A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 152: Mad Ship, Chapter 14

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

A content warning (sexual violence) is in order for the present chapter.


The next chapter, “Serilla’s Choice,” begins with the titular Serilla confined below decks on a refitted barge, seasick as she and the barge proceed with the Satrap towards Bingtown. She muses on her circumstances and situation, as well as those of the Satrap and his preferred Companion–a concubine, rather than an advisor, as Serilla is. The Satrap fares particularly poorly in the assessment, and not only Serilla’s.

One image of Serilla.
Image taken from badgerlock’s tumblr, used for commentary

Serilla also considers the retinue that accompanies the Satrap; it is extensive and seems calculated to inflame tensions. It also seems to be a means for getting the Satrap away from power, so others might take it. And it gives the Satrap permission to indulge himself and his baser desires without having to be concerned about appearances. This becomes apparent when he threatens to have her raped by the crew of the barge if she will not sate his desires; she refuses the Satrap and is cast to the crew.

The Satrap has not been a sympathetic character prior to this point, certainly; he follows the model Hobb establishes in Regal, exchanging fratricide for satyriasis but otherwise being very much in the line of rulership as doing what he wants. The present chapter, though, pushes Cosgo from being unsympathetic into irredeemable. It will not matter what he does henceforth; the stain of his actions will no more clean from him than the spot from Lady Macbeth’s hands (and there is, at times, a motion to reclaim such characters, as I have noted elsewhere). And it is easy to read a commentary into the chapter, as has been the case with many other such; Serilla’s choice echoes what many see a learned woman faces amid the restrictions of toxic masculinities at work in the world.

It is not her work to right the wrong or to prevent it. And the rest of us need to do better about that work. Far, far better.

Care to support your local struggling scholar?

4 thoughts on “A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 152: Mad Ship, Chapter 14

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