he was standing in his way. Now Tyrion presents a letter from his father Tywin proclaiming that he is the new Hand of the King in Ned's place, and he will continue to functionally rule over the realm during Joffrey's minority.

Tyrion also proclaims that the letter gives him permission to marry Ned's daughter Sansa against her will. He pulls open her dress to expose her breasts and feel her up, pushes her hand to his crotch, and announces he will force himself on her during their wedding night. The good queen Cersei is horrified.

[Exeunt]

Act IIEdit

[Only the end of the play is shown, so this might actually be "Act III" or "Act IV", and only the end of this Act is directly seen.]

Having defeated all of his enemies, King Joffrey marries Margaery Tyrell to unite "the lion and the rose", securing the alliance that won the war. Tyrion, however, as part of his ongoing plots against his family, poisons Joffrey's wine, killing his own nephew. Queen Cersei weeps over her son's corpse and gives a long and moving soliloquy about her sorrow - in a later rewrite, its also about her thirst for vengeance.

His plots not finished, the evil Tyrion takes a crossbow and confronts his father Tywin while he sits on the privy, wondering if this will prove that his father really does "shit gold". Tyrion shoots Tywin with the crossbow, and as he dies Tywin denounces his son as the most evil man in Westeros.

Having just killed two of his close family members, Tyrion says he will flee across the Narrow Sea to continue his plots against his remaining family.

[Exeunt]

Image galleryEdit

HistoryEdit

Season 6Edit

Arya Stark attends a production of the play in Braavos as part of an assignment for the Faceless Men. Though she enjoys the death of "King Robert", she is visibly unhappy with the play's depiction of her own family.[1]

Arya watches the play again, and is shown smiling and laughing at the death of "Joffrey" (as she missed getting to watch the real Joffrey die in person). When the Cersei actress gives her speech at her son's death, her acting is so sincere that even Arya is moved by the death scene.

Arya sneaks back stage and runs into Lady Crane (who played Cersei), and Arya admits that this is the third time she has snuck in to see the play for free. Arya points out that "Cersei" would probably be filled with outrage at her son's death, so she might want to play it as a mix of both grief and anger. Lady Crane likes the idea so much that she later brings it up to Izembaro after the play, but he becomes deeply insulted that she wants to insert her own ideas into his script, and says that actors have no business telling writers what to put into the script.[2]

However, during another play, it seems that Lady Crane managed to persuade Izembaro to change the script. This time, Lady Crane's Cersei seeks for vengeance against Tyrion and Sansa for killing her son, as Arya had previously suggested. The audience seems impressed by "Cersei"'s dialogue. [3]

Behind the scenesEdit

Staff writer Bryan Cogman discussed the meta-narrative aspect of making a play-within-a-play which was a skewed adaptation of the events of the TV show, which is itself an adaptation of a book:

"I come from theater and being able to comment on the show and the reactions to the show through the players were so much fun. The show is often accused of being gratuitous in all kinds of way – the violence and the bigness of the characters. It’s a huge operatic story. We’re able to lovingly spoof ourselves but also play with ideas about how audiences view the show, good and bad, and how a perspective of a story changes. Plus there’s the dramatic deliciousness of Arya watching her own life play out on stage."[4]

The stage musicians for the play are actually a cameo appearance by the Icelandic indie folk/rock band Of Monsters and Men.

In the booksEdit

In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the play is titled The Bloody Hand and its author is Phario Forel, who is said to have the bloodiest quill in all of Braavos and is also the author of Wroth of the Dragonlords. The show's dialogue doesn't mention the name of the play but the title was confirmed to be the same in HBO's Official Viewer's Guide.[5]

