Sir Guy of Gisborne (BBC TV drama)

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Sir Guy of Gisborne
Guy of Gisborne.jpg
Robin Hood character
Portrayed by Richard Armitage
First appearance "Will You Tolerate This?"
Last appearance "Something Worth Fighting For, Part 2"
Created by Dominic Minghella
Foz Allan
Profile
Occupation Outlaw, former Sheriff of Nottingham, former Sheriff's deputy
Residence Nottingham Castle
Locksley Hall
Sherwood Forest

Sir Guy of Gisborne is a fictional character in the BBC television drama series, Robin Hood, based on a minor figure in Robin Hood folklore. Played by Richard Armitage, Guy is a complicated and conflicted character who starts out as a straight-out villain but then shows more complex qualities, and achieves redemption by the end of the series.

While the legend's Guy of Gisborne is merely a bounty hunter sent after Robin Hood, apparently by the Sheriff of Nottingham, and killed by Robin after an archery contest between the two, the BBC series, like some previous versions of the Robin Hood legend, makes Gisborne one of the hero's principal adversaries.

A dark, brooding man always clad in black leather, Gisborne is the lieutenant to the Sheriff of Nottingham. At the series' start, he manages the Locksley estate in Robin's absence; he is reluctant to relinquish control over it and then takes satisfaction in being named its permanent lord after Robin is outlawed, since he himself has no land to go with his title and has an acute sense of inferiority over this fact. (In the Season 3 episode Bad Blood [3x10], it is revealed that the Gisborne family lost its land after Guy's father, Sir Roger, was cast out as a leper after returning from the Crusades.)

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.[1]

The show's early episodes portray Gisborne as a very dark character who not only commits cold-blooded murders at the Sheriff's behest but apparently abandons in the woods his own infant son, Seth, fathered with a servant girl named Annie (the baby is found and rescued by Robin and his men). In Season 1, Episode 8 (Tattoo? What Tattoo?), he is also revealed as the masked assassin who wounded Robin in the Holy Land while trying to murder King Richard. Yet Gisborne also shows a more human side. He clearly lacks the Sheriff's sadistic glee, and it is often the Sheriff who goads him into acts of cruelty by mocking or disparaging him. At times Gisborne shows compassion: When three young boys witness an incriminating event during "Childhood," Gisborne attempts to spare their lives even though the Sheriff wants them disposed of. He also shows an awareness that the things he does in the Sheriff's service are morally wrong, admitting to Thornton, the housekeeper at Locksley, that he has committed "heinous crimes" in the Season 1 finale (A Clue? No!).

According to Richard Armitage:

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.[2]

Robin Hood executive producer/writer Dominic Minghella has said that the series' version of Guy of Gisborne was "somebody who had just missed being Robin Hood."[3]

As in many other versions of the Robin Hood legend, Gisborne in the series is a suitor of Maid Marian, who seems to spurn his affections but eventually reveals more complicated feelings. In Season 1, Episode 7 (Brothers in Arms), Marian agrees to marry Guy under duress, when the Sheriff's suspicion falls on her and he offers her his protection. In Episode 8, when Robin discovers Guy tried to kill the King, he kidnaps him. In the brawl between the two men, Guy taunts Robin that he will even when the king returns, because he wins Marian. After Guy is traded for the Saracen, Djac, the Sheriff burns his tattoo off his arm with acid, destroying proof of their treason. In the subsequent episodes Marian seems to have some hope of bringing out the better side of Guy, but is repeatedly disappointed when Guy remains under the Sheriff's sway. Just before their wedding, Guy unknowingly wounds Marian when she tries to steal his treasure chest in her disguise as the Nightwatchman, a cloaked and masked fighter against injustice; Marian nearly dies when she is treated by the treacherous physician who provided Guy's alibi, but Djac's initial efforts save her. The physician later attempts to escape Robin's camp, but Guy orders his death for collaboration for outlaws. In the Series 1 finale, A Clue? No!, Marian intends to go ahead with the wedding; but already at the altar, Marian learns that the return of King Richard (which she had made a condition of their marriage) is a hoax and that Guy may have been involved in the assassination attempt on the King. She knocks him out with a punch and runs from the altar.

