Four Kissings and a Funeral – Part 1: Guy of Gisborne Courts Lady Marian

There’s no denying that viewers of BBC’s Robin Hood were and remain captivated by the relationship between Guy of Gisborne and Lady Marian. Many disagree about how to characterize the relationship- love triangle, dysfunctional, borderline abusive, unrequited, coerced. Guy has been described as a psychotic stalker whose relationship with Marian is all in his head, and others think Marian begins to develop some real feelings for Guy as the story plays out -though the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

S1,E2, from Richard Armitage Online

S1,E2, from Richard Armitage Online

One thing is certain, the Guy/Marian push and pull was no accident. By casting Richard Armitage in the role of Guy, Robin Hood’s creators knew they had an actor with the looks and ability to master the challenge of rising above the stereotypical sadistic henchman role to create some real believable sexual tension and angst between the characters to keep the older audience coming back for more – and he delivered for us. Though, he may have failed for himself, since it was his intent, at least in Season 1, to make us squirm every time he got near Marian with with his leering glances. Even if he had just finished cutting out a villager’s tongue, running through with his sword a dissenter or torturing his loyal friend,for me, those glances were sometimes leering, but more often penetrating, searching, yearning.

As one screenwriter said in an on-line feminist screenwriting magazine that generally panned the show, “they had me at Armitage and for the obvious reasons.” (Follow the links in the article for three more fun takes on Robin Hood, including “The Train Wreck That Was Season 2).

This post and the one that follows, is devoted to my theory of the Marian/Guy relationship, and it’s really, really long, so it will come in parts. I apologize in advance for the lack of links, using stills with dialogue instead of video or animation, and sketchy and inconsistent references to take you to the exact spot in the episode to which I am referring. Those may come later with editing or in an author’s comment. Frankly, if I wait to get all that straight, this will never get published.

I confess initially that much of what I say did not come to me with my first viewing. But the more times I watched, listened and paid close attention (they talk very fast in this show and the Armitage whisper sometimes requires repeated efforts to get what he’s mumbling) the more I began to feel Guy’s pain for his unrequited love of Marian. No matter what else he was or wasn’t, no matter what terrible and unforgiving choices he made, I came to realize that for as long as Guy could keep the hope alive, he desperately wanted mutual, honest love from Marian. He tried to overcome his nature, ambition and his sinister side in order to be deserving of the reward he sought, but he always fell short of the mark.

Ultimately, I concluded that though Guy pursued her relentlessly in Season 1, it was Marian who was the seducer in Season 2. Marian became equally deceitful and manipulative – maybe even more than he, because she traded on Guy’s love for other reasons, while Guy strove for true love.  I concede that Marian’s motives were good- to defend King and country, but her reasons are irrelevant for these purposes, except insofar as they contributed to her death.

In the middle of season one at episode 6, Guy starts to woo Marian in earnest, with gifts and attention. He frequently invades her space, leaning over her, touching her, circling her.  In a scene I find especially moving, he gives her a brooch. When he offers the gift, she takes it, looks at it, and refuses it, saying that he brings too many gifts. He tells her, ( see text in photo, left )


When Marian again replies that she doesn’t needs gifts, he mumbles, somewhat disdainfully, “you need a husband.” After some more discussion, he starts to walk out, turns around to walk towards her and presses the brooch into her hand. “I will keep giving,” he stubbornly tells her.

She keeps the brooch. His almost boyish memory of the lesson Mother taught – this man who has no one, humanizes him.

On the same day, having been chastised by her father for her Night Watchman activities, as well as suffering Guy’s advances, Marian decides she has to get away, and with few options, she decides to become a novice in the Abbey of the recently arrived “Abbess of Rochford” (who turns out to be an impostor).

Gisborne, angry and surprised, since he just made clear to her his intention to “keep giving,” demands to know why she never mentioned this desire before. “Should I have?” Marian states, and he responds with a sharp, “Yah.” He may be clueless that he had any part in her wish to escape or he may have put two and two together and seen it as the rejection it was. Nevertheless, he opens up to her. He grabs her arm forcefully to prevent her from walking away.”I thought we were friends, he says. I thought in time you would consider …” “What?” she replies sharply. “I thought in time you would consider marriage –” and she cuts him off before he has a chance to say what he means – that maybe she might consider marrying him. “Perhaps I am not the marrying kind.”