  • In the book continuity, the play actually takes place in the unpublished sixth novel, but it occurs during a preview chapter which was released just prior to Season 5. A few plot elements from that chapter were moved around for the TV show: in the preview chapter, Arya works at the theater for some time to hone her acting/lying skills, when the Lannisters' Master of Coin who came to treat with the Iron Bank of Braavos comes to see the play - Harys Swyft in the novels, Mace Tyrell in the TV version. In his entourage, Arya recognizes Raff, one of Gregor Clegane's men who is on her kill list (condensed with Meryn Trant in the TV version, who is still alive in the novels). Arya lures Raff away by pretending to be a child prostitute, knowing he is a pedophile, and then when they are in private she kills him by stabbing him in the neck with Needle and sarcastically repeating what Raff said to Lommy before killing the boy.
  • The TV version split this into three separate events and reshuffled them around somewhat: Arya kills Polliver in early Season 4 in the manner that she killed book-Raff, then she recognizes TV-Meryn in the embassy to the Iron Bank in Season 5 and kills him (how she recognized Raff in the novels, but not involving the play), and now the play is introduced separately. Of course, it is somewhat implied that the Faceless Men sent Arya to the theater knowing that Raff would should up there, and combined with a play loosely based on the downfall of Arya's family, wanted to see if it was enough to tempt her into taking personal revenge on Arya Stark's enemies, even though she is supposed to leave personal attachments behind. If this was a test in the books as well, the fallout from her "failure" has not yet been seen, as the preview chapter ends with her killing Raff.
  • In the books, Arya is not a spectator but one of the actresses. She uses the alias "Mercedene" or "Mercy".
  • The cast of characters is as followed:
    • The Bloody Hand (aka the demonic dwarf) - played by Bobono
    • The fat king (Robert Baratheon) - played by Izembaro
    • The boy king (Joffrey) - by unknown actor
    • The boar - played by Big Brusco
    • The Stranger - played by Marro, a mummer
    • The Queen (Cersei) - played by Lady Stork
    • The maiden rape victim (Sansa) - played by Mercedene (Arya)
  • The play itself that Arya sees in the TV version is very similar to how it was in the novels: a thoroughly ribald, mock-Shakespearean in style production which is obviously slanted in favor of the "official" version of events that Cersei Lannister and the royal court in King's Landing have been circulating: that Joffrey Baratheon was a decent king but Ned Stark tried to overthrow him to seize power, and that Tyrion Lannister must have not only encouraged Ned's betrayal - then turned on him in order to become Hand - but also poisoned Joffrey as well. The dwarf actor Bobono also ran around wearing a giant oversized codpiece, groped the breasts of the actress playing fake-Sansa, and at one point a prop bird "pooped" onto the head of an actor playing the Sealord of Braavos - who was in attendance at the theater and laughed. It is mentioned that in Braavos mummers are free to mock authorities and the mighty without fear of reprisal or persecution.
  • In keeping with the mock-Shakespearean style of the play itself, it also seems to be a reference to the play within a play plot element from Shakespeare's Hamlet: Hamlet suspects that his uncle Claudius killed his own brother, Hamlet's father, to seize the throne, so Hamlet puts on a play for Claudius which is an exaggerated and offensive retelling of a very similar murder. Hamlet's plan is that the play will show "the conscience of the king", and it succeeds: Claudius is clearly deeply upset at the production, convincing Hamlet of his guilt. Similarly, the Faceless Men have Arya go to a play which exaggerates the details of the War of the Five Kings and downfall of her family, to see if she is truly "no one" or is still holding on to her past.
  • The play has several extra sections which were left out of the TV version; it actually focuses on Tyrion and Ned doesn't appear, but they have roughly equal time in the TV version.
    • Another possibility is that different "Acts" of the play will appear across multiple chapters in the sixth novel: the part seen in the preview chapter was apparently "Act II" and focusing on Tyrion's decision to poison Joffrey and rape Sansa - "Act I", explaining Robert's death through Ned's death, may have been presented in an earlier chapter.
  • George R.R. Martin has said that one of his influences in developing the character of Tyrion Lannister was the title character from Shakspeare's Richard III. In the play, King Richard III is portrayed as an evil and scheming tyrant, and he is infamously hunchbacked and ugly. Richard III was a king from the House of York during the Wars of the Roses, however, and they were later deposed by their rivals the Lancasters at the end of the war, who founded the Tudor dynasty - and Shakespeare was writing during the later reign of the Tudors. Martin was fascinated with how history always has more than one point of view, which is one of the reasons he gave POV narration chapters to both the Stark and Lannister characters in his story - there isn't one "good" and one "evil" side, but both have their own views. Similarly, Martin was particularly fascinated with criticisms of Shakespeare's play which argue that "Richard III" the Shakespearean character and villain isn't historically accurate, but just Lancaster/Tudor propaganda which skewed the story of events after they defeated him. Thus, Martin wrote Tyrion as almost a revisionist Richard III if these criticisms were true: he is ugly and stunted (as a dwarf), and he is very cunning, but Tyrion is also actually a well-meaning and sympathetic character and not particularly villainous. Therefore, in the exaggerated play in this episode, we essentially see what Martin thinks might have happened to the real Richard III happening to Tyrion: the stories surrounding what happened mix with his enemies' propaganda, resulting in widespread belief in "popular culture" (theatrical plays) that Tyrion was actually an evil, scheming villain, just like Shakespeare's Richard III.
  • The Cersei-actress's line in the play that "I feel the winds of winter as they lick across the land" is actually a reference to the title of the unreleased sixth novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, The Winds of Winter.
  • The Bloody Hand play intentionally includes several outright inaccuracies which the troupe didn't intend, but which occur because they heard about the story second-hand and the facts have become distorted (in addition to wanting it to match the official Lannister version of events). This highlights that characters in Westeros and Essos only have a medieval level of communication, they don't have television or newspapers, so information gets distorted as it passes to foreign lands. Notice that all of the Heraldry it uses for the Baratheons, Lannisters, and Starks is slightly inaccurate compared to the official versions, and not as well drawn. Tyrion has a large scar on his face even before Ned Stark dies, when he only received the wound much later during the Battle of the Blackwater. For that matter, it is publicly known that Tyrion wasn't even in King's Landing until after Ned Stark died, so he couldn't have directly conspired with him like this.
    • One detail that surprisingly remains intact is that Joffrey had nothing to do with Robert's death, and because he thought he was his actual father, he was reduced to genuine tears as Robert lay on his deathbed. The background painting for the stage of the Red Keep in King's Landing is also fairly accurate, as is their wooden mock-up of the Iron Throne.
    • In the books, all of the characters in the play had obvious sound-alike names to the actual characters, i.e. the Starks were called the "Storks", and the character was called "Lady Stork" and not "Lady Crane". In the TV version they just outright call the play's characters by who they are parodying: "Ned Stark", "Tyrion", "Cersei", etc.
  • As a parody of the first four TV seasons of Game of Thrones, the play is filled with exaggerations of several elements of the TV series which sometimes received criticism:
    • Joffrey is repeatedly slapped in the face purely for comedic effect.
    • It includes several fart jokes to pander to the audience's lowbrow sense of humor.
    • Random acts of nudity occur to pander to the audience, when "Tyrion" pulls down "Sansa's" shirt to reveal her breasts.
    • The play introduces a rape scene with Sansa Stark which didn't actually happen in the source material (Tyrion refused to consummate their marriage in disgust).
    • Catelyn Stark's role has been significantly reduced (to the point that she doesn't appear), and Sansa doesn't have many lines or much agency in the play either (she's stated to only have two speaking lines).

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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