It is Friday, RA Friday on Fly High. I’ve been racking my brains on what I might post today for days. Not a clue. Nothing new on the RA front, just like last week… Heyer’s Venetia Audiobook and Sky 1 Strike Back series both out in April are our nearest dates with him and his work. In addition, I haven’t had any time to watch or listen to any of his works I haven’t seen or listened to yet – there are still several! I’ve had an awful fortnight at work and it hasn’t finished yet.
But, YES! Work! That’s a clue. I’ve told you in one of my recent posts that I’m working on … Guy of Gisborne these days! This is what I can write about! I know you’ve read and seen plenty about him but this will be MY post about Guy of Gisborne. Actually, I wrote also something about RH series 3 when it was on BBC 1 last spring ( HERE and HERE ) and I even made a clip, GUY AND THE WITCHFINDER , with the incipit of The Witchfinders Audiobook. You can also find the first three parts of a series, Guy's Journey in Robin Hood Three, on my Utube Page.
Now, Sir Guy of Gisborne is Richard Armitage’s second most popular character among his fans – following John Thornton - North and South, of course. I’m not working on his Gisborne at school, obviously, but on the original one, that is a minor character in the medieval ballads of Robin Hood and the outlaws. Just this morning I read , translated and commented part of “Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne” in one of my classes. It is a very long poem so we are not reading it all, only excerpts. It was fun anyway, especially while reading the lines in which Little John and Robin quarrel after meeting Guy:
Stand you still, master," quoth Litle John,
"Under this trusty tree,
And I will goe to yond wight yeoman,
To know his meaning trulye."
"A, John, by me thou setts noe store,
And thats a farley thinge;
How offt send I my men beffore,
And tarry myselfe behinde?
"It is noe cunning a knave to ken,
And a man but heare him speake;
They had just seen a stranger (Guy ) looking quite dangerous and bizzarre …
There were the ware of wight yeoman,
His body leaned to a tree.
A sword and a dagger he wore by his side,
Had beene many a mans bane,
And he was cladd in his capull-hyde,
Topp, and tayle, and mayne.
After their discussion, John marches off infuriated but he is promptly captured by the Sheriff of Nottingham and tied to a tree to be later hung while Robin approaches Guy of Gisborne, the stranger wearing a bizarre horsehide robe. Guy is a bounty hunter or a hired killer seeking Robin Hood. They have a shooting contest, and Robin wins.
Later Robin identifies himself, and the two fight. Robin trips over a root and Guy stabs him, but Robin thrusts his sword and kills Guy. Somehow (not specified), Robin must know Little John was captured. For he dons the horsehide, cuts off Guy's head, sticks it on his bow, and slashes the face so it's unrecognizable. He then blows Guy's horn to signal victory to the Sheriff. Disguised as Guy, and carrying "Robin Hood's" head, Robin goes to rescue Little John. He brushes past the Sheriff as if to kill John, but cuts him loose. John then takes a bow and shoots the Sheriff through the heart.
So, just a quick unfortunate appearance in the original story ! Not a great presence at all. But Guy has made many appearances in written and filmed variants of the Robin Hood legends so far. Guy's only constant is his appearing as a villain. For instance ,
-in Howard Pyle's novel , Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, he is a rude, coarse outlaw, known for his cruelty and murders;
-in the 1938 Errol Flynn film The Adventures of Robin Hood, he is a suave nobleman, Prince John's chief supporter, and a much more prominent adversary than the Sheriff of Nottingham, who is a bumbling fool. Indeed, Prince John proposes Gisbourne to Maid Marian, a royal ward in this variant, as a husband; he often appears as a rival to Robin for Maid Marian's affections. In the Flynn film, Robin engages him in a spectacular duel to the death, one of the most famous swordfights in American film.
The role of Guy of Gisbourne has been played by such actors as Basil Rathbone (The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1938), Tom Baker (The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood, 1984), Robert Addie (in the British television series Robin of Sherwood, 1984-6) and Michael Wincott (in the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves).
In the 1990s CBBC comedy series Maid Marian and her Merry Men, Guy of Gisbourne, played by Ramsay Gilderdale, is the nephew of Prince John, and is portrayed as an overgrown foolish mother's boy.
Since 2006, in the latest BBC Robin Hood, Guy has had Richard Armitage’s handsome look and piercing blue eyes. Fascinatingly clad in black leather, he is the Sheriff of Nottingham's second-in-command. While Robin was away fighting in the crusades, Guy managed his estate, and eventually takes it over when Robin is outlawed. Moreover... he becomes part of a thrilling love triangle: Robin/Guy/Marian.
Guy and Marian in series 1 BBC 2007
Guy and Marian in RH series 2 BBC 2008
Guy in RH series 3 BBC 2009
The character guide on the official BBC website describes Gisborne as follows:
Vain, brutal, ambitious, loyal, athletic, single-minded, boastful, frustrated, Gisborne is a selfish bully. As the Sheriff's right hand man, Gisborne is capable of overwhelming cruelty in his ruthless pursuit for heritage and position. Yet beyond this drive for recognition was the one hope for redemption: Marian
About his Guy Richard Armitage said :
In order to sustain the character of Guy you have to find conflict within him... He's constantly pulled between good and evil, between who he really wants to be and who he actually is. He could have been a good man, but he is forever dragged down by his fatal flaw – that he wants glory at all costs. I think that internal conflict works very well, because, after all, all the best drama is fuelled by conflict ...
This is how a minor literary figure became a widely popular antagonist. His success is Richard’s success. A fascinating broody baddie who “...came along and stole the show” ... from the protagonist himself.
Related posts and sites
Frances Tempest about BBC Robin's and Guy's costumes
All the Guys of Gisborne in filmography
BBC Page for Guy of Gisborne
Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne - The Ballad