medieval romance hero Guy of Warwick repented men-killing chivalry

Chivalry once meant a man’s sexual prowess. Chivalry once meant a husband prioritizing having sex with his wife above battling an attacking enemy. Chivalry once involved what were regarded as the jewels of manhood. Medieval European romances tragically transformed this humane understanding of chivalry into men-abasing, men-killing gender subservience of men. Guy of Warwick {Gui de Warewic}, a romance composed about the year 1200, provides a rare, critical perspective on the terrible wrong of romance chivalry.

The steward’s son Guy of Warwick became mortally lovesick for the lovely young countess Felice. She rejected him with all the harshness that Gilgamesh showed toward the goddess Ishtar. He nonetheless didn’t seek to kill her, as Ishtar did to Gilgamesh. Guy continued to beg Felice for her love. She then directed him into the horror of chivalry:

“Guy,” she said, “now listen!
My thoughts are changed.
Don’t hold it to be an outrage
if I tell you now of my thought.
I don’t want to love any young man
if he isn’t a knight —
one beautiful and courteous and renowned,
brave and bold, and celebrated for weapons.
When you have received weapons,
and I have seen that,
I will grant you my love,
if such as I have said you become.”

{ “Gui,” fait ele, “ore entendez!
Mes corages sunt changez;
Nel tenez pas a ultrage
Se ore vus di mun corage:
Nul vaslet ne voit amer
S’il ne seit chevaler,
Bels e corteis e alosez,
Preuz e hardiz, d’armes preisez.
Quant les armes avrez receu,
E jo iço avrai veu,
L’amur de mei vus granterai,
Si tel estes cum dit vus ai.” }[1]

Guy thus acquired weapons and got himself knighted. Well-armed, he returned to Felice and said:

I have received weapons because of you,
and now I have come to you
in order to hear your wishes.
There is nothing that I more desire.

{ Les armes ai pur vus receu,
E si sui ore a vus venue
Pur oir vostre plaisir;
La rien estes que plus desir. }

If Felice sought to lessen violence against men and promote peace, she would have said that she wished for him to make love, not war. Felice instead perpetuated deeply entrenched social injustice against men:

“Guy,” she said, “Don’t rush!
You are not yet esteemed for use of weapons,
You are not yet of greater worth
that you were the other day,
except that as such you have been dubbed,
and you are called a knight.
When you have been in battles
and are esteemed in knightly tournaments,
and have captured other knights,
assailed towers and castles,
and through the land and country
has traveled talk of your fame
and of your great valor,
then you should request from me love.”

{ “Gui,” fait ele, “ne vus hastez!
N’estes uncore d’armes preisez,
Uncore n’estes de greignur valur
Que vus esteiez l’altre jur,
Fors de tant que estes adubé,
E chevaler estes apelé.
Quant as esturs avrez esté,
E de turneir serrez preisé,
E chevalers avreiz pris,
Turs e chastels assailliz,
E par la tere e par la contree
De vus voist la renomee
E de vostre grant valur,
Dunques me deiz requere d’amur.” }

Guy should have vigorously insisted on his intrinsic worth as a man. He instead traveled overseas to win fame as a knight in violence against men.

Guy of Warwick as a courtier and pilgrim amid knights

As a knight, Guy engaged in massive violence against men in the terrible tradition of epic and “songs of deeds {chansons de geste}.” In jousting tournaments he charged at other knights and brutally knocked them off their horses with his lance. He forcefully struck other men’s bodies with his sword. For more than a year Guy engaged in knightly tournaments in Germany, Lombardy, France, and Normandy. He put himself in grave danger, and he created grave danger for other men. Guy won all these brutal contests and became famous.

Guy then returned to Warwick. There Felice’s parents warmly welcomed him. They gave him gifts of gold, silver, silk garments, and tableware, as if they were grooming him to be a groom. Guy went to his beloved Felice and said:

I have come, my beautiful beloved.
By you I certainly have life.
If you were not, I would be dead,
destroyed and badly beaten in body.
You made me take up weapons,
and then told me your wishes.
Since that time I have taken up weapons
and crossed the peaceful sea
and far away in a strange realm
become well-praised in use of weapons.
I should be granted your love,
for which I have been so desirous.
Now I have come so as to hear,
beautiful beloved, your wishes.