Marian knows from the beginning what’s on Guy’s mind. She understood it from earlier in the day. She recognizes that he’s having a difficult time actually telling her what he wants. Even though she doesn’t want him, she makes him say it, or try to say it. Intentionally, she’s causing him squirm, taking advantage of his social awkwardness, his insecurity, his lack of confidence.

At the end of the episode, as soon as Guy learns the Abbess is a fraud and Marian isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, he rushes over to her house (with yet another gift) to tell her about the abbess and apologize for his earlier conduct. The last thing he says to her is, ” there are …people who would like to be kind to you, if you would let them.”

And he continues to try.

Episode 7 is devoted almost entirely to Guy and Marian. Guy gives Marian a necklace that he confiscates from a young bride, the girl’s one valuable heirloom. Marian returns the necklace through Robin at the same time that she disclosed to him Guy’s secret plan, which is the second plot line in the episode. Guy finds the necklace again on the bride, viciously rips it off her neck and gives it away. He is distraught, because he realizes that it was Marian who betrayed him, and not his loyal servant whom he had executed. And, once again she rejected his gift.

Guy is unable to recognize that Marian would not want a gift stolen from someone else, let alone a bride who has next to nothing.


Courtesy of RACentral.UK.Co

Guy tells the Sheriff that  it wasn’t his loyal servant who betrayed Guy – it was Marian, who by the way, allowed the servant to be executed because she didn’t own up to Guy. Vaisey, the misogynist who refers to women as lepers, plays to Guy’s weaknesses, insecurities and ego, and asks him

“Marian? Well well. You’re hurt. How does the old knife feel?  Twisting in your back? All the time you thought she was smiling at you she was laughing at you – despising you- humiliating you. What do you want to do to her now? Hmm? GO- and ENJOY IT.

I think Vaisey is suggesting- no taunting – Gisborne to recover his self respect by taking Marian forcefully. He’s giving Guy license to rape her, foreshadowing Guy’s later decision to take Marian by force after they return from the Holy Land. Vaisey, the most perceptive and intelligent character in this series, knows that Gisborne needs to redeem himself in Vaisey’s eyes. The debasement of Marian would just be another twisted, amusing pleasure for the Sheriff, a prelude to her arrest and death. Vaisey is a wordsmith. He fires orders, insults, musings, with the precise aim of a sniper and the rapidity of a machine gun. He says nothing by accident. His choice of words -“what do you want to DO to her now? Go and ENJOY it,” is fraught with meaning.

In a series aimed at teenagers, this is an effective way to spice up the content for the mature audience. And let’s be clear, Richard Armitage is there for the more mature viewers.

Guy understands Vaisey. He runs out and rushes to Marian’s house, without any guards, to arrest her. (Unlike in Season 2 when Guy arrives with guards to torch Marian and Edward’s home and arrest them). While Guy, both fire and ice, sits with Edward to wait for Marian’s return he is nibbling some snack Edward provided. “Can I get you anything else, Edward asks? “Maybe some salt,” Guy mumbles. We know- this is salt for his wounds.  Marian arrives and Guy, eyes now on fire, sneer in place, demands to see the necklace, then slaps Edward hard when the father tries to protect Marian – thus letting us know that Edward is incapable of preventing Guy from harming Marian – from doing “what he wants to do to her.” Guy follows Marian to her bed chamber and accuses her of using him to get information for his enemy. He tells her she is already dead. Guy is wrecked. There’s no fire, no anger left in him. He seems spent, though probably not for the reason he might have expected when he set out from the castle.

He sits at the head of Marian’s bed, dejected, quiet, knowing the young woman he loves is on the way to the scaffold. Robin, waiting outside Marian’s window, slips Marian the recovered necklace and, when Guy sees it, he is almost weeping. He’s in disbelief, choking up when he tries to speak. “I was wrong.” He tells Marian that she is still in danger because he already told the Sheriff of her betrayal. Guy convinces Marian that she will die unless she marries him and allows him to protect both her and her father. This time he has no trouble or hesitation getting the words out.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

She agrees to marry him when the King returns to England.

It’s arguable whether Guy was truthful when he claimed that the Sheriff would not be convinced of Marian’s loyalty; possibly he was angling to coerce Marian into marriage. I think it’s the former. At first, Richard Armitage uses only his eyes to change his expressions from wonder to relief to realization, only at at the end of the sequence does he lift his head to face Marian. There’s no deception, no sneer, no furrowed brow, no open nostrils.

