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 they 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!”

Hades enthroned

Hades enthroned

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.

Abduction of Persephone from the Tomb of Persephone at Vergina

Abduction of Persephone from the Tomb of Persephone at Vergina

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.

Abduction of Proserpina (Persephone) by Bernini

Abduction of Proserpina (Persephone) by Bernini

Hard to believe that's marble isn't it?!

Hard to believe that’s marble isn’t it?!

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.

Hades courts Persephone

Hades courts Persephone with food and drink

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.

A downright saturnine looking Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage) woos a reluctant Marian (Lucy Griffiths) with gifts

A downright saturnine looking Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage) woos a reluctant Marian (Lucy Griffiths) with gifts
Image Courtesy of

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.

Marian rebuffs Guy yet again...

Marian rebuffs Guy yet again…
Image Courtesy of

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

Thorin and Bilbo as Hades and Persephone  By Ewelock at Deviant Art

Thorin and Bilbo as Hades and Persephone
By Ewelock at Deviant Art

44 comments on “Guy of Gisborne and Hades: Coercive Courtships

  1. Perry says:

    Wonderful. And look at Hades’ hands on the Bernini- they boast the same straight,long fingers as RA has.

    • guylty says:

      My thought exactly, Perry!

    • obscura says:

      I know right?! …believe me, I looked at that image several times to validate a couple of things – 1. that it was a close up of the actual sculpture and not a live model reenactment of the pose (I thought the Pieta was lifelike…this is incredible) and 2. that I hadn’t inadvertently grabbed a shot of Richard Armitage hand porn! The backs of the hands kill me – dead – fine boned, but masculine….gurgle. This might bear further study…

      • Perry says:

        I’ve seen it in person, I always referred to that work as “The Rape of Persephone.” Did you “PG” it or are there alternate titles? Abduction is more accurate, I suppose.

        • obscura says:

          You are totally correct…it is usually referred to as the “Rape of Persephone” – the archaic meaning of rape being abduction…I *was* attempting to skirt the issue, but the potential of the modern meaning of the word is always there in these stories, although the ancients did not perceive rape the same way we do since women were not autonomous, neither were their bodies…

          It is in the Villa Borghese yes?

      • Leigh says:

        Yes *gurgle* further study. The hands are beautiful, even if what they are doing is clutching a frightened young goddess. I always thought of it as a “rape” of Persephone’s will, and Hade lures her to eat pomegranate seeds, symbols of feminine fertility. The classical Hades has a lot in common with Guy of Gisborne, but he’s much less complex, in my view.

        • obscura says:

          I read an interesting blog post somewhere on how understanding the myths ruined Bernini’s work for one Art History student (he does have a certain fixation with depicting stories of forced affection, to put it mildly). I wouldn’t go as far as that, but context is unavoidable.

          That’s an interesting take…quite apt I think – he basically wore her down until she eventually compromised herself. Although she becomes powerful, stories always relate her as resigned at best. She is actual much more interesting …I forgot to mention the lightness (a goddess of spring) that attracted Hades like a moth…similar to how Guy desperately wants to believe that Marian’s goodness can cleanse his past.

          Yeah, hades is a bit of a one trick pony!

    • Marie Astra says:

      I saw that too, Perry! Whoa!

  2. guylty says:

    Very, very interesting post. Another instance of classical mythology acting as a model for a later tale – the unwanted courtship. And oh, how fitting is GoG as Hades – dark, forceful, manipulative. Used to getting his way.
    The more you write about these themes, Obscura, the more I think that a re-telling of the classical myths would make such an interesting film. RA as one of those Greek gods *guyltysubconsciouslylicksherlips*. Whether set in those ancient Greek times of transplanted into the contemporary – these tales make fascinating stories. They are universal and applicable for all of us, even thousands of years on. I’d love to see a re-telling of them.

