“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
-William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet
In Game of Thrones, it seems a dumb observation to make, but kin and name are as important or even more important than any inner or outer character. First they are a Lannister, then they are a Cersei or a Jaime or a Tyrion. First they are Daenerys Targaryen, the First of Her Name, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, Protector of the Realm, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, called Daenerys Stormborn, the Unburnt, Mother of Dragons. A long name, to be sure. It is only after this that she is simply “Dany.” The Tyrells are no notable exception to this rule.
Olenna and Margaery fully use the entire benefits of their name. One uses it with experience and cunning sarcasm, the other with deception and outward kindnesses—but inner ruthlessness. The depiction of the house Tyrell in Game of Thrones shows them to be quite aware of appearances and capable of the deft and silent manipulation of others. Their clothing, flower-like, embroidered, and showy, likens them back to the sigil of their house.
An example of their cunning would be both Margaery and Olenna Tyrell’s manipulation of Sansa to acquire knowledge of King Joffrey to use to their advantage. After Sansa admits he is a monster, Margaery goes out of her way to become monstrous like him, or at least tries to convince him that she has the capacity of being cruel.
Margaery is showy and a liar, beautiful and aware of it; she is falsely virginal with clothes that go hand in hand with ideas of the flower. She is aware of her influence and of Sansa’s desire for freedom and for family. She uses this for information, and it is quite obvious to any who watch the show that her actions towards Sansa are not pure nor are they noble. However, show watchers can’t help but notice how smart she is. Calling Sansa “sister” and influencing others against her, while at the same time seeming to care genuinely about her, around and around she coils, holding strong to those she finds important. Sansa becomes the key to the rule of the North. Margaery wants to be the queen, and one cannot be a queen when the kingdom is split five ways. She is at King’s Landing but Joffrey’s hold is tentative and spoiled at best. She must put roots down elsewhere.
Olenna does not hide the fact that her family’s generous donations to King’s Landing is what is keeping peasants at heel. Her sharp wit and her ability to anticipate and control political intrigue makes her, in my opinion, season three’s most interesting new character. She is portrayed as aloof but base, noble but sarcastic. She is aware of her and other families’ intrigues and seems to have a finger in each pie. What she says is quotable and hilarious, smart and observant. Like a pruning hand she cuts others to the quick.
The house of Tyrell is not just a name, but a strong one. Their influence, like roots, penetrates and affects every house. The rose they are, however, conceals a base earth of dung.