It’s hard to figure out how Guy can truly believe Marian is innocent. He knows that at one point she gave the necklace to Robin Hood;he saw it for himself on the bride, and he knows that he, himself, gave it away. Either he wants to believe it, and so does, or he no longer cares because Marian is within his grasp. He’s been in denial before, in Episode 5, Turk’s Flu, when he seems to ignore the coincidence of Marian bleeding when he touches her arm at the spot where earlier he’d stabbed the Night Watchman.

In the next episode, when Marian spends a night at the castle, Guy comes to her room and professes his need for her.

I'm not whole2
Marian, since we came to our understanding, you have been constantly in my thoughts.
Without you, I am not quite …whole. . . .  Please don’t send me away. We should be spending time together.
I want to get to know you.
Marian, be with me.”

“I can’t. Not now Guy.”

Obviously, since Robin Hood is once again lurking behind the door listening in (and they call Guy a stalker), now is not a good time for Marian to “Be” with Guy. The phrases “Be with me” and “Know you,” are euphemisms for having sex. Guy approaches her. He takes her hand, she gives it. He lifts her up off the bed she’s sitting on, draws her near to him. He’s murmuring – (This is a portrayal by Richard Armitage that hasn’t been seen before 2006 nor after). Guy embraces her, he leans in, he tries to initiate. It’s teasing, I think, that she says, “not now,” instead of “not yet,” if it’s her virginity she’s protecting. Is Marian beginning to feel some desire for Guy? Would she recognize it? What if Robin were not peeping in? Gisborne’s words must be honest, I think, because this sort of thing doesn’t come easily for him. Before, he’s been awkward and hesitant at really expressing love.

Episode 12, The Return of The King, opens with the Sheriff and Guy. The Sheriff gives Guy one of his caged birds to hold, and makes an analogy to Marian,”speaking of beautiful caged birds,” he asks Guy when he expects to marry. Guy, tenderly and uncomfortably cradling the tiny delicate bird in his powerful, large gloved hands, tells Vaisey they will marry when the King returns. Vaisey discloses that he has some news on that front. Guy is startled, and the bird flies off to freedom, foreshadowing his impending loss of Marian to the forest. Guy then tells Marian that the King is returning.

guybird n hand

In Episode 13, the finale, the Sheriff tells Guy that it’s actually an impostor king who is coming. Guy is visibly upset, because his marriage will be based on a lie. He goes to Marian’s house because, as he explains to her father, he, Guy,has something to tell Marian. I believe he sets off to Marian’s to let her know that the King is not coming. Guy wants his marriage to Marian to be based on truth; he want to keep the pledge. If marriage to her is to wash away his sins, as he later explains – it must be holy and clean. He is a hare’s breadth from doing the honorable thing. But when Edward tells him, falsely, that Marian may be ill because she is excited about the wedding- he thinks again, and says nothing. Guy’s true self defeats him. His selfishness, dishonesty, his darkness makes him willing to trick Marian for his own self interest.

Later in the episode, Marian confronts Guy to ask him point blank whether he tried to kill the King in the Holy Land. He’s not on sure footing for a moment, his eyes are blinking, he gives his head half a shake, and he turns his back on her as she makes clear that she could not marry him if the rumors were true. He never answers the question. He circles her, almost menacingly, he closes in. Marian seems to shrink a bit. Ultimately, he professes his love for her again, and she says, “I am not sure.” ” You must be sure, he says.” He leans in to kiss her. She allows it.

you must be sure
And she audibly gags.

Armitage shows us the conflict within Gisborne, just slightly over-played. it’s a slippery slope for Guy, to ensure that Marian is marrying him for decent reasons. He needs her to believe that he is innocent. He needs her to be sure that marrying him right. He says as much and demands that she not leave until she reassures him. He knows though, this is the second lie upon which his marriage will be based. But Marian is in denial as well, as she starts to struggle to find the good in Guy and come to terms with her decision – as we see later.

For Guy, it was a sort of triumph. He got his first kiss. Maybe he didn’t notice her gagging.

To Be Continued – The Wedding, The Seduction, Three More Kissings and a Funeral.


38 thoughts on “Four Kissings and a Funeral – Part 1: Guy of Gisborne Courts Lady Marian

  1. Thank you and welcome. I think your suggestions may be accurate. I won’t lie – I’m disappointed that no one has commented until now and not visited either.
    I was advised to keep posts under 1,000 words. I should have listened. When notice of the post is relayed to followers of the blog, the word count is listed. Maybe I will re-tool and post it on another day. I think how things work is, if folks don’t look at it right away, it’s sort of dead in the water unless a reader is drawn to a subsequent post and then looks back.


