HBO’s Game of Thrones

The Women in Game of Thrones: Cersei Lannister

Beware: This post has as many spoilers as Cersei has men thinking she’s gorgeous…

Cersei Lannister from George R.R. Martin‘s A Game Of Thrones is a strong, beautiful, powerful woman who will do anything to—well, she’ll do anything.

This Sunday, HBO premieres its Game Of Thrones miniseries, and Cersei’s actions and motivations inspire much of the plot. Her diabolicalness is legend (for readers of the books, at least), and it’s not until the fourth book in the series, A Feast For Crows, that we actually get events told from her point of view.

His lord father had come first, escorting the queen. She was as beautiful as men said. A jeweled tiara gleamed amidst her long golden hair, its emeralds a perfect match for her eyes. His father helped her up the steps to the dais and led her to her seat, but the queen never so much as looked at him. Even at fourteen, Jon could see through her smile.

On the HBO series, the rehabilitation of Cersei Lannister begins prior to her introduction. As I watch the preview for House Lannister, put together by HBO, it is mostly about how poor Cersei was wounded on her wedding night and so behaves badly. How poor Cersei would do anything to keep the family together.


Her marriage was arranged, much like everyone’s marriage in Game of Thrones. The woman Robert Baratheon was supposed to marry, Lyanna Stark, is dead at the end of the war. Robert loved her, that much is clear from the moment he appears on the page, but she certainly is no threat to Cersei. Yet, that is one of the reasons presented for a lifetime of Cersei’s misdeeds.

Closer to the truth, in my opinion, is that she is a politically astute, power-consolidating, power-wielding female in a world that doesn’t leave her many acceptable options. Yes, she may be married to a man she has grown to despise, but that is certainly no obstacle for her. She believes she would run the kingdom better than Robert Baratheon, and she may indeed by right about that. There is no doubt that Robert has become fat, lazy and less…attentive to matters than is good for the realm. There is also no doubt that a lifetime of Lannisters has done much to contribute to his current state.

Cataloging her misdeeds starts (in the book) with killing the former hand of the King, which precipates the need to travel to Winterfell where Robert plans to recruit Ned Stark to fill the role. She also has a hand in injuring a young child who sees too much, attempted murder when the child doesn’t have the good sense to die of said injuries, having a beloved Stark pet killed, and oh yeah, about that incest thing…

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground” (A Game of Thrones, 408)

A Game of Thrones turns part murder mystery as Ned tries to find out what happened to his predecessor, and also why the Lannisters tried to kill one of his sons. He gets his answers but, as usual, Cersei Lannister has set events in motion so that even when she loses, she ends up winning.

But…do you really know Cersei Lannister? For a major player in A Game of Thrones, readers do not get to see her from her own perspective. Everything we know about her comes through the eyes of other characters. Readers are initially led to distrust Cersei, which grows quickly to dislike, if not outright hate. The redeeming factors, if you choose to take her explanations at face value, don’t come until more than midway through the book. So, I understand why the Cersei Lannister lobby is doing some preemptive redemption before the series starts for people who may not have read the books. That is both probably a necessity, and a shame.

This article and its ensuing discussion originally appeared on our sister romance site Heroes & Heartbreakers.

Robin Bradford is a lawyer, a librarian and, most importantly, a longtime lover of words. You can check her out on Twitter @tuphlos, On Unpaged, or read the backlist at Obiter Dictum.


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