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;

And itt were not for bursting of my bowe,

John, I wold thy head breake."

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.

Poor Robin/Jonas!

Amazing Guy/Richard!

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
Richard Armitage BBC America Interview about Robin Hood


Unknown said...

I KNEW you were coming out with something really good for RA Friday, this week :)
In fact, the line with "his body leaned to a tree" must have let the BBC writers' imagination run wild... there are so many scenes with GoG bound to a tree that it can't be a coincidence! Not that I'm complaining, mind you :D
As for the other Gisbornes, I have a soft spot for Basil Rathbone's Guy (1938): he's really cool, and the last sword duel is really good 8can't forget the candles!) Everytime I watch it, I always wish Guy would win, for once. Rathbone is so much superior to Flynn as a swordsman!
Thank you my friend, and have a nice weekend!

Mulubinba said...

Thank you Maria. The old stories mentioning Guy are interesting and I'm amazed that the character has grown from such small beginnings. I enjoyed Basil Rathbone's Guy - the YouTube footage of the fight sword fight between Robin and Guy (1938) is worth a look. I think what has made me take a second look at BBC's Robin Hood is the way Richard Armitage has managed to make him so interesting. He has added depth where there was nothing but villainy in past portrayals.

Luciana said...

It's interesting that Guy had his own stories in the past but ended up in only one of Robin Hood's, it happened the same with Maid Marian. And I have to agree with you: poor Jonas! But he looked like a guy from an emo band and Richard... Well, Richard IS Richard, so what poor Jonas could do?

Avalon said...

First of all I love the screen shot of the Guy in the first picture.

I have read many of the ballads and many many Robin Hood books doing research. I have always admired Robin Hood's legend since I was a child. It is funny that Guy was the one I fell for with BBC. If you are ever interested email me and I can suggest history books on the Robin Hood legend. Some are good and some are just copies of other author's research. There have been so many discoveries in recent years of medieval documents, the old books are out of date. Some of the other studies suggest that Robin was just a myth but with all these court documents, there is just no way. Robin was real. (I think there was 2 Robins, perhaps related)

I read a book once and if you want I can go through and find which one but there was much about Guy of Gisborne. He was only in a few ballads but this study pulled from castle documents and tax documents. It said he was not a hitman as the ballad suggests but was truly a Norman Knight. I like to read how different medieval scholars differ from one another but this author did not base his research on opinion. He said there are countless documents and records that no one has ever studied and years from now we will know so much more.

Amazon.com also has the old ballads on CD and they are quite nice if anyone is serious about researching the Robin Hood legend. But you need a medieval thesaurus because terminology and meaning have changed through the years.

And in my opinion no one could play Guy like R.A. I am just glad we did not see the real Guy of Gisborne's death on BBC....Yuck!

Maria Grazia said...

@Karen, Mulubinba, Luciana & Avalon
Hi all of you! Sorry for reading and moderating your comments after hours ! It is so nice to wake up in the morning and read them while having breakfast. Living in so many distant places, it happens that you read my blog while I'm fast asleep! Anyhow, great comments, THANK YOU! You have seen and read so much about Guy and Robin!
And you,Avalon, are such an expert! I have to teach about so many different periods and authors and texts that I can say I'm not an expert in any of them. My luck is that from any period I can choose what to read, and I happened to choose what I like best!
Have a great weekend :-)