I chose to examine Guy of Warwick in particular because of its popularity and availability. It is a typical chapbook story of the romantic type, and it is often presented as indicative of the genre. Both Spufford and Watt mention it and use it as a benchmark to show the amounts of chapbook sales. Many printings were made of the Guy chapbooks, which shows that they sold well. Guy's story was a very popular one, and it has a long history. The English loved stories of their heroes in the Early Modern period, and the departure from historical fact to fantastical adventures made it exciting for readers across class boundaries.
I will now present a plot summary based on a 1700s chapbook of 144 pages. Guy was born an English gentleman. However, he had no wealth in land and was the son of a steward to Lord Roband. As a young man, Guy fell in love with Lord Roband's daughter, Phaelice, for her amazing beauty. He proposed marriage to her, but she rejected him on the basis that he is far below her in status. After making a point of the materiality and greediness of women, Guy decided to go out and make a name for himself through bravery and strength, in order that Phaelice would accept him as a husband.
So began the adventures of Guy, as he armed himself and headed for France in search of opportunities to test his arm and raise his reputation. Guy soon encountered the maiden Dorinda who had been falsely imprisoned as part of a plot. Guy fought the three men who had lied in order to pace her in prison, and he killed two of them. The other one fled. However, while sailing away, Guy's ship encountered and was attacked by the ship of Philbertus, the mastermind behind the plot. Guy singlehandedly cut a path through his enemies, and they eventually gave up and retreated. Guy next visited Germany, where he entered a tournament of jousting and martial prowess. He bested all his competitors and as a reward for winning was promised the hand of Princess Blanch. Guy remained true to his love for Phaelice and gave up the opportunity to marry Blanch, instead promising to serve her as a knight. Guy returned to England with the riches that had been the remainder of his prize. He once again proposed to Phaelice, but she turned him down again. She was not overly impressed by the deeds that he had thus far performed, and said that she could not marry him until he carried out even greater feats of heroism.
On Dunsmore-Heath in England, a gigantic cow was terrorizing the countryside and killing any man who tried to stop it. This cow was twelve feet high and eighteen feet long, and was destroying everything it saw. Guy heard reports of the beast, and went to try his luck. After a fierce battle he emerged victorious, the monster dead at his feet. The King of England was so thankful that he knighted Guy. Guy then traveled to Byzantium, to battle the heathens, and return that city to Christian control. Once again, no man could stand up to Guy's strength, and he slaughtered the Saracens and Turks, and recovered Byzantium. Some time later, Guy was walking through the woods and he came upon sixteen ruffians assaulting an Earl and Lady. The ruffians did not stand a chance. Continuing through the woods, Guy happened upon a battle between a lion and a dragon. He decided to watch the fight and aid whichever creature was losing. The lion was getting the worst of it and appeared to be almost finished. Guy stepped in and defeated the dragon. After the fight was over, the lion licked Guy's feet to show its thanks. Guy went on more adventures and killed a giant boar and the dragon of Northumberland.
After all these acts of heroism, he returned home to Phaelice, who finally agreed to marry him. The two were happily wedded. Unfortunately, soon after the marriage, Roband died. Upon the loss of his father-in-law, Guy was thrown into despair. He reflected upon his adventures, and renounced them as sins of his youth. Despite his lifelong quest for Phaelice, Guy left his new bride, and began a pilgrimage to atone for past errors. He put on the robes of a pilgrim, left his sword and armor behind, and vowed to tell no one who he was, for at that point, Guy was known throughout the land. On his pilgrimage, he ran into a man who was utterly depressed. Guy promised to help the man. It tuned out that the man's sixteen children had been taken hostage by a giant. Guy slew the giant and returned the man's children. After a few more similar adventures, Guy retired to a cave to be alone with his melancholy thoughts. When he was about to die, he found a nearby farmer and told him to take a ring to Phaelice. She received the ring and ran out to find Guy, who she had been longing for all those years. They were reunited and embraced, but Guy died in her arms. Phaelice followed him to the grave within two weeks. Continue