  2. because I love Guy, I enjoy all posts about him, especially the ones that try to dig under the surface and show who he really is, as opposed to how he presents himself to others. I particularly liked the image with text, about Guy promising to keep on giving. he knows he’s going to get repeatedly rejected, but he’s not giving up! that says so much about him 🙂

    aside from the fact that I think the absence of comments has to do with the way the update went out, I think maybe the post would encourage more discussion if it wasn’t so analytical. if you try to stick to your particular theme and show how it runs throughout each of the episodes, without summarizing the episodes themselves, it will make it easier for the reader to comment on something if they don’t have to pick and chose which things to talk about 🙂 or you could just highlight each of the episodes separately, one to a post, then you can give all the background without it being an overload of information 🙂


    • Thanks so much kelbel. And I agree with your critique. I realized too late that the likely reader doesn’t need a recap, chapter and verse, of every episode and making it sort of a series would work better. I appreciate you taking the time to help me out and to become a more effective blogger. Big smile and hug.


      • we try things out and see what works and what doesn’t, and then we share our findings with each other. that’s why this community flourishes like it does, because we’re all part of a bigger whole 🙂


  3. I enjoy this post immensly,Perry 🙂 Thanks!
    Complicated and beautiful Guy is the result of conspiracy between the writers and the actor but I don’t wont to blame anybody. It’s nice that someone thinks about overtired Mothers,right?;)



  5. I’ve tried to watch Robin Hood and found it to be a ridiculous cartoon that is too tedious to wade through to get to the RA good parts. Thanks for the detailed guide. Your essay’s not too long. There’s no such thing as too long in RA world when the reading is good. We fans are a driven lot. I spent several hours going back and forth between your essay and searching out the examples you cite on YouTube. Thanks for a pleasant evening!


    • And thank you so much. I’m still going to rework it.
      Robin Hood – I came upon it on BBCA before I was into Armitage. I got through 10 minutes. I watched the whole series as a marathon because of Armitage once I was hooked. Now, I routinely fast forward for his parts. It’s free on Netflix.
      The show is bad. Juvenile. But there are some high points in the writing with Guy and the Sheriff and Armitage is great in it,though I really didn’t like his very long, stringy hair in season 3.
      It’s not for everyone.


      • I agree it’s not for everyone, but I always implore people to give it a chance to sink in; Guy is so worth it 🙂 I won’t claim it’s the greatest show around, but I find the dynamic between the characters interesting and the humor is lighthearted. of course, I do watch it with my kids and seeing it from their point of view lets me approach it from a different angle 😉


  6. Pingback: Richard Armitage Legenda 88: Stuff worth reading | Me + Richard Armitage

  7. I’m admittely really a Thornton fan, but I’ve heard and read enough about Guy to know that his conflicted character was the most fascinating thing going in RH. Here are a couple of really well-written pieces that explore the Guy/Marian relationship.
    Several beautiful snippets of Guy’s thoughts by Lillianschild:
    And a full-length story by Kleindog:


  8. the way the comments show up on these blogs are confusing sometimes 😉 but yes, I mentioned “grant what I wish” because I saw Trudy’s recommendation. I thought the way the author stuck to canon closely while also veering off into original territory was done in a very balanced way.
    my mini-vacation was nice (visiting family, so I wouldn’t call it relaxing exactly *laughs*) but now I have to get caught up on all the RA happenings 🙂


    • That’s what I thought exactly about the author keeping to canon- but I admit, I began to skim the parts where she recited the parts of the script I already knew. On the other hand, I haven’t read that much fan fiction, but i thought it was unusual and interesting that the story ran parallel to the OC, rather than just before and after.


  9. I realize this is almost 2 years after you wrote this, but I have just now watched Robin Hood (alternating with Hannibal) and am interested in reading what people have to say. Your post was thought-provoking, and I hope you will write the second part.

    I agree with most of your analysis, and for the rest, it is probably right but wasn’t the way things struck me. If Guy really felt this way about Marian, how on earth could he kill her? Wouldn’t it make more sense in his twisted brain to kill his rival Robin? While her death allowed his character to do some interesting things in the last season, I found it to be the second most silly writing in the series. (The silliest was Guy’s first secret trip to the Holy Land to kill the king, which is completely implausible. The third silliest was the secret brother, which was at least fun.) So I hope you will write the second part and explain why you think Guy killed Marian, if you have an explanation.