{ Venuz sui, ma bele amie,
Par vus ai certes la vie;
Se ne fuissez, jo fuisse morz,
Destruiz e malbailliz del cors.
Les armes prendre me feistes,
Vostre pleisir puis me deistes,
Quant jo les armes pris avreie,
E la mer passé serreie,
E loinz en estrange regné
D’armes fuisse bien preisé,
Granté me serreit l’amur de vus,
Dunt ai esté tant desirus;
Ore sui venuz pur oir,
Bele amie, vostre plaisir. }

Unlike everyone else, Felice didn’t praise and honor Guy. She also didn’t appreciate his love for her. She demanded more from him:

Don’t rush, sir Guy!
You are not yet so praised
that no one else is so good in the realm.
You are very brave and valiant,
and in battle bold and combative.
If I were to love you above all,
and I granted to you my love,
you would become so love-struck
that you would be totally lazy.
You would no longer seek to carry my weapons,
nor to enhance your fame.
I would do wrong, so I think,
if for me you lost your fame.

{ Ne vus hastez mie, sires Gui!
Uncore n’en estes tant preisé
Que alsi bon n’ait el regné.
Preuz estes mult e vaillant,
En estur hardi e cumbatant;
Si sur totes riens vus amasse,
E l’amur de mei vus grantasse,
Tant devendriez amerus
Que tut en serriez pereçus;
Armes ne querriez mes porter,
Ne vostre pris eshalcier;
Jo mesfereie, ço m’est avis,
Se par mei perdisez vostre pris. }

Felice clearly had read Chrétien de Troyes’s romance Erec and Enide {Érec et Énide}. She, however, didn’t interpret the story correctly. She didn’t understand that men’s value shouldn’t depend on their violence against men. Men should be respected simply for performing their nightly deeds in love with their wives. Instead, Felice declared to Guy:

I don’t wish to hide my thought from you,
yet rather I wish to show it to you clearly.
You will not have my love
unless you be so very good
that you don’t have an equal in any land —
no one so praised in bearing weapons —
and you would be the flower of chivalry,
and in all the world the best.
When you would be in all ways like that,
such that better than you doesn’t exist under Heaven,
then I will grant you my love
to do with it your will.
No one other than you will have my love
while I live so much as another day.

{ Mun corage ne vus voil celer,
Ainz le vus voil mult ben mustrer:
Que l’amur de mei pas n’avrez,
Se vus par issi bon n’esteiez
Qu’en nule terre n’eussez per,
Ne tant preisé d’armes porter,
E de chevalerie seiez la flur,
E del mund tut le meillur;
Quant del tut serrez itel,
Que meillur de vus n’en ait suz ciel,
De mei l’amur vus ert granté,
De faire ent vostre volenté:
Altre de vus n’avra m’amur,
Tant cum viverai a nul jur. }

Every man is unique and special. A man need not do anything to become the only man like himself. Deeds of violence against men, or even good deeds, don’t earn for a man true love.

Regrettably ignorant of such insights from meninist literary criticism, Guy didn’t denounce Felice for her misandry. He sighed:

“Now I know,” he said, “that you are mocking me,
when you command me so,
that I be the best in the world.
Such will never be for a single day.
To a foreign land I will go.
I’ll surely exert my ability for you.
About my death I will have no concern.
If I die, that will be for you.”

{ “Ore sai,” fait it, “que vus me gabez,
Quant iço me comandez,
Que del mund seie le meillur;
Iço n’ert ja a nul jur.
En estrange terre m’en irrai,
Pur vus certes mun poeir ferai,
De la mort ne serrai pas dotus;
Se jo moere, ço ert pur vus.” }

Men’s lives should matter. Like Leander to Hero, Guy should have told Felice that it was her turn to risk life and limb. Instead, Guy set off across the seas to win more fame in violence against men.

Seeking more fame, Guy killed many men and himself suffered great harm. After fighting as a knight in Normandy and Brittany, he traveled to Spain. There he became famous as a warrior. Then he went to fight in Lombardy. Near Benevento he suffered a serious sword wound. Lombards subsequently ambushed the wounded Guy. His companions Urri and Thorout were killed, and his companion Heralt suffered an apparently mortal wound. The Lombards Lambert, Huecun, and Gunter of Pavia were killed. So too were other Lombards, voiceless and nameless amid the extensive violence against men.