In the Season 2 premiere, Sister Hood, an enraged Guy torches Marian's home after being sent by the Sheriff to arrest her and her father and bring them to the castle. Guy also captures and tortures Allan A Dale, persuading him to become a spy for the Sheriff for money. Guy and Marian later achieve a reconciliation of sorts and their relationship becomes more complicated. In Episode 4, Angel of Death, he apologizes to Marian for the Sheriff's treatment of her and her father and volunteers to help her father in the dungeon, asking for nothing in return. In Episode 6, For England!, when the Sheriff gives Marian to a powerful nobleman, Lord Winchester, as part of a bargain to secure his alliance, Gisborne tries to arrange her escape at risk to his own life, but later falters when confronted by a suspicious Sheriff and delivers Marian to Winchester at his command. (She is rescued at the end of the episode when the Sheriff has Winchester murdered due to his demand to be given Sussex as his possession.) After Allan is found out by Robin, he becomes Gisborne's right-hand man, although he never betrays the outlaws completely, as he never reveals Marian's identity as the Nightwatchman and her as spy inside the castle, or the location the outlaws' camp.

Marian leaves the castle for Sherwood after her father is killed trying to flee prison, although Guy remains unaware of where she has gone. In Episode 8, "Get Carter", Guy orders Allan to find where Marian has gone, and Allan and Marian decide to tell that she has gone to a convent. When Guy remains unconvinced, Marian visits the castle, saving Robin's life by distracting Guy. Guy tries to persuade her to stay at the castle, but Marian refuses, saying that she needs time to grieve her father's recent death. When Guy is turning to leave, the two share a passionate kiss, as Marian protects a fleeing Robin from Guy's view. In Episode 9, Lardner's Ring the outlaws are cornered by Gisborne's men; Marian then suggests posing as a hostage, and is turned over to Gisborne who takes her back to the castle. In the next episode, Walkabout, Guy seems to show genuine nobility when, thinking that Prince John's army is going to raze Nottingham to the ground under the false impression that the Sheriff has been killed, he refuses an offer to flee but chooses to stay and fight to the death at Marian's side. Marian is clearly moved and nearly accepts Gisborne's offer to marry him, but they are interrupted by the Sheriff's return. In Treasure of the Nation, Guy accidentally discovers Marian's identity as the Nightwatchman and angrily confronts her about her deceptions, but then saves her from execution by having Allan escape disguised as the Nightwatchman, incurring the Sheriff's anger.

Gisborne's story arc takes a dark turn in the controversial two-part finale of Season 2, A Good Day to Die/We Are Robin Hood. Marian learns that Gisborne and the Sheriff are planning to go to the Holy Land to kill King Richard, and the Sheriff takes Marian along to the Holy Land as a hostage. Believing Robin Hood to be dead, she offers to marry Guy if he assassinates the Sheriff and saves the King; Guy considers it but ends up confessing Marian's offer to the Sheriff. The Sheriff promises Guy to spare Marian's life, but instead takes her out to the desert where Robin and his gang (along with Allan, who has defected back to Robin's side) have been tied to stakes and left to die on orders of King Richard, based on a false report that they were conspiring against him. She is freed along with the others by one of Richard's men.

During the final battle within an abandoned Saracen town between Robin's men and the Sheriff's assassins, Richard is wounded in battle by the Sheriff and is left to the mercy of an advancing Gisborne. Realizing that Guy is consumed with power and greed, Marian stands between Guy and the King. When a half-crazed Gisborne insists that they will still be together after he kills the King and gains "power beyond measure," Marian tells him that she would rather die than marry him and that she loves Robin Hood. Gisborne snaps and runs Marian through with his sword, fatally injuring her; Marian collapses in his arms as Gisborne looks on in shock and horror at what he has done. Gisborne flees the fort with The Sheriff on horseback as Marian dies from her wounds.

