Monday, May 22, 2006

Guy of Gisborne (Gisbourne, Gisburne)


Above: Richard Armitage as Gisborne in the 2007 BBC series Robin Hood. Below: Michael Wincott played the role in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.
In reality Guy of Gisborne was just a small incidental sentence or two in the life of Robin Hood, a stranger Robin encountered one day in the depths of Sherwood Forest and dressed from head to toe in animal hide. The stranger said he was out "hunting for Robin Hood", apparently hired in his task by the Sheriff of Nottingham. Robin didn't tell him his name but, curious to test the stranger's skills, proposed an archery contest. The stranger's ability on the bow was of an excellent standard but no match for Robin Hood. Having lost the contest the strange revealed his name was Guy of Gisborne. At that point Robin Hood revealed his own identity, and the two men swiftly drew swords.
Robin was wounded in the side of his waist, but recovered his balance enough to kill Gisborne, after which he cut off his head and mounted it on his bow like a gruesome trophy. Then, wearing Gisborne's animal skin clothes as a disguise, he entered Nottingham Castle and rescued Little John from the Sheriff's dungeons. It was of course Hollywood that first elevated Guy of Gisborne's role in the legend, making him not only “Sir” Guy of Gisborne, but a rival to the Sheriff of Nottingham as Robin Hood's most powerful arch enemy. Basil Rathbone as Gisborne was a big factor in the success of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), and no doubt a major influence on the "camp" yet stylish manner in which Alan Wheatley would later play the Sheriff of Nottingham in the 1950's television series. But even Rathbone's wonderful performance pales alongside that of Robert Addie as Sir Guy of Gisborne in Robin of Sherwood (1984), where the character displays truly disturbing murderous tendencies.
Guy of Gisborne / Gisburne / Gisbourne appears frequently in the website Robin Hood Pictures and Robin Hood.

Above: Paul Dickey as Gisborne in the Douglas Fairbanks silent movie version of Robin Hood. In my opinion Dickey was the best thing about the movie.

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