Seeking to impress Felice, Guy engaged in much further violence against men. He fought for Duke Seguin of Louvain against Emperor Reiner of Germany. This battle produced horrific butchery of men:

They cut into shields and hauberks,
and made men fall backwards, dead.
They cut off fists and arms and feet.
Men in that place lay mutilated.
Good, valiant knights
lay mutilated in the fields,
knights who were sons of noble barons,
knights who from far had come seeking fame.
Their fathers, when they learned of it,
for them would be overcome with great sorrow.

{ Trenchent escuz e halbercs,
Morz les funt chair envers,
Decolpent poinz e braz e pez;
Par la place gisent detrenchez.
Les bons chevalers vaillanz
Detrenchez gisent par les chanz.
Qui fiz a riches bruns estreint,
De loinz lur pris quere veneient;
Lur peres, quant le saverunt,
Pur els grant duel demerrunt. }

Similar slaughter of men occurred in Constantinople, with Guy defending the emperor against an invading sultan. Another massacre of men occurred with Guy fighting for his friend Torri’s father Count Alberi against the besieging Duke Loher of Lorraine. Merely in front of Constantinople Guy killed 40,000 men.[2] The total number of men that Guy killed was innumerable by the time he returned to Felice in Warwick.

After killing a dragon menacing the King of England, Guy sought Felice’s love in Warwick. Guy told her that many beautiful princesses had loved him, but he loved only her. Felice responded warmly to the now-preeminent Guy:

“Sir Guy,” she said, “thank you!
And I truly say it to you
that much have I been sought
by the most noble men of the realm,
but I didn’t want to love any of them,
nor did I ever do so for even a day.
I give myself to you, if you will accept me.
Do your wishes with me.”

{ “Sire Gui,” fait ele, “vostre merci!
E jo verrraiement le vus di
Que mult ai requise esté
Des plus riches del regné,
Mais amer nul ne voleie
Ne a nul jur mes ne fereie;
A vus me doins, si me ottrei,
Vostre plaisir facez de mei.” }

Guy was delighted. He joyfully kissed her. Later Felice told her father that she wanted to marry Guy. No other man would she accept as husband. Following formalities that modern scholars have ideologically misinterpreted, Felice’s father offered her in marriage to Guy. Guy accepted her father’s offer. The two men thus enacted the woman’s preference.

Felice and Guy soon married. They had an expensive wedding with a wedding celebration that lasted four days. Entertainment included monkeys and bears. No food fights were reported like at the Viking wedding of Ruta and Agner, but undoubtedly the festivities were lively. On the first night that Felice and Guy had sex — “mutual enjoyment {commun delit}” — they conceived a child. They slept together as husband and wife for only fifty days.

On a beautiful May evening fifty days after Felice and Guy had consummated their marriage, Guy climbed a tower and looked out upon the stars in the clear, calm sky. He began to think about his life:

And he thought how he had killed so many men,
taken by force towers and cities,
and he had done this with his bodily pains
far away in foreign realms
for a woman whom he loved so much.
For her he had endured so much evil,
but never for his Creator,
who had given to him great honor.
He had not put himself in God’s service,
but now he wanted to repent of that.

{ E que tanz homes aveit oscis,
Turs e citez par force pris,
E cum aveit sun cors pené
Loinz en estrange regné
Pur une femme qu’il tant amat,
Pur qui tant mals duré ad;
Mais unc pur sun criatur,
Qui fait li ad si grant honur,
Ne s’entremist delui servir;
Mais ore s’en voldra repentir.
A suspirer dunc comença,
En sun corage se purpensa
Que tote sa vie changera
E en Deu servise se mettra. }

Felice noticed that her husband was pensive and despondent. She insisted that he tell her his thoughts. He explained:

Since I first loved you,
I’ve sustained for you such evils
that never was born a man
who has endured such sorrow
for a woman, as I have for you.
For you I have done much, extreme violence —
killed men, destroyed cities, and
burned abbeys in many realms.
And whatever I have done in this world,
from the hour that I first met you,
whether for evil or good,
I have not wanted to hide anything from you.
And all the bodily pain that I’ve had,
and all that I have done and given,
for you I have done it, know that well.
And much more I’ve done that you haven’t heard here.
If I were so lucky as to have done
only half of it
for God who created us,
who has bestowed on me such great honor,
the glory of Heaven I would truly have,
and be a saint together with God.
But for Him I have never done anything,
and so I am wretched and despicable.
I have killed so many noble men.
Those sins remain with me.
From now on I will go in the service of God,
for I would like to expiate my sins.

