Health & Medical

Viserys’ Decline in House of the Dragon Was Caused by Leprosy

Viserys' Decline in <em>House of the Dragon</em> Was Caused by Leprosy thumbnail

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preview for House of the Dragon episode 8's Viserys throne room, family dinner and Aemond senes explained

In the Game of Thrones universe, death and violence are a sure thing. In fact, we expect to see characters experience gorey, gruesome demises like the infamous Red Wedding, or even the finale of the original show’s first season, when Ned Stark was met with a swift—and utterly unexpected—decapitation. House of the Dragon, however, is a departure from the tone Game of Thrones set. Rather than intense battle scenes or grim torture, House of the Dragon is more of a slow burn, focusing on character-based drama and maneuvering. It’s a war of intelligence over physical prowess.

That slow burn is no better exemplified than in the bleak, grueling, death of King Viserys I. When we first meet him in the series premiere, we see that he’s suffering from a strange ailment, one where his skin peels and becomes discolored. Eventually, he even loses an eye. Throughout the first season, as tensions in his family grow high and devious plans are plotted, poor naive Viserys is far too busy trying to stay alive than deal with all the scheming going on around him. As a viewer, you can’t help but feel bad for the man who lives in a time of rudimentary medicine. Death would probably be a mercy.

Thankfully (for us and for him), Season 1 Episode 8 saw Viserys’ curtain call. Emaciated and weak, he can barely sit up in bed without moaning in pain. He’s lost hair, an eye, and suffers from what seems to be some sort of dementia (he notably calls his second wife Alicent, “Aemma” the name of his long deceased first wife). At the end of Episode 8, however, we finally see him released from his torture, although not before delivering a line which will forever change the future of Westeros.

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So what is it that Viserys suffered from?

Viserys had a form of leprosy in House of the Dragon.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, actor Paddy Considine (who played Viserys), revealed his character had a form of leprosy. In the podcast he explains, “He is not actually old. He’s still a young man in there. He’s just, unfortunately, got this thing that’s taken over his body. It becomes a metaphor for being king, and the stress and strain that it puts on you, and what it does to you physically, what it does to you mentally.”

According to the CDC, leprosy (also known as Hansen’s Disease) is an infection caused by a slow-growing bacteria. It impacts the nerves, the eyes, and the nose. In our non-dragon reality, the disease is easily cured when caught early. For Viserys, however, who lives in a time and place where even C-sections are new, it probably was an agonizing mystery.

Symptoms of leprosy include painful swelling of the extremities, numbness, paralysis, possible blindness, and more.

Is Leprosy contagious?

Luckily for Alicent, Rhaenyra, Daemon, and everyone else who got close to Viserys near the end, Leprosy is not contagious. So you won’t see any of the other characters suddenly suffering from the same ailments.

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