    • obscura says:

      It would have to be with a very, very carefully chosen writer and director – classical stories always get so mangled (Clash of the Titans anyone?) And of course the right classical consultant would be good too – I am available at almost a moment’s notice 🙂

      The more I look, the more I think Richard Armitage was born to play classical roles…he seems to gravitate toward these tropes in non-classical works anyway…might as well skip the middle man 😉

      • guylty says:

        They most definitely need a consultant there. You are the woman for the job. I think you should push for an authentic re-telling of the myths, complete, of course, with appropriate (lack of) clothing, modelled on those Bellini sculptures.
        Pity that “Cleopatra” was such a desaster. It may have put RA off the classical canon. Such a pity. That’s exactly why I think the myths should be transported into the contemporary – “Mount Olympus Re-Told”, maybe?

        • obscura says:

          *bows*. It would be my pleasure :). I’d imagine the Cleopatra thing was well before he was very choosy about scripts – that one teetered dangerously on the edge of unwitting camp. I’m confident the more mature (and more choosy) Armitage could get past it :). These types of roles would be right up his alley in terms of archetypal characters. The Oresteia or the Theban Cycle would be awesome

  3. Marie Astra says:

    So many kids love the Percy Jackson series, I’m sure there’s a ready made audience for classical stories!!

    • obscura says:

      I think the audience classical stories may be latent in all of us…the trick is picking the right one and telling it well…it always bugs me when myth gets so conflated and mangled. The original myths are already wildly entertaining – I always tell my classes, “I couldn’t make this stuff up” when talking about Zeus turning himself into a swan and his human lover bearing his children by laying eggs, or something of the like. Why mess with that?

  4. Perry says:

    Has The Aeneid been done? Maybe we should start a campaign?

  5. kelbel75 says:

    so the moral of the story is…just take what you want from the get-go? don’t dither around like Guy, be a man! *laughs*

    that sculpture really is beautiful.

    • obscura says:

      For those times I guess so…after all, she’ll get used to you, what other choice does she have? We’ve come a long way baby! (I’d credit the source, but I wouldn’t want to be hammered for an endorsement 🙂 )

    • obscura says:

      It is gorgeous isn’t it…Bernini was only in his early 20’s when he did it!

  6. […] Guy of Gisborne, Hades, and coercive relationships. […]

  7. fitzg says:

    This is so good, it requires some re-reading to absorb all your points. Would it not be marvellous if a real director/producer could make something of Greek mythology? Dog’s breakfast so far, of muscle-bound actors. Buxom beauties. (Not all the mythology females were denizens of the Playboy Mansion)

    Oh Persephone! Did your mum not warn you about those pomegranate seeds???

    • obscura says:

      Teenagers…they never think that mom might know what she’s about!

      I would love to see something with done with classical myth that picks up on all the universal themes that are so timeless. I’d love to see what a Richard Armitage could do with the pathos that the Greeks love so much. You’re right, most of the modern efforts have been T&A in costume.

  8. katie70 says:

    As a teenager this was my favorite of the Greek myths, I am not sure why but it was. I also always liked the name Persephone, so much that I wanted to name any daughter I might have Persephone (only sons so no poor child got that name, I most likely would have not been like for it). I found the name very pretty and to this day still like it.

    I could see Richard as Hades, I think he would do a great job. Guy so dark, but I still have to wonder why Marian didn’t fall for him after awhile.

    What a great post to read, been home from Mr 70’s family reunion for a few hours and it is good to do some Richarding after a couple days gone ( no RA for over 48 hours).

    • obscura says:

      Glad you enjoyed it Katie! I also think he would make a great dark and broody Hades (we already know he looks good in a beard!). The last myth inspired thing I saw was 2010’s Clash of the Titans where Ralph Fiennes played a kind of demented Hades – not a big fan of that film.

      It’s always good to have some quality time with Richard 😉

  9. Reblogged this on The Epicurean and commented:
    This has nothing to do with food, but it’s a wonderful post on coercive relationships, and since I have an affinity for Persephone, I stumbled across it.

  10. […] elements of Richard Armitage characterizations to those of the male Olympian deities….Ares, Hades, Poseidon, Hermes, Dionysus, Apollo, Apollo, Apollo…as well as a few heroes and demigods […]

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