{ Puis que primes vus amai,
Tanz malz pur vus sufferz ai,
Ne qui que home fust unc né
Qui tantes dolurs ait enduré
Pur une femme cum jo ai pur tei.
Pur vus ai fait maint grant desrei,
Homes ocis, destruites citez,
Arses abbeies de plusurs regnez,
E quanqu’en cest mund fait ai
Des l’ure que a vus m’acointai,
E de mal e de ben,
Nel vus voildrai celer rien,
E quanque ai mun cors pené,
E quanque ai fait e doné,
Pur vus l’ai fait, ben le sacez,
E asez plus que ci n’oez.
Si tant eurus eusse esté
Que solement la meité
Fait eusse pur Deu qui nus cria,
Que si grant honur presté m’a,
La glorie del ciel pur veir avreie,
Ensemble od Deu saint serreie;
Mais pur lui unc rien ne fis,
Pur ço sui las e chaitif.
Tant francs homes ai oscis,
En mei sunt li pecché remis;
El servise Deu desore irrai,
Mes pecchez espenir voldrai }

Like many men, Guy’s fundamental sin was gyno-idolatry. He treated Felice as God. After deciding to expiate his sin of gyno-idolatry, Guy told Felice:

For all the good that henceforth I will do,
half of it all I will grant to you.

{ De tuz les bens que mes ferai
La meité de tut vus granterai. }

Guy didn’t credit his wife for all his success. He came to envision his marriage to Felice as a conjugal partnership. A conjugal partnership necessarily implies rejecting gyno-idolatry.

Guy was vicious, cruel, and heartless toward his conjugal partner Felice. He declared that he was leaving her to serve God in foreign lands. That was only about fifty days after they married. Felice was then already pregnant with their child. Such behavior is unspeakably cruel. Astutely appreciating Guy’s need to repent of gyno-idolatry and chivalric folly, she told her husband:

If you want to do charitable works,
never from here need you go.
You can found churches and abbeys —
many of them in places throughout your land.
There through all days they will pray for you,
not ending by night or by day.
You can find salvation very well here.
Why are you going into exile?

{ Quant allmoisnes faire volez,
Ja mar d’ici vus en irrez;
Iglises e abbeies facez faire,
Plusurs par lius en vostre tere,
Que tuz jurz pur vus prierunt,
Ne neuit ne jur ne finerunt;
Ici salver ben vus purrez;
En exil pur quei vus en irrez? }

To those sensible, accommodating words, Guy told Felice to be silent. Neither women nor men should be silenced. Guy told Felice that he didn’t know when he would return to her, if ever. He then kissed her. That’s an ugly, empty gesture in the context of his heartlessness.

Guy immediately left Warwick and headed to Jerusalem. When he returned to Warwick years later as a beggar and then became a holy hermit living nearby, he didn’t even greet Felice personally. He revealed his presence to her only on his death-bed. That’s wholly despicable. Some might dismiss this monstrously inhumane Guy as merely another example of misandry and anti-meninism in medieval literature. But such a critical approach is superficial and ostentatiously moralistic. One should simply accept that Guy of Warwick became a cruel, horrible spouse to his wife Felice.

A distinctive passage of men’s sexed protest suggests that Guy resented Felice for all the men that were killed through her desire for him to become the world’s greatest warrior-knight. After a particular instance of horrific violence against men, Guy thought that his teacher and loyal friend Heralt had been killed. Guy lamented:

Wretched I, so harsh was made my fate
when to Felice I was sent.
Felice, for your love
the flower of chivalry has perished.
This isn’t the first or the last time
when a woman has filled me with wrong,
that a woman has led me to deceit and destruction.
By my experience, another should be forewarned.

{ Las tant fu dure ma destinee
Kant a felice fud enueie
Felice pur la uostre amur
De chiualerie vi perir la flur
Quant femme estes a tort men plein
Ne fu le premer ne le derain
Ke femme ad deceu e suspris
Par moi li autre seient garni }[3]

Guy’s words underscore the folly of unnecessarily contributing to men’s deaths for the love of a woman. Men must not consign their agency and responsibility to women. Men must learn to be strong, independent persons even in loving relationships with women.

