Richard Armitage (ok, Guy of Gisborne) and Apollo: Spurned Lovers

The character of Guy of Gisborne (as portrayed by Richard Armitage) in Robin Hood (BBC 2006-2009) is a rich source for classical comparisons.  I’m returning to another story of the Greek god Apollo for this one.  As I mentioned here, Apollo was one of the most renowned of the gods in the Greek pantheon, and like his father Zeus, in addition to all of his supernatural powers, he also seems to have had a supernatural libido…in layman’s terms – Apollo was a major player.  The fact that some of his would be lovers were were noticeably repulsed by him didn’t seem to be much of a hindrance to Apollo.  Convinced of his own irresistibly, he pursued a number of human women and nymphs who turned him down repeatedly.  Unfortunately (for the women and nymphs) Apollo’s refusal to take “no” for an answer usually put them into a difficult circumstance.

A story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses gives a great example of this tendency of Apollo – complete with two gods having a pissing contest (pardon my  language 🙂 – RA isn’t the only one who gets to throw out off color slang around here!)  over the relative size of their weapons.  You can find a translation of the whole story here, but the nuts and bolts of it go something like this:

The great archer Apollo is teasing Eros (Cupid) about how tiny his eensy weensy little bow and arrows are.  What Apollo apparently forgot was that Eros’ arrows might be tiny, but they packed a huge wallop – one that not even the other gods were immune to.  To prove the might of his weapon he shoots Apollo with a golden arrow causing him to fall in love with the first person he sees…in this case the nymph Daphne.  To really drive the point home, Eros shoots Daphne with a lead arrow, causing her to be turned off by Apollo in a big way…the result?  He sees her and falls madly in lurve…she sees him (and presumably the acute case of bedroom eyes he’s shooting at her) and takes off running.  The chase is on!

Even a nimble Naiad like Daphne can’t outrun the great god Apollo forever.  Just at the point that he catches her, (beautifully articulated in marble by the Italian sculptor Bernini) she appeals to her father, the god of a local river to help her escape Apollo.  Her father does so by turning her into a tree…a laurel tree (we might know it better as the tree that produces bay leaves in the US).

Apollo and Daphne Source:  Wikimedia Commons

Apollo and Daphne
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Apollo mourns his “lost” love by making a wreath of the leaves that sprout from her as the metamorphosis is complete.  The laurel becomes a sacred tree to Apollo and the laurel wreath one of his frequent attributes.   (You might think that Apollo would learn from this episode…um, not so much!)

I noticed a certain similarity between Apollo and his inability to leave Daphne alone and Guy of Gisborne’s refusal to take no for an answer in his persistent pursuit of Marian.  One scene struck me as particularly similar to the scene above between Apollo and Daphne.

Marian strains away from Guy's embrace (Robin Hood S1 E11) Source:

Marian strains away from Guy’s embrace (Robin Hood S1 E11)

Guy has caught the object of his desire, but as he leans in to kiss her, she very clearly strains away from him before he can reach her.  (Right about now I’m yelling at my TV… “What is wrong with you woman?!”)   Marian’s poor taste in lovers aside, like Apollo, Guy’s caught her, but he won’t be able to keep her.   A moment later, lacking the intercession of a divine father, she wrenches away and flees from him.  One might think that Guy might take the hint and find more accessible prey, but like Apollo, he will pursue her desperately – to no good end for either of them.

Psst…Apollo?  Guy?  Hint…if a girl runs away or would rather turn into a tree than kiss you…she’s just not that into you!  (Don’t worry, there are plenty of us who are! 🙂 )

24 comments on “Richard Armitage (ok, Guy of Gisborne) and Apollo: Spurned Lovers

  1. guylty says:

    I love how you explain classic myth by showing the parallels to well-known RA dramas. Does everything in modern drama boil down to classical tropes? Seems like the old Greeks had it all seen and done (just lack the t-shirt). RA, of course, is a veritable Apollo. How Marian could resist him… well… she may have been pricked by forest cupids teeny arrow?
    Are there also haunting stories in Greek mythology? Or before the haunting, the killing of the loved one because one can’t have her?

    • obscura says:

      Apollo is always describe as the epitome of Greek male beauty, should be desirable, but he comes across as more than a bit creepy in some of these stories…not everyone is “under the influence” in their distaste – and he never takes it very well. RA does a great job of cultivating this tone in his Guy. I suppose that the basic level, modern drama is modeled on classical antecedents…oldies but goodies 🙂

      Do you mean haunting in the sense of a ghostly haunting, or in a more psychological sense?

      • guylty says:

        In the psychological sense.
        How better an Apollonian story of pursuit, than to cast Apollo Armitage???

        • obscura says:

          Stories of killing the object of affection are numerous, but the killer rarely seems all that broken up about it. Actually, the Greeks would probably see a premature death as beneficial to a successful love affair – they often viewed romantic/sexual desire as potential destructive and dangerous. I’ll have a think on it.

