The Iron Throne Awaits a Prince: How Game of Thrones Employs Realism to Reflect and Reinforce Niccolò Machiavelli’s Theory on Political Leadership
In critical conversation about the political theory of Game of Thrones, academics are often quick to compare the series with Machiavellian ideals and therefore assert that The Prince can be used as a tool to evaluate the effectiveness of the way that Game of Thrones characters cope with political intrigue. Those who compare Game of Thrones and The Prince argue that because of the political realism and similar notions of human nature in Game of Thrones, the series perpetuates Machiavelli's idea that goodness and morality are not sufficient means by which to gain and sustain political power. When Game of Thrones began, many speculated that it adopted Machiavelli's deeply pragmatic paradigm of a successful ruler, but as the series progressed it seemed to reveal a more idealistic theory of leadership. This paper explores the relationship between these two works to determine if Game of Thrones ultimately perpetuates Machiavelli's philosophies about how to successfully acquire and maintain political power. After comparing the political tactics set forth in The Prince to the actions of the characters considered most idealistic and most Machiavellian in Game of Thrones, it is determined that Game of Thrones conclusively embraces Machiavelli's attitude toward successful political leadership, as the characters who seem to be most idealistic ultimately act in alignment with the theories set forth in The Prince.