Gui de Warewic shows Guy’s transformative conversion from romance chivalry and gyno-idolatry to strong, independent manhood. Although Guy’s transformation didn’t include completely rejecting violence against men, it’s nonetheless enormously significant.[4] The classical naturalist Lucretius, an eminent dispeller of delusions, sought to free men from gyno-idolatry and from gods generally. Few Christians have recognized the merit of Lucretius’s effort. The author of Gui de Warewic did. This medieval romance incorporates aspects of hagiographic narratives. Guy, however, is a highly unusual saint. He’s saintly in providing men with a teaching example against the sin of gyno-idolatry. Despite his egregiously bad behavior, Guy of Warwick is a saint for our time, and for all time.

* * * * *

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[1] Guy of Warwick {Gui de Warewic} vv. 617-28, Old French (Anglo-Norman) text from Ewert (1933) and my English translation, benefiting from that of Weiss (2008). This romance is dated to (shortly) “before 1204.” Id. p. 14. For a modern English translation of a fifteenth-century Middle English Guy of Warwick, Scott-Robinson (2019).

Subsequent quotes from Gui de Warewic are similarly sourced. Those quotes above are Gui de Warewic vv. 681-4 (I have received weapons…), 685-98 (“Guy,” she said…), 1041-54 (I have come, my beautiful beloved…), 1056-68 (Don’t rush, sir Guy…), 1069-82 (I don’t wish to hide my thought…), 1085-92 (“Now I know,” he said…), 2195-2204 (They cut into shields and hauberks…), 7439-46 (“Sir Guy,” she said…), 7560 (mutual enjoyment), 7581-94 (And he thought how he had killed so many men…), 7603-30 (Since I first loved you…), 7633-4 (For all the good that henceforth I will do…), 7661-8 (If you want to do charitable work…).

[2] The sultan’s Saracen champion Amorant of Ethiopia spoke of Guy killing 40,000 “of us.” Gui de Warewic vv. 8609-10. Fighting against Guy, Amorant had no incentive to exaggerate Guy’s prowess in killing men.

[3] Gui de Warewic, manuscript C, vv. 1155-68 (corresponds to insert after v. 1424 in manuscript E), Old French (Anglo-Norman) text from Ewert (1933) vol. 2, p. 193, my English translation. The existence of these verses is noted in Weiss (2008) p. 112, n. 18, but the verses themselves aren’t provided.

Using the sigla of Ewert (1933), Manuscript C is Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, Parker Library, MS 50, f. 103ra-181rb. These verses also exist in Gui de Warewic, manuscript G (Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, 87.4. Aug. fol., f. 1ra-96vb) and manuscript B (New Haven, Yale University, Beinecke Library, 591, f. 1ra-86rb). Djordjevic (2007) p. 35, n. 20. The base text for Ewert (1933) and Weiss (2008) is manuscript E (London, British Library, Additional, 38662, f. 1ra-80rb). Manuscript E, although it’s the manuscript that scholars generally regard as best, doesn’t includes these important verses.

Here are the corresponding verses in manuscript G:

Alas, such evil was made my destiny
when I was sent to Felice.
Felice, for your love
the flower of chivalry has perished.
This isn’t the first nor will be the last time
when a woman has filled me with wrong,
that a woman has led me to deceit and destruction.
By my experience, another should be forewarned.

{ Allas tant mar feu destine
Quant a felice feu envoie
Felice pour la vostre amur
De chivalerie perd ieo la flur.
Mes quat femme es a tort me pleign
Ne sui primer ne ne serai derrain
Que femme ad deceu et suspris
Par moi: autre soyent garnis }

Gui de Warewic, manuscript G, vv. 831-8, Old French (Anglo-Norman) text from Herbing (1872) p. 10, my English translation. These verses in manuscript G apparently were the source for this passage in a Middle English Guy of Warwick:

All to evil it fell to me,
Felice, that I was sent to serve you.
For your love, Felice, you fair maid,
the flower of knights was slain this day.
Because you are a woman,
I can blame you nothing for that,
for the last amount to nothing among those
that women have brought to dust.
But all others might by me,
if they so wish, be forewarned.

