The latest Game of Thrones season finale has finally come and gone. Amidst the typical fan excitement is a peculiar backlash one character: Shae. In the book, the character of Shae is rather unsympathetic. She sees no problem with betraying the one she once previously claimed to love in order to save herself. Her death in the novels is, although still somewhat bittersweet, the death of a character who played to keep herself in the game—and ultimately lost. The TV show’s version of Shae, however, is significantly different from her book counterpart. In the show, Shae is shown to develop genuine feelings for Tyrion as well as Sansa, whom she says that she loves enough to sacrifice her own life for. Her death is not the death of a player, but someone who was caught up in a game that they could never win and was sacrificed for it.
The backlash against Shae is truly puzzling.
This is strange to me considering the changes in her characterization, personality and even her actions in the TV show. Many fans tweeted and blogged about how Shae “had it coming” for betraying Tyrion, and that her ‘switch’ to being in Tywin’s bed made murder a deserving punishment.
Fans who think this way are unfortunately ignoring the context of Shae’s behavior for their own personal feelings about the character.
Yes, Shae betrayed Tyrion and even Sansa during Tyrion’s trial. She did so after Tyrion had dismissed her from her ‘service,’ retracted his protection over her in Westeros, and called her nothing but an amusement for his nights.
Shae had already had her life threatened by multiple members of Tyrion’s family.
His retraction of his protection would have meant she needed to leave as quickly as possible. It would not be unreasonable to assume that she was prevented from leaving and coerced into participating in the trial—it was her life or theirs, and her raw emotions over Tyrion’s own betrayal made have made things easier. And then Shae was called upon to be in Tywin’s bed—Twyin, who had personally threatened to kill her multiple times. How could she say no to the most powerful man in the kingdom and expect to live? Fans should remember that while Shae did betray Tyrion, she did not do so in a vacuum—and Tyrion betrayed her, too.