    • Hi, there! Guy killing Marian is totally believable if you think of how the mind of wife beaters works: “If she is not mine, then nobody can have her”. It is a classic behavior of gender violence-prone males. Of course he regretted doing it the second after he did it, but his inner violent macho self emerged just long enough to do irreparable damage…


  10. I’m actually happy to read this right now. I’ve been asked before – where is Part 2? I’ll have to admit, that as one of my earlier pieces of more substance than usual, it was not so well received, but when I look back at the few comments I got, I actually disagree with them. To detailed, too analytical was one. I’d actually like to re-do it- and I may just tackle that before Part 2. There were all sorts of things I didn’t know about the WP program at the time. Two years later, I feel more comfortable.
    You may be a newer fan – there is an interview in which Richard Armitage states that he had nightmares ( or couldn’t sleep – forgot which) before he had to shoot that scene. All sorts of justifications have been advanced ( it was incredibly stupid and didn’t go over to well.) The best explanation is that it was passion, that he was advancing towards her, perhaps to grab her, and he forgot he had his sword. I’ll get to it.
    But thanks for this – I’ve been debating about what to write about, and for now, Hannibal and The Crucible just weren’t wetting my whistle. So, stay tuned. ( There’s also a great tumblr blog post which echoes my thoughts – actually, hers came first. I have to see if I can find it on the old computer.)


    • I’m only about 9 months into my RA awareness, so I’ve missed a lot, and still haven’t seen everything. I held off on watching Robin Hood because it is not my kind of show. After watching a few episodes, I saw things to admire in it. I find Richard’s acting good to great across the episodes, but his character is very inconsistent.

      So I was very grateful for your post because the vast majority of material about Guy is focused on how he looks and not what makes him tick.

      I’m glad I’m not alone in thinking killing Marian was not believable. Poor Richard having to interpret his character and make sense of bad writing. No wonder he was having nightmares.


  11. Guy turned into a complicated character. Servetus has written about him as well. She once told me, Robin was for the teen-agers, Guy was for the Moms. RACentral and OnLine have all the interviews and there are some videoed ones that came with the DVDs. I think they started writing him differently when he was acknowledged as being so hot in the role. In fact, I think he won a BBC award of some sort for hottest something or other. And, I may be confusing this with Spooks, or maybe it happened to both, but I also think there may have been a change in the show runner for the final third series.


  12. Thanks so much Perry, so sorry I’m only now seeing this. Also interested in part 2. Curious abt reference to Guy deciding to take Marian after return from Holy Land? Guy may be his most complex character as I see new things, know Guy better every time I rewatch – I can no longer count how many times. I would also like to posit that there is a degree of Guy (whether large or small) in all of us (and all this is just my opinion). Not that everyone’s executing people or cutting off appendages. But each of us has our dark parts against which we struggle. Sometimes we master them, sometimes they master us. Shedding light on them affects our relationships and yet bringing our darkness into the light disarms shame, paving the way for authentic renewal, change and redemption, thus more authentic relationships. The longer I live, the less I know for sure and the more I relate to and learn from Guy. Thanks for making your blog what it is. I appreciate this space and your time, effort.


    • Welcome to the blog and thanks for your comment. Yes, the missing Part 2 – Marian’s seduction of Guy. Yet to be completed, but I’ve received more than a few comments and emails asking about it. At some point it’s coming. I’ve made a vow that before I ever quit this blog, all my promised part 2’s will be posted. Right now there are, I think there are only three which haven’t come through – this one, The Crucible on Screen Part 2, ( coming soon) and this one I don’t know if I agree that Guy is Richard Armitage’s most complex character. There’s complexity there, but a great of it has been read in by fans or watchers. I think Lucas North had a lot of complexity and depth, for most of the series. But I certainly agree that with Guy of Gisborne, the more one watches, the more one sees. As to the reference you mention, Guy says this to the Sheriff when they arrive in the Holy Land, with Marian as hostage. And if you recall, Guy did not know that Vaisey took Marian out to the desert to die with the others. I think there’s a clear shot of the surprise on Guy’s face when he arrives there and sees Marian, but I could be misremembering.


  13. I was a Richard fan long before I realize I was one. Hence, I just discovered your analissis. I wholeheartedly agree with your point of view. And yes, I really believe what Richard said in that interview, because Guy didn’t even remembered that the sword was in his hand, he’d just wanted to grab her and make her see him. It’s a real tragedy.
    I would love if someday you continue with this post. I would like very much to read it ♥


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