{ Al to iuel it fel to me
Felice þo y was sent to serue þe;
For þi loue Felice, þe feir may,
Þe flour of kniȝtes is sleyn þis day.
Ac for þou art a wiman
Y no can nouȝt blame þe for þan,
For þe last no worþ y nouȝt
Þat wimen han to gronde ybrouȝt,
Ac alle oþer may bi me,
ȝif þai wil, ywarned be. }1361-70

Middle English verses from the Auchinleck Manuscript, Guy of Warwick, version in couplets (Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, Advocates, 19.2.1, f. 108ra-146vb) vv. 1361-70, my English modernization. Djordjevic (2007) p. 35, n. 20. Cf. Wadsworth (1972) pp. 251-3. In the Middle English edition of Zupitza (1883), these verses are vv. 1557-66.

As the literary history of Guy’s sexed protest indicates, men face grave social risks in criticizing women. A fifteenth-century Middle English prose version prudently abbreviated Guy’s words of sexed protest to these:

Felice, it is through you that these three men lie dead! Let this be a lesson to every man.

English modernization from Scott-Robinson (2019). That’s similar to a 1907 version:

“Alas, Felice,” he said, “for your sake, fair maid, many brave knights have fallen this day, and Sir Heraud, the flower of them all, lies here at my feet.”

Darton (1907) p. 291. Even more prudently, an early eighteenth-century Middle English version only vaguely mentions Guy “grieving that destiny had dealt so hardly to take away his dearly beloved company.” G.L (1706) pp. 45-6, reproduced in Morley (1889) p. 356. After quoting most of Guy’s verses of sexed protest in a somewhat modernized form, a scholar published in 1848 sought to justify Guy’s verbal offense:

Nothing, certainly, but the extremity of distress could have wrung from this courteous and loyal knight a sentiment so derogatory to the honour of ladies; but it is to be remembered that Sir Guy was devoted and condemned to the search of such adventures, against his own wishes, in opposition to the will of his suzerain, and in defiance of the remonstrances of his parents, by the mere caprice of his haughty mistress.

Ellis (1848) p. 202, which quotes verses close to Guy of Warwick, Auchinleck version in couplets, vv. 1363-79. A scholarly work published in 1990 provides alternate excusing for Guy criticizing women:

These sentiments are not what we should expect from a knight; he is not seeing things from a knightly point of view. His human grief for the loss of his friends overrides for the moment his determination to win Felice. He almost begins to think that the price is too high. But as yet Guy has not been initiated into the real glories of knighthood.

Hopkins (1990) p. 87. Put differently, Guy hadn’t yet learned the directives of Spartan mothers.

In responses to texts of men’s sexed protest, scholars in recent decades have largely favored merely labeling them with bad names. Guy’s words of sexed protest in response to many men’s deaths thus becomes merely a “conventional anti-female tirade.” Wadsworth (1972) p. 253. Even worse, it’s an “anti-feminist passage.” Mills (1992) p. 68, n. 20. An even worse label is obvious. Guy’s words are an “anti-feminist tirade.” Djordjevic (2007) p. 35, n. 20. Showing ready deployment of hate, Guy’s words of men’s sexed protest have been labeled a “misogynist rant.” Gos (2012) p. 120. Many scholars today apparently aren’t mature enough to consider such passages without engaging in name-calling. Cf. Crane (1986) p. 63.

[4] Guy of Warwick was a very popular romance in medieval and early modern England. A scholar has summarized this romance’s appeal:

Much of its power came from its being the prime story of the chivalric knight who finds that chivalry is not enough.

Cooper (2004) p. 32. Guy of Warwick didn’t find that “chivalry is not enough.” He found that chivalry, which had come to mean gyno-idolatry, is foolish and sinful.

Scholars have vastly under-appreciated the significance of Guy turning away from gyno-idolatry. While precedents exist in troubadour song, Guy’s turn is so distinctive within romance that it’s not plausibly just a means to prolong narrative entertainment. Cf. Price (2000), similarly Calin (1994) pp. 83-7. Failing to recognize the mortal sin of gyno-idolatry and Guy’s distinctive saintliness, literary critics have declared that Guy is “clearly not saintly,” or “not especially saintly.” Crane (1986) p. 117, and Weiss (2010) p. 56, respectively. Gui de Warewic / Guy of Warwick, properly interpreted, has implications for medieval personal transformation:

Neither of these men {King Henry II and statesman William Marshal}, commenting in precisely opposing ways, believed in the possibility of transformative conversion. And ultimately, despite modern anxieties that we might anachronistically read our own desire for character consistency into medieval narratives, I am not convinced that medieval chroniclers, hagiographers, or romancers believed in transformation either.

