Guy of Gisborne and Hades: Coercive Courtships
Have you ever thought that Richard Armitage’s potential as an onscreen lover has been grossly under utilized thus far in his career? That idea must be very active in my subconscious since I seem to keep gravitating to it as I seek to connect his pantheon of characters to the classical tradition. Today’s association is a variation on a familiar theme.
I imagine that most people’s first thought of the god Hades is not that of a “love connection,” but oh yes, that’s where I’m goin’. Hades, along with Zeus and Poseidon, was one of the elder generation of Olympian gods – offspring of the Titans Cronos and Rhea. When the Olympians defeated the Titans and became the reigning champ deities on the earth, the three brothers drew lots to determine how the would divvy up the world. Zeus got the earth and sky, Poseidon the sea, and Hades the underworld. Apparently grumbling ensued as Hades expressed his dissatisfaction at the turnout before leaving for his new kingdom in a huff. Zeus shrugged saying something like, “I don’t know what his problem is, his kingdom is the biggest since he gets everyone eventually!”
It’s probably not surprising that Hades is not one of the best represented gods within the Greek pantheon. Although there is no inherent sense of evil or malevolence associated with the god Hades or the Greek Underworld – also referred to as Hades, death and gods of it are not the most popular mythological topics. Generally, Hades is depicted as glum and gloomy…a perfect match to his environment.
Curiously, one of the most famous stories associated with him has to do with his selection of a bride. As the god of the Underworld, Hades didn’t have a lot of opportunity to meet women, so he asked his brother Zeus to give him a bride from among Zeus’ many daughters. Zeus decided on Persephone, his daughter by the grain goddess Demeter (another of his sisters – incest was definitely not a problem for Zeus), but since he knew Demeter would object to the match, he gave Hades the nod to go ahead and take Persephone by force.
Persephone was innocently picking flowers in a meadow when the ground split open and Hade’s chariot sped out. The image above shows the moment when Hades scooped Persephone up to carry her away. This moment is also depicted in magnificent baroque glory by the Italian sculptor Bernini.
Hades carried Persephone with him to the Underworld, with every intention of making her his queen – actually, he was a pretty good catch in the eligibility department – but he also knew that she would rather not be there and that her mother would doubtlessly come to look for her. As a result, he needed to find a way to make sure she would stay with him permanently. While she was with him, he was solicitous and kind to her, doted on her actually, but she continued to spurn his gifts until one day when her hunger got the best of her. Persephone finally accepted his gift of a pomegranate and ate six seeds before she realized the consequences.
When Demeter eventually convinced Zeus into forcing Hades to return Persephone to her, Hades played his trump card. Demeter could take her daughter back for part of the year, but since Persephone had consumed food (six pomegranate seeds) in the Underworld, she was required to spend six months of the year in Hades with him, as his queen. Courtship complete.
Guy of Gisborne’s courtship of Marian in Robin Hood struck me as equally coercive. Despite the fact that she persistently resists his advances, he continues to pursue her – determined to make her his own. Like Hades, Guy is an eligible match for Marian in terms of fortune and social position, but like Persephone, Marian is not convinced.
Despite the fact that she is physically “stirred by him” as Guy boasts to Robin in S1.8, Guy has his work cut out for him in making her his wife. He tries just about everything, including manipulating her affection for her father, before finally telling the Sheriff (Keith Allen) that he will take her by force in the final episode of S2 – what Hades had done from the start. Ultimately, while Hades’ coercive courtship was at least partially successful, Guy’s is an utter failure, leading to Marian’s death and his own brush with madness. Kind of makes me wonder about that whole “if at first you don’t succeed” strategy when it comes to courtship.
**update…not a part of the Hades – Guy discussion, but too cool not to use here