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THE HEART OF ROBIN HOOD TOOLKIT ENGAGE Lesson Plan 2 What is a Folktale? 4 “Rymes of Robin Hood” 5 Your Secret Story: First Steps 6 Your Secret Story: Ingredient List 7 Teachers: Questions for Young Playwrights


EXPERIENCE The Legend of Robin Hood 9 A Who’s Who of Sherwood Forest 12 Robin Hood: Five Fast Facts 14

ENRICH Sisters in Arms: Women in the Crusades


The Roots of Robin Hood 18 The Green Man and Robin Hood 20 Explore More: Books and Films 21

WELCOME to The Heart of Robin Hood!

This new take on the legendary outlaw (with a heart of gold) could be considered Robin Hood’s origin story—he and his Merry Men steal from the rich, but haven’t figured out the second part yet. British playwright David Farr’s adaptation is notable for its transformation of Maid Marian, Robin’s love interest in the tales, from damsel in distress to swashbuckling heroine. As you experience the play, what other deviations from the “classic” Robin Hood legend do you notice? This Toolkit contains everything you need (and more) to prepare for a trip to see The Heart of Robin Hood at the A.R.T. Our lesson plan is particularly exciting; it challenges students to write their own site-specific folk tales and record them as audio plays. It’s a variation of our popular program, Neighborhood Podcast Plays, and promises to be a fun way to rediscover the value of folk tales in our society. As always, A.R.T. Education staff are on-hand to help facilitate the lesson plan, talk through the play, or brainstorm more ways to connect the classroom to the stage. Hope to see you at the theater soon! The A.R.T. Education Staff



OBJECTIVE Use The Heart of Robin Hood, based on the English folk legend, as the jumping-off point for students to create new folktales in their school or neighborhood. Working in small groups, students will write short plays set in a real place in their neighborhood or school. They will strengthen their writing skills, exercise collaborative creation and teamwork skills, and use their lives and environments as the inspiration for creative writing.

BACKGROUND David Farr’s play The Heart of Robin Hood has a unique take on the folktale of the heroic outlaw who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. In this version, Maid Marion is a fierce heroine whose bravery and love inspire Robin Hood – at first, merely a thief who targets the wealthy and keeps the spoils for himself and his band – to fight for the oppressed and stand up to wicked Prince John. This lesson plan introduces students to playwriting, promoting strong creative writing through a connection to an important story from the English-language literary canon and the creation of their own new folktales set in the real environments where they live, learn, and play.

CONNECTIONS TO MASSACHUSETTS GUIDING PRINCIPLES Guiding Principle 1: An effective English language arts and literacy curriculum develops thinking and language together through interactive learning. Guiding Principle 2: An effective English language arts and literacy curriculum draws on literature in order to develop students’ understanding of their literary heritage. Guiding Principle 5: An effective English language arts and literacy curriculum emphasizes writing arguments, explanatory/informative texts, and narratives.

MATERIALS • The Heart of Robin Hood Toolkit • Writing materials • Access to spaces in students’ school or neighborhood that can serve as the setting for a play • Optional: a projector or other method of sharing an image of each play’s realworld setting when finished plays are read or performed in the classroom.




Day One: Transforming a real space into an imagined, story space Photo exercise: Start by examining a photo of a place with your students. Ask them some questions about the place. For example: What happens here? Who lives here? What do they do? What are their relationships to each other (between individuals or groups)? Who is in charge, or has power? Who doesn’t? Explore two different possibilities for the image based on student ideas, to illustrate that any given space can be home to multiple stories and worlds. Handout: New Folktales: First Steps Homework: Individually, or in small groups, have students fill out the New Folktales: First Steps handout. They should choose a setting for their play – either in school or in their neighborhood. Students should start imagining what kind of characters might be there, what hero or heroes exist in that world, and what kinds of things will happen there. If possible, they should take a photograph to share with the class.

Day Two: Writing a play Playwriting: show your students an example of a playscript. Ask them to identify the parts of a playscript. Handout: New Folktales: Ingredient List Homework: Write a short play, starting with the ideas they generated using the New Folktales: First Steps handout. The New Folktales: Ingredient List handout details specific requirements for the play, and includes prompt questions to help students focus on developing their characters further.

Day Three: Share your play (Optional) Performance: Have each student read or perform their play in the classroom OR in the play’s real life setting. If it is not possible to take the class to the location of the play, the student can take a photo of the setting and share it in class as the play is read. Get your students inspired! Check out recordings of some of the Neighborhood Podcast Plays created in our workshops on the A.R.T. website.




Folktales are oral fictional tales – made-up stories shared largely by telling them to others, instead of writing them down. Nearly every human culture and era has folktales of its own. Although they are similar to the traditional stories told about a particular person or place, which we call legends, the spoken nature of the folktale gives the storyteller the ability to spin a wild a tale as he or she chooses, as long as the story keeps the listener engaged and stays within the bounds of local taboos (the set of behaviors a culture doesn’t allow, either because they are sacred and not meant for humans, or because they are too dangerous or cursed). One exciting aspect of folktales is their easy ability to travel from one storyteller to another. Each folktale is characterized by its basic pattern and by narrative motifs, so it can easily be retold in different languages. As a result, folktales often spread across large cultural areas – South American, Eurasian, North American Indian – and in the modern world, the easier travel has become for humans, the easier it has been for folktales to travel across continents and reach new cultures. Folktales are a way for us to connect to a shared human experience through storytelling. They also connect our history to present day values and happenings. The Robin Hood story has been called upon to discuss politics: people are calling for a tax on stock market transactions in order to fund social welfare programs, infrastructure improvements, and other taxpayer-funded initiatives in the United States. Their name for this proposed tax? The Robin Hood Tax. The mayor of a town in Spain was labeled “The Spanish Robin Hood” for leading farm workers into supermarkets to take basic living supplies for distribution to food banks. Can you think of other examples of current day Robin Hoods? Are they seen as good or bad people?







The Robin we see in The Heart of Robin Hood – somewhat cocky, slightly afraid of women, very much a rogue – is actually much closer to the Robin Hood that audiences originally fell in love with. The history of Robin