Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

" [...] They are bastards. The girl as well. All three of them abominations born of incest.”

Would even Cersei be so mad? Catelyn was speechless.

Martin writes about Cersei [the queen] having three children who are not highborn. Cersei is married to the king, but the king is not the father.

Does "would be" mean "was" in this context? If this is the case, is used to express uncertainty?

Thanks in advance


"Despite the fact that Cersei is renowned for being insane, this state of affairs is outrageous even by her standards."

Literally: "Could it be possible that Cersei was so insane that even she would do something so beyond belief?"

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  • Thanks for your response. Can I change it to "Was even Cersei so mad?" Or does this change the meaning? – artek Jun 19 at 10:15
  • Then it asks a direct question of her current state of insanity. "Would be" implies that it is not possible or feasible to establish her level of insanity, so it is posed as a hypothetical, indeed, rhetorical, question. – Prime Mover Jun 19 at 10:54
  • so just to make it clear. Would be = was + uncertainty? – artek Jun 19 at 10:56
  • No, it's more subtle than just "uncertainty". "was" expresses uncertainty, "would be" expresses the belief that the question is going to remain uncertain. – Prime Mover Jun 19 at 10:58
  • Thanks for your help. I think I need to google for the rule or something on this topic – artek Jun 19 at 11:00

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