          This would seem to be a case of Armitage playing a role unlike himself… I can’t for the life of me see RLRA pursuing anyone onto death – or arboreal morphing 🙂

          • Servetus says:

            yeah, my amateur psychological read at a distance through the incredibly reliable medium of newspaper articles says to me that he’s not the pursuer. 🙂

          • obscura says:

            LOL – very scientific at that!

          • guylty says:

            arboreal morphing. Sounds like an affliction. Well, it was, I guess.
            The Greeks were really all quite different than modern humans… I wonder whether it also reflects the fact that a woman’s life is considered less valuable, anyway – and if she is the object of affection that gets killed, ah well, sure it’ll be grand. It was only a woman… Does that play into it?
            And no, I wouldn’t consider RLRA as a stalker.

          • obscura says:

            I don’t know if it was that they didn’t have value…they did, in a property sense, a lot actually, since they were the only ones who could generate more soldiers. I think it has more to do with an innate distrust/fear of female sexuality…”kill it before it gets you” essentially. Aphrodite (and by extension Eros) was understood as an extremely powerful deity because she governed sexual desire, and we all know what trouble that can lead us into!

          • guylty says:

            Interesting! Distrust because of biological power, later reflected by the witch hunts, I guess. And subsequent disempowerment of women in the Victorian age by concocting some ridiculous moral code that placed women in charge of house and kids, glorifying them as pure madonnas.
            OT: Have you ever read “Mother Nature” by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy? Controversial. But my bible.

          • obscura says:

            The biological power of the woman to reproduce (an active role in which Aristotle stripped away BTW) and the inability to master desire. I think in part these stories about gods being carried away by lust are a palliative for the audience – “see, the gods are led around by lust too” (note that I am using restraint in my use of off color idiom at this point…)

          • guylty says:

            (We really *are* the crown of creation. Proud to be a woman.) And yes – these gods were invented by males, too, and their myths, to suit the needs of the males. Graaaaaaaaaaaaaah. The unfairness of it all.
            (very much enjoying the academic tone of this discussion. But I warn you. I can bring down the tone at the push of a key. SEX)

          • obscura says:

            I haven’t read that book… Googled…ordering from Inter Library Loan 🙂

  2. Servetus says:

    This is a fantastic post. I really like the explication of how certain archetypal stories get reproduced.

    • obscura says:

      Thanks! I feel like I’m overplaying the Guy hand, but there is just so much in his characterization that pulls on these themes for me.

      • Servetus says:

        as we’ve discussed, I don’t think that’s accidental.

        • obscura says:

          Yep…the degree to which he’s conscious of this element is really interesting to me, I do wonder how much of Guy was scripted this way, and how much was Armitage influence…

  3. phylly3 says:

    A-ha! Somehow I always knew that GoG was a god-like creature and now here’s the proof! You chose the perfect example of Marian as Daphne too. I used to think (from the fan vids) that that particular scene was romantic, until I saw the actual episode. That scene clearly shows how uncomfortable Guy is making her. She literally cringes! Although I can’t agree with this Marian’s choice in men, I can admire Lucy Griffith’s portrayal of Marian /Daphne. But I also lament the way their story eventually played out. The writers owe us an Appollogy, don’t ya think? 😉

    • obscura says:

      🙂 He is exerting a fair degree of physical coercion there isn’t he…you can almost feel her arching back away from him, as much as Daphne is usually shown straining forward away from Apollo. For such a seemingly lovely human being, Richard Armitage can certainly bring the creepy aggressor to the table! Apollogy – NICE! 😀

  4. katie70 says:

    I was watching “Helen of Troy” Tuesday on PBS (WPT) and I thought of you. I would like to hear your take on her. They where saying on the program that the word for war and sex at the time was the same, I don’t remember what it was. I watched it a few years ago, but thought I would rewatch it again. I really enjoyed her story and how men just fell for her and her power.

    I didn’t yell at the tv but I felt like it. What is wrong with you Marian he loves you. That is when I really started to like RA, ok I fell for him.

    • obscura says:

      Sorry I’ve taken so long to respond – I was intending to look into the war/sex thing. I did, but I can’t find the connection myself. I’ll have to take a look at that documentary. Helen is an interesting character – she’s another one of those “dangerous things come in pretty packages” motifs. It’s very telling that the man who doesn’t subdue her, but rather is utterly seduced by her is a non-Greek…another great cautionary tale!

      That scene is almost cringe worthy – Guy is so taken in, he thinks her revulsion is just a matter of bad timing on his part…

  5. […] Guy of Gisborne / Apollo — Armitage as spurned lover. […]

  6. Joanna says:

    LOL! You are right, Klio! 😉

  7. […] of infatuation and lust in the classical tradition…stories like Achilles and Penthesilea, Apollo and Daphne, and many others touch on these themes, but rarely is there the boy and girl fall in love beyond […]

  8. […] to those of the male Olympian deities….Ares, Hades, Poseidon, Hermes, Dionysus, Apollo, Apollo, Apollo…as well as a few heroes and demigods along the way.  There are a couple though, who […]

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