No One Weeps for Spiders or Whores

Posted: March 10, 2015 by patricksponaugle in Game of Thrones, TV
Tags: , , , ,

This post will be discussing plot points from HBO’s excellent Game of Thrones (as well as some points in the books that cover show events.) I’m okay with anyone reading my posts who aren’t caught up on the story, but you might as well watch the show/read the books. Why have me spoil you on details?


Being Spoiled Elicits the Stink-Eyed Gaze!

In the fourth season of Game of Thrones, Tyrion Lannister is on his way to an assuredly dreadful pre-wedding breakfast with his nephew, King Joffrey Baratheon. En route, he encounters Lord Varys aka The Spider, the eunuch equivalent of SHIELD’s Nick Fury for the crown. When Tyrion asks the spy-master if he’ll be attending the breakfast, Varys explains that he was not invited. People of his sort are not often welcome at such events.

Tyrion: Forgive me if I don’t weep for you.
Varys: No one weeps for spiders or whores.

Tyrion pauses, since Varys is clearly bringing up one of Tyrion’s vulnerabilities: that he’s sheltering in the city his mistress, Shae. Tyrion’s disapproving father Tywin had expressly forbidden Tyrion from consorting with prostitutes, and his sister Cersei would not hesitate in threatening Shae as leverage over Tyrion should she learn of her.

Varys is good at communicating a complicated situation in just a few words.

Lord Varys

Maester Pycelle: He’s a eunuch, you know.
Eddard Stark: Everyone knows that!

Varys is an interesting and shadowy figure. He inhabits the gray area of power-behind-the-throne (the same as Littlefinger) pulling strings, hatching schemes, and sussing out plots.

We know that Littlefinger is in the game for personal aggrandizement (or so I’ve been led to believe by his speech on ladders) but Varys’ motives are unclear.

  • Varys is seen by Arya plotting with Maester Illyrio, who had sheltered Viserys and Daenerys for years, and apparently is playing the role of kingmaker for a Targaryen return.
  • Being a Targaryen kingmaker didn’t stop Varys from employing assassins to kill the pregnant Daenerys on King Robert’s orders. (Although since the attempt failed, the question is did Varys employ top of the line killers or bargain-basement hitmen in the hopes that they would fail?)

You have a fantastic wig, my lord. Much better than in season one…


  • He was a help to Tyrion (when it served him and was safe to do so.)
  • He certainly seemed sympathetic to Ned Stark’s plight. (But wasn’t going to bust him out of the Black Cells.)

So what is Varys’ endgame? Is he one of the good guys? One of the bad guys? Or just one of the guys?

But, you know, without his guy junk.


Ha Ha. We Unsullied hear jokes like that all the time. And screaming. We usually hear screaming after jokes like that.

We might just not know Varys well enough to form an informed opinion on his motives.

It’s clear though that Tywin Lannister’s murder was a situation he hadn’t planned on, necessitating his departure from King’s Landing with Tyrion.

(Book Varys, I believe, had resigned himself to going off the grid as soon as Ser Jaime forced him to assist in freeing Tyrion.)

Regardless, Varys was smart enough to get far away from a vengeful Cersei, not giving anyone the need to weep for him.


Shae was not so lucky in her role. Endangered just by being Tyrion’s woman in King’s Landing, with the diminutive Lannister desperately trying to keep her safe, it’s ironic that Tyrion eventually ends up her executioner.

Tyrion was absolutely correct in telling Shae that she was not safe.


Honey, if you’re not more discrete, I just know a Lannister will kill you!

Shae from the books, I believe, is generally perceived more negatively than Shae on the television show. Although book-Shae is only seen through the positive filter of Tyrion’s point-of-view chapters, I’m not sure there’s any reason for the reader to connect with her. Tyrion always had anxiety in regards to Shae and I think those doubts served to poison the well when it came to readers and their view of his mistress. Her role in Tyrion’s trial and the discovery of Shae in Tywin’s bed were camel-back breaking straws.

