Guy of Warwick

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Guy of Warwick


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Guy of Warwick is in many respects "England's other Arthur" (Wiggins and Field xv). He is a romance hero whose abiding popularity in medieval England spanned both high and low culture, and whose story survives in a polyvalent narrative tradition that includes numerous iterations in a variety of languages and dialects. 


For a full-text version of the stanzaic version of the text, see Alison Wiggins's online edition from the Middle English Texts Series: The Stanzaic Guy of Warwick.
 

Summary:
 
While many versions of Guy of Warwick exist, the core narrative remains largely the same as the Anglo-Norman original, summarized here:
 
Guy falls in love with Felice, daughter of Earl Rohaut of Warwick. In order to win her love, Guy must prove himself in knightly combat. He travels to France and wins renown at a tournament in Rouen, where he is offered the hand of Blancheflour (daughter of the German emperor). He declines the offer and returns home to claim Felice instead. Felice, however, sends him away once more, saying that she will be his once he proves himself superior to all other knights. Guy journeys overseas again and participates in a series of tournaments throughout continental Europe. Afterwards, he travels to Constantinople, where he defeats a Saracen sultan. Here, as in Rouen, he is offered the hand of the emperor's daughter as a reward for his accomplishments. Various other adventures ensue, including Guy slaying a dragon who had ravaged Northumberland.
 
With Guy's prowess and prestige fully established, Felice gladly accepts him as her husband, and they conceive a child almost immediately after they are wed. Shortly thereafter, Guy becomes ashamed of his previous lifestyle of fighting, fame-seeking, and secular devotion to Felice. He decides to embark on a pilgrimage to atone for his past actions. He journeys to Bethlehem and Jerusalem, and eventually defends King Triamour against Amourant, a Saracen giant. He journeys back to Winchester, and he prevents the Danes from ruling in England by defeating their champion, the giant Colebrond.  From Winchester, he journeys to Warwick, where he lives as a hermit—unbeknownst to his wife Felice. Near death, he sends for Felice and the two are reunited just before he passes away. She dies shortly thereafter.
 
Analysis:
 
Romances of Guy—even ones that are not written in the English vernacular—are typically invested in the project of English identity formation and proto-nationalism (Wiggins and Field xix). They are also consistently invested in matters of crusading, especially in terms of the binaries that they establish between Christians and Saracens, and in terms of Guy's "one-man crusade in the Middle East" (Rouse,  "An Exemplary Life" 94).  Guy's development as a preeminent secular knight are inextricably bound to his wars against the Saracens, made clearest in his defense of Constantinople against an invading Saracen army. As Rouse articulates, "this 'aventure' has a markedly different tone to those that Guy has undertaken thus far. ...  Here Guy's actions turn from his earlier individual tournaments and the squabblings of European princes to the defence of a larger religiously delineated geo-political entity: he seeks to defend 'cristendom' from its heathen enemies" (Rouse,  "An Exemplary Life" 98). The hero's motivations are still largely secular at this point, however, and it is only in the second portion of the narrative that he truly comes to embody the role of a martial pilgrim, a role that—as seen in Sir Isumbras—carries strong connotations of crusade. 
 
As with so many crusader heroes of Middle English romance, Guy's interactions with Saracens in this second portion are essential components of his developing identity as a martial pilgrim. These engagements represent "a world in which the certainties of intervening centuries have melted into newly ill-defined boundaries and identities," and they allow Guy to perform his identity as a crusader upon the bodies of menacing cultural others (xix).  As Rouse explores, Amourant, as a giant, is an "avatar of bodily excess" who "embodies all those things that the romance hero by necessity approaches, but must not become: he is michel & unread, huge and uncontrolled—an image of unrestrained masculine power, which Western heroes such as Guy must seek to control and sublimate within chivalric codes of behavior and honour" (Rouse, "Expectation vs. Experience" 133). The process of defeating and killing the giant, then, affirms Guy's martial and cultural superiority and, as a result, the superiority of England as well.
 