Armitage has said of the Season 2 finale:

I was really shocked... It was also a shocking thing to do to the show, and I know that was exactly what the writers had intended when Dominic [Minghella] decided to do that. I found it very difficult to do for the character, because I had decided he was very much in love with Marian, that it was an obsession. But that became key to the doing of the act, trying to turn it into a crime of passion when the red haze falls. He was being provoked by her into an action that was so despicable that what it gave us was a great springboard to start series three, his journey into self-torture. He is punishing himself for what he did.[4]

Ironically, Marian's murder and the remorse over it starts the arc that turns out to be Gisborne's journey of redemption. According to Armitage:

[F]rankly, I sort of despise him for what he did... But it's also interesting when a character can start to take responsibility for his actions and have an opinion of himself, almost as if he is stepping outside his body, and that's really what Gisborne does this season: He steps out of his old shell and starts to become somebody new because of that action.[5]

In Season 3, Gisborne returns, haunted by memories of Marian, tormented by guilt and nearly crazed. He has abandoned his traditional clothes in favour of heavier armour, and no longer takes care of his appearance, shown by longer, unwashed hair. When Robin arrives back in Locksley in the premiere, Gisborne has clearly been waiting for him for some time; although he shows even greater desire to kill his enemy, he also pleads with Robin to kill him and end his hell. He also grows increasingly antagonistic toward the Sheriff, finally fighting and (so he thinks) killing him in Episode 6, Do You Love Me?, at the orders of Prince John. In Episode 5, Let the Games Commence, we also meet Gisborne's younger sister, Isabella; it is revealed that Guy sold her into marriage to a much older and abusive man at the age of 13 to finance is own career.

While Prince John promotes Gisborne to Sheriff after the previous Sheriff's apparent death, he does not last long in this position. In Episode 7, Too Hot to Handle, Robin Hood escapes from a pit of water with the treacherous Isabella, and an enraged Prince John tells Guy he's fired. Already near breaking point following Hood and Isabella's escape, Gisborne explodes and calls John a fraud to his face; the confrontation turns physical, and Guy finds himself an outlaw. In the next episode, The King Is Dead, Long Live the King, John is about to be crowned King of England on the false rumor of Richard's death. Robin and his followers expose the falsehood while Gisborne attempts to shoot John with a crossbow. Isabella saves the Regent's life and is made Sheriff of Nottingham.

A Dangerous Deal (Season 3, Episode 9) becomes a turning point for the character. Guy is in the dungeons awaiting execution when a conversation with Meg, a feisty girl in the next cell, makes him reflect on his life and the way Marian brought out the best in him. Meg, who at first despises men in general and Guy in particular, warms up to him after he shares some of his own food with her. After being released by Isabella, Meg feeds Guy and then attempts to free him, but is caught and sentenced to die along with Guy. The execution is thwarted by Robin Hood but Meg is fatally stabbed during the escape and dies in Guy's arms after he carries her away to the forest.

The series' remaining four episodes show Gisborne becoming allied with Robin Hood and finding redemption. In Bad Blood (3.10) and The Enemy of My Enemy (3.11), Guy and Robin learn that they share a half-brother, Archer, and must team up to rescue him. Despite the misgivings of Robin's followers, Guy then joins the gang to help defeat Isabella and Prince John. In the two-part finale, Something Worth Fighting For, the old Sheriff returns to reclaim Nottingham just as the outlaws have managed to gain control of Nottingham Castle. Guy is fatally wounded by the Sheriff and Isabella while fighting at Robin's side; he dies in Robin's arms, telling him, "I lived in shame -- but thanks to you, I die proud... I am free." He also mentions Marian as "the love of my life" and acknowledges that her heart always belonged to Robin. Robin survives him only by a short time, having been cut by Isabella with a poisoned blade.

In an interview after the end of the show, Armitage revealed that he "fought hard" for his character to be killed off, at a time when a fourth season for the show was still a possibility.[6] He explained that he "like[d] leaving people wanting more." However, in another interview, Armitage also said that he felt Gisborne had to die at the end of the show for moral reasons:

In simple terms, as one of the baddies of the piece, which was essentially aimed at youngsters, he really did have to suffer for the suffering he had caused. I am glad he was able to free himself from the burden of his actions and to die a noble death.[7]

Preceded by
Vaisey, Sheriff of Nottingham
Sheriff of Nottingham
Series 3
Succeeded by
Lady Isabella, Sheriff of Nottingham

References[edit]

External links[edit]

  • [1] Richard Armitage talks about Guy of Gisborne
  • [2] BBC official website character guide—Guy of Gisborne
  • [3] Show Patrol interview with Richard Armitage about Guy of Gisborne