Shae in the show is very similar, but since the watchers could observe Shae independently of Tyrion, the occasional positive actions on her part (her protectiveness of Sansa being the major credit on her account) served to give her a higher approval rating over the book analog.

In the third season, for a time, I was not so sure that Tyrion would end up strangling Shae. Since Peter Dinklage’s Lannister is a more likable character than the edgy and ruthless Tyrion in the book, I felt that his murder of Shae might be too much.

Then Tyrion gave Shae the elaborate and heavy gold necklace as a peace-offering because of his forced marriage. (The gold necklace would replace the non-existent gold-hand necklace that was the badge of the Hand of the King.) It seemed pretty clear her fate was set.

The show runners engineered the bedroom scene in such a way to keep Tyrion’s hands not quite as metaphorically blood-stained. A desperate Tyrion was forced to protect himself from the dagger wielding ex-girlfriend.

That resolution wasn’t entirely satisfying, but I appreciated that at least Tyrion showed remorse over Shae’s demise. Contrary to Varys’ words, someone did weep for this particular sex-worker.

Shae’s depiction on the show gave a bit more depth to her character, but it didn’t clear up her motivations in testifying against Tyrion or the circumstances in ending up as Lord Tywin’s mistress. Shae pulling a knife on Tyrion doesn’t really make things any clearer. Westeros is a dangerous place. If I testified against my boyfriend, and he’d been sentenced to death, and then I woke up with him on the loose and in my bedroom … I might also assume the worst was about to happen to me.

It would be tragic if Shae had been forced into these circumstances, and her fight-or-flight reaction had sealed her fate, when some diplomatic communications might have resolved things. (Which was not ever an option in the books.)

I think I’m still trying to make up my mind on the motives of either versio of Shae.


I’d like to end this brief character study by talking about a character who was not from the books at all. Ros.


Blimey! ‘e’s talking about me!

Ros was introduced in the first episode of the first season (back when they had no budget for Lannister wigs) as a working girl at a brothel outside Winterfell castle. Season One has been faulted for relying heavily on sexposition, having info-dumps as pillow-talk, and more often than not, Ros was involved.

She was instrumental in being an audience for Tyrion and Theon up at Winterfell, and after relocating to King’s Landing provided the excuse for Littlefinger to monologue.

If the show-runners could have justified Ros taking a detour to Vaes Dothrak, maybe she would have been in the bathtub with Viserys instead of Doreah.

Although Ros was an element for convenient sexposition, in general she served as an observer for non point-of-view chapter events. Through her eyes we received insights into Littlefinger, the shadowy war between Baelish and Varys, and following her departure from Pycelle’s chambers, we learned that the feeble old Maester was playing his own duplicitous game.

In the first season, show watchers were somewhat wary of Ros the more screen time she got. Early in the show, any scene not from the books had its existence questioned. Is this canon? Is this important? Oh my god are they changing the books?

One fear was that on Ros’ journey south, she’d end up with Tyrion, replacing Shae entirely. If that happened, the fans were ready to discuss the merits of this action. I mean, if they wanted to do that, why not just call her Shae and not Ros?

(We did see some of this play out with Jeyne Westerling being replaced completely by Volantene noblewoman/battlefield medic Talisa Maegr.)


Ros did not replace Shae, but interestingly did replace another prostitute from the books, a sex worker misidentified and threatened by Cersei as Tyrion’s mistress.

Eventually, Ros’ role as Varys’ spy in Littlefinger’s affairs forced Baelish to make good on his warnings about bad investments, and Ros was cruelly murdered by the bloodthirsty mini-mad-monarch, Joffrey Baratheon.

With her death, I feel the character was granted a new-found appreciation among the show’s fans. As an observer, she had become so involved with the machinations in King’s Landing that she had somehow elevated her status above being a show-runner-invented character, and into one of the more tragic figures on the show.