Guy's relationship with Felice and his deprioritization of his marriage, however, set this romance tradition apart from other crusades romances, even as the prioritization of crusading and pilgrimage echoes themes from other generically similar texts. In many crusades romances (Sir Isumbras, Sir Perceval of Galles, Sir Degrevant) a certain balance is sought between secular and spiritual devotion. For instance, Isumbras's quest to redeem his soul becomes enmeshed with the reunion of his family, while Perceval and Degrevant are only able to become fully-fledged crusaders after achieving domestic stability. And in Sir Tryamour, the king leaves on crusade in order to help fulfill his and his wife's domestic desires (i.e. a child). Here, however, Guy's devotion to Felice and his desire for domestic stability are positioned as aspirations less worthy than and contradictory to those of holy pilgrimage and crusading. In this way, the Guy of Warwick tradition forms a starker binary between domestic and martial spheres that seen elsewhere in this sub-genre of romance, elevating the latter while necessarily denigrating the former.
Bibliography

Manuscripts
 
The Anglo-Norman Gui de Warewic:
 
This sprawling work of nearly thirteen thousand lines is the source text for the Middle English Guy of Warwick. For a detailed description of these manuscripts, see Marianne Ailes' chapter in Guy of Warwick, Icon and Ancestor (Wiggins and Field, eds.).
 
London, British Library, Additional MS 38662 (c. 1225)
 
Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 50 (c. 1250-1300)
 
Cologny, Bibliotheca Bodmeriana, MS 67 (c. 1250-1300)
 
Cologny, Bibliotheca Bodmeriana MS 168 (late 13th century)
 
Nottingham, Nottingham University Library, Oakham Parish Library, MS Bx 1756 S 4 (late 13th century)
 
Oxford, Corpus Christi College, MS 491 (late 13th century)
 
London, British Library, Harley MS 3775 (c. 1300)
 
Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, MS français 1669 (c. 1300)
 
Cambridge, University Library, Additional MS 2751 (Anglo-Norman, 13th - 14th century)
 
York, York Minster MS 16.1.7 (13th - 14th century)
 
Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Cod. Aug. 87.4 (late 13th - early 14th century)
 
Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawlinson MS D 913 (14th century)
 
New Haven, Yale University, Beinecke Library, ML 591 (early 14th century)
 
London, College of Arms, Arundel MS 27 (early 14th century)
 
London, British Library, Royal MS 8.F. IX (early 14th century)
 
Ripon Cathedral MS XVII.F.33 (15th century)
 
 
The Middle English Stanzaic Guy of Warwick:
 
Covering only a third of the source text (The Anglo-Norman Gui de Warewic), the Stanzaic Guy is translated out of Anglo-Norman and into Middle English. The redactor also altered the form of the poem, transforming the original couplets into tale-rhyme stanzas of twelve lines. Alterations to the content were made as well, as Alison Wiggins explores in her critical edition of Guy.
 
The Stanzaic Guy survives in a single manuscript:
 
Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, Advocates MS 19.2.1 (the Auchinleck Manuscript).
 
 
Other Redactions:
 
Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College MS 107/176 (c. 1475)
 
Cambridge, Cambridge University Library MS Ff.2.38. (c. 1500)
 
London, British Library, Sloan MS 1044 (14th century)
 
Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales MS Binding Fragments 572
 
London, British Library MS 14408 (early 14th century)
 
 
Editions:
 
Ewert, Alfred, ed. Gui de Warewic, Roman du XIIIe Siècle. Paris: E. Champion, 1932-33.
 
Mills, Maldwyn and Daniel Huws, eds. Fragments of an Early Fourteenth-Century Guy of Warwick. Medium Ævum Monographs n.s. 4. Oxford: Blackwell, 1974.
 
Wiggins, Alison. Stanzaic Guy of Warwick. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2004.
 
Zupitza, Julius, ed. The Romance of Guy of Warwick: Edited from the Auchinleck Manuscript in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh, and from MS 107 in Caius College, Cambridge. Bungay, UK: Clay and Sons, 1883, 1887, 1891. Reprinted London: Oxford University Press, EETS, 1966.

 
Secondary Sources:
 
Dunn, Charles W. "Guy of Warwick." In A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050-1500. Edited by J. Burke Severs. New Haven: The Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1967. Pp. 27-31.
 
Rouse, Robert Allen. "An Exemplary Life: Guy of Warwick as Medieval Culture-Hero." In Guy of Warwick: Icon and Ancestor (full citation below), 94-109.
 
-----. "Expectation vs. Experience: The Saracen Other in Middle English Romance." SELIM 10 (2000): 141-165.
 
Wiggins, Alison and Rosalind Field. Guy of Warwick: Icon and Ancestor. Rochester, NY: D. S. Brewer, 2007.