Places: Guy of Warwick

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First transcribed: Gui de Warewic, c. 1240 (English translation, 1300)

Type of work: Poetry

Type of plot: Romance

Time of work: Tenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Warwick

*Warwick. Guy of WarwickCity in north-central England in which Ethelfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great, first built a fortress and Normans began the present castle, which includes Guy’s Tower and still displays relics of the mythic hero. Nearby is Guy’s Cliffe, where the penitent Guy died as a hermit, just before identifying himself to his alms-giving wife Felice. Other places still to be seen that bear Guy’s name include a cave, a well, and a colossal statue in a late medieval chapel.


*York. City in northern England built and developed by ancient Britons, Roman, Saxons, Danes, and Normans, where Guy meets King Athelstan before slaying the Irish dragon that is ravaging Northumberland.


*Winchester. Capital of England’s early Anglo-Saxon kings and the place where Christianity was introduced in 634. Winchester’s Norman cathedral and nearby religious houses at Chilcombe and Hyde Meed recorded Guy’s most famous victory over the Saracen giant Colbrond, a literary transformation of King Athelstan’s triumph over the Danes at Brunanburh in 937.


*Constantinople. Capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, an entry point for Crusaders, and the start of the great Norman trade route along the Danube and Rhine to Lorraine. Guy’s first visit to Constantinople is to assist the Greek emperor Hernis against the Soldan’s siege. The steward Morgadour’s envious opposition to Guy reflects the uneasy relations between the Greeks and the Normans, just as the feud between Guy and Duke Otun of Pavia, leader of the Lombards and vassal of the emperor of Germany, shows Norman antagonism and superiority to the Holy Roman Empire.

*Holy Land

*Holy Land. Middle Eastern center of a long struggle for control of religious sites during the Middle Ages between Christians and Muslims. Guy goes to the Holy Land as a pilgrim and visits Jerusalem and Bethlehem. At the Norman capital of Antioch, he meets Earl Jonas, whom he champions by slaying the Saracen giant Amoraunt in an episode infused with religious symbolism and thrilling combat.

BibliographyBarron, W. R. J. English Medieval Romance. New York: Longman, 1987. Barron’s authorita-tive work on English romance of the medieval period contains a chapter titled “Ancestral Romances: Guy of Warwick,” which analyzes the adventures of Guy of Warwick in terms of their narrative structure.Burton, Julie. “Narrative Patterning and Guy of Warwick.” Yearbook of English Studies 22 (1992): 105-116. This article analyzes the techniques used in composing Guy of Warwick in their relation to traditional techniques of English romances of the Middle Ages.Dannenbaum, Susan C. “Guy of Warwick and the Question of Exemplary Romance.” Genre 17, no. 4 (Winter, 1984): 351-374. Deals with the notions of sainthood and piety in Guy of Warwick and explains how the complicated process by which biographies of venerated laymen and saints became an enduring genre and medium of romances during the Middle Ages.Mehl, Dieter. The Middle English Romances of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1969. Clear and astute analysis of thirteenth and fourteenth century English romances. Devotes a chapter to a discussion of the social context and related aspects of Guy of Warwick.Menocal, Maria R. Shards of Love: Exile and the Origins of the Lyric. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1994. An excellent treatment of the history and philosophy of romance writing in medieval Europe and its relation to the notion of exile.
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