Ros went from being an ambitious young woman, realizing that she needed to better position herself before wartime hostilities broke out (taking the men and money away from her home-base in Winterfell), and not wanting to just be a camp follower, dared to find a spot in King’s Landing. And to attempt to climb Baelish’s metaphorical ladder out of the pit.


I respect her for that, and I miss her character on the show.

By working for Littlefinger and by being one of Varys’ informants, Ros became in parts both whore and spider, and I won’t say I’m not weeping for her.

(Comments are always welcome. Super welcome! But if you want to talk spoilery Game of Thrones talk with me (also welcome) I’d invite you to visit my Safe Spoilers page on my backup blog. That way my non-book-reading friends won’t be shocked with foreknowledge.)

Images from HBO’s Game of Thrones (obviously.)

I make no claims to the artwork, but some claims to the text. So there. (Well, only to the stuff that I wrote. Not to any of the quotes, obviously.)

If you liked this article, thank you! I have all of my Game of Thrones related articles on my handy-dandy Game of Thrones page should you want to read more but don’t want to navigate around my site.

© Patrick Sponaugle 2015 Some Rights Reserved

  1. I have a theory about Shae’s actions in the show. Since I haven’t read that far in the book, I can’t say if it would or wouldn’t cover the book as well unfortunately. There’s the saying “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” and it seems to come to life in the show with Shae. When Tyrion tries to get her to leave King’s Landing by breaking up with her, he insults her in the worst kind of ways and breaks her heart. In the past in the show she has shown a fierceness and violence in her personality so that would lead me to believe that she’d be the type of woman to fight back after having been severely insulted and dumped like that. It made sense to me that since Tyrion made her hurt, she’d want to make him hurt just as much. Hence, her betrayal.

    Tywin presents her with the perfect opportunity for lashing back at Tyrion just when she’s fresh from his insults. Full of bitterness, fury, and heartache, she agrees and presents “evidence” against Tyrion. She’d also know how much he hated his father. BAM! Double revenge whammy.

    I imagine by that point she was eaten up by her own bitterness and hated herself. It would seem sensible for her to hate him as much or more for making her hate herself too so in a last attempt to get back at him for that, she attempts to kill him when he sees her in Tywin’s bed.

    I can put the same reasoning into why Tyrion killed her too – her betrayal was too much for him to bear (as we saw during the trial when she testified and afterwards in the dungeon) and he wanted vengeance as well.

    Their love was doomed to implode in the messiest way possible.

    Maybe that’s too romantic/tragic or cliche or whatever you want to call it, but that’s what I thought when I saw it play out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a great analysis! The show certainly had instances where Shae was shown to either be dangerous, or she was giving a strong implication to that effect.

      Thank you so much for the detailed response, it was great hearing from you.

      One month (and change) until Season 5!

      I. Can’t. Wait.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I definitely agree with Katie here. Sometimes when you’re scorned in love or there’s a perceived betrayal, there’s nothing you want to do more than lash out at the person who hurt you–however illogical it is. I think that’s what Shae was doing. She thinks Tyrion tried to bribe her with diamonds and send her away through Varys and her suspicions are confirmed when he sends her away at the end of that awful speech. At that point, all she wanted to do was hurt Tyrion like he hurt her and testifying at his trial was a big part of that.

        That’s my interpretation of it, anyway.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It’s a solid interpretation. The show certainly gives a framework to justify Shae’s willingness to betray Tyrion at the trial, since she had kind of proven her emotional attachment to Tyrion when she refused Varys’ bribe to send her away.

          It’s not clear, but we think that was all Varys’ doing, right? The bribe? I’m interested if anyone thinks that Tyrion arranged that. (I’m asking non-judgmentally, I don’t think Tyrion was behind the take-these-diamonds-and-go offer, but he might have been, and I’m curious how people feel about that.)

          Thank you so much for the comments, Carrie!


          • No, I unequivocally saw that as Varys doing it on his own to make sure Tyrion kept his head in the game. He saw that anyone discovering Shae would be a danger to Tyrion and Tyrion’s scheming so he wanted to get her out of the way, to safety.