Ashe (2011) p. 172. To the contrary, Guy of Warwick’s turn away from gyno-idolatry, like Margery Kempe’s turn away from sex with her husband, is a personal transformation that medieval men surely would have regarded as significant. As a young scholar perceptively observed:

it is not only Guy who needs spiritual reforming, but the entire model of chivalry he embodies in the first half; it suggests that chivalry as a social structure risks alienating the individual knight from his own autobiography in a way that has dire consequences for his capacity to perform the cognitive work required of a morally and spiritually engaged Christian individual.

Haniford (2020) pp. 136-7.

[image] Guy of Warwick as a courtier and pilgrim amid knights. Illumination by the Talbot Master in 1444. On folio 227r of British Library, Royal MS 15 E VI (“Talbot Shrewsbury Book”): “A collection of fifteen romances, chivalric treatises, instructional texts, chronicles and statutes compiled as a gift to Margaret of Anjou, on her betrothal to Henry VI, from the 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, who escorted her to England for the marriage in 1444.” Version on Wikimedia Commons.


Ashe, Laura. 2011. “Mutatio Dexteræ Excelsi: Narratives of Transformation after the Conquest.” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology. 110(2): 141–72.

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Crane, Susan. 1986. Insular Romance: Politics, Faith, and Culture in Anglo-Norman and Middle English Literature. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Alternate source.

Darton, F. J. Harvey, with A. G. Walker, illustrator. 1907. A Wonder Book of Old Romance. New York: F.A. Stokes.

Djordjevic, Ivana. 2007. “Guy of Warwick as a Translation.” Chapter 3 (pp. 27-43) in Alison Wiggins and Rosalind Field, eds. Guy of Warwick: Icon and Ancestor. Studies in Medieval Romance. Woodbridge, Suffolk: D.S. Brewer.

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G.L. (1706). The noble and renowned history of Guy, Earl of Warwick : containing a full and true account of his many famous and valiant actions … Extracted from authentick records; and the whole illustrated with cuts suitable to the history. Printed by W.O. for E.B. and sold by A. Bettesworth, London. Here’s an 1829 edition.

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Haniford, Alicia. 2020. Textual Transformations and the Challenges of Self-Narration in Bevis of Hampton and Guy of Warwick. M.A. Thesis, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Herbing, G. A. 1872. Der Anfang des Romans von Guy de Warwick. Abdruck einer auf der herzoglichen Bibliothek zu Wolfenbüttel befindlichen Handschrift herausgegeben. Programm der Grossen Stadtschule zu Wismar als Einladung zur Michaelis-Prüfung. Wismar: Druck der Hinstorff’schen Rathsbuchdruckerei.

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Price, Paul. 2000. “Confessions of a Godless Killer: Guy of Warwick and Comprehensive Entertainment.” Pp. 93-110 in Judith Weiss, Jennifer Fellows, and Morgan Dickson, eds. Medieval Insular Romance: Translation and Innovation. Cambridge: Brewer.

Scott-Robinson, Richard. 2019. Guy of Warwick translated and retold in modern English prose. Story from Cambridge University Library MS Ff. 2.38, the fifteenth century version (retold from the Middle English of Zupitza, J., 1875 and 1876, reprinted as one volume 1966, Early English Text Society). Eleusinianm.

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Weiss, Judith. 2010. “The Exploitation of Ideas of Pilgrimage and Sainthood in Gui de Warewic.” Chapter 3 (pp. 43–56) in Laura Ashe, Ivana Djordjevic, and Judith weiss, eds. The Exploitations of Medieval Romance. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer. Review of book by Scott Kleinman.

Zupitza, Julius, ed. 1883.. The Romance of Guy of Warwick: The First or 14th-Century Version. Ed. from the Auchinleck Ms. in the Advocates’ Library Edinburgh and from Ms. 107 in Caius College Cambridge. London: Published for the Early English Text Society by K. Paul Trench Trubner. Alternate presentation.

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