The Poem

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Love for a woman prompts Guy to inaugurate his long series of remarkable exploits. Guy, son of the steward to Rohaud, Earl of Warwick, is a very popular and handsome young squire. As the earl’s principal cupbearer, he is instructed, on one fateful occasion, to superintend the service of the ladies during dinner. Gazing on Felice la Belle, Rohaud’s beautiful and talented daughter, he falls desperately in love with the fair maiden. When he first declares himself to her, he is rejected because of his lowly birth and lack of attainments. Later, however, when from lovesickness he is close to death, Felice, following the advice of an angel, offers him some encouragement. If he becomes a knight and proves his valor, she will reward him with her hand in marriage.

After receiving knighthood, Sir Guy sets out to prove his valor. Accompanied by his mentor, Herhaud of Ardern, he spends an entire year attending tournaments throughout Europe. Pitted against some of the most renowned knights of Christendom, Guy is indomitable; in every encounter he takes the prize. His reputation established, he returns to Warwick to claim his reward from Felice. This fair lady, however, has decided to raise her standards. After acknowledging his accomplishments, she notifies him that he must become the foremost knight in the world before she will marry him.

True to the laws of chivalric love, Guy returns to Europe to satisfy the fancy of his mistress. Again visiting the tournaments, again he is, without exception, victorious. Misfortune awaits him, however, in Italy. His high merit having excited their envy, seventeen knights, led by Otous, duke of Pavia, lay an ambush for the English champion. Before Guy wins the skirmish, two of his closest companions are dead, and his best friend, Herhaud, appears to be slain. As Guy, grievously wounded, begins his return journey to England, he is filled with remorse for having allowed the wishes of a haughty lady to lead him to this sad result. In Burgundy, where he is performing his customary deeds of valor, his spirits are considerably improved by his discovery of Herhaud, alive and disguised as a palmer.

As the two friends continue their journey homeward, they learn that Segyn, duke of Louvain, is being attacked by Reignier, emperor of Germany, who wrongfully claims the duke’s lands. Assembling a small army, Guy defeats two armies that are sent against Segyn. With a larger force, the emperor then encircles the city in which Guy, Segyn, and their followers are quartered. During this blockade Reignier, on a hunting trip, is surprised by Guy, who leads the unarmed emperor into the city. There, in the true spirit of chivalry, a rapprochement is brought about between the ruler, Reignier, and his vassal, Segyn.

Soon after rendering these good services to Segyn, Guy finds another occasion for the exercise of his talents. Learning that Ernis, emperor of Greece, is besieged by the mighty forces of the Saracen Soudan, Guy levies an army of a thousand German knights and marches to Constantinople....

(The entire section is 1245 words.)