            Liked by 1 person

            • We’re on the same page! Varys was trying to be proactive, which kind of explains his pre-breakfast discussion with Tyrion.

              Varys: You should go.
              Shae: No.

              Varys to Tyrion: Dude, send that woman away! She won’t take money… She’s cray-cray!

              Liked by 1 person

  2. jennnanigans says:

    Why, *I* do! I weep for whores and spiders! 😀

    Spot – on analysis – especially your point about Roz, who was my FAVORITE non-book character, being in the tub with Viserys. TRUFAX. When she died I was SO. UPSET.

    I think the symbolism about Varys as a spider is twofold; there’s the obvious read of spiders as creepy, as being where you least expect them, as being poisonous, but there’s the other aspect where they are solitary, isolated creatures whose livelihoods are tenuous, self-supporting systems that are lethal to their prey, but barely noticeable to anyone else. To a fly, a spider’s web is a terrifying waiting room on the way to oblivion; to a stag blundering through the bushes, it’s that sticky stuff that got in its ear for 2/10s of a second before it forgot the web existed and moved on with its life. The spider’s world is a delicate construct, just like Varys’, and is their only tool for survival.

    I love Varys. I am SURE he’s one of the secret heroes of Westeros, just trying to stabilize the realm and do the LEAST amount of damage to the smallfolk. He does occasionally have to make sacrifices – so many people hate him for what happened to Ned, but that was entirely Joffrey’s doing, and you could argue that Varys learned his lesson by helping Tyrion escape – who then turned around and diddled Varys in the back by icing Tywin.

    I can’t wait to see he and Tyrion on the road together next season! #teamVarys


    • You weren’t the only one who was really upset when Ros died. As a character who took a lot of flack (for being an ‘invented’ character and who seemed to be shoe-horned in) once she died, many of her detractors kind of re-evaluated. (I could name names, but I won’t.)

      Great comments about Varys and the nature of spiders. (Spiders who are awesome and take care of bugs!)

      I’m also looking forward to Varys + Tyrion. Some of the best stuff in Season Two was between the two of them. Easily.


      • kriess911 says:

        I enjoyed Ros up until when she was being “consoled” by Lord Baelish. Maybe it was the scene in general, but to me it felt so forced and out of place, although it did foreshadow her untimely demise. That scene juxtaposed with the Baelish “chaos is a ladder” monologue was truly a high point for season 3

        Varys is an enigma. To me there really isn’t a better word to describe him, and when you start reading all the conspiracy theories about his heritage and “grand scheme”, the wheels start turning…

        Damn excited to see him this upcoming season, and with the way ADWD ended, I think he’s going to play a much larger part in the final two novels than I previously thought.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. IC says:

    Oooh! This post is very intriguing (as always)! I didn’t trust Shae in the books not because Tyrion didn’t trust her, but because I thought he trusted her too much. I felt like he was a pretty unreliable observer when it came to Shae. It was mostly the dialog between them that made me suspicious. I’d have to reread some of those scenes again to better explain it, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you that Tyrion had a certain wishful-thinking when it came to Shae. I think the anxiety I was sensing was in things like him hiring really hidjuss-ugly bodyguards for the safehouse, making sure she had no handsome-pool-boys or whatever. He felt very inadequate and was always worried about not measuring up, and that put me at least on my guard.

      I hope that makes sense.

      What you are saying certainly makes sense.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. S. John Ross says:

    Ros will always be one of my very favorite characters. She WAS the show for me; I felt her perspective more keenly than any others, and when she died, it took some serious effort to still feel attached, properly, to the show at all.


  5. sb2711 says:

    Ros’s death was indeed a tragic one…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. nerdlovewords says:

    This is me, Sucheta. (sb2711) and my old blog is defunct. I threw it out of the MoonDoor. Now my new seat is at – 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. chattykerry says:

    No one weeps for spiders of whores – I can just hear Varys saying it. Wonderful stuff but I was disappointed in Shae – kinda like Tyrion.

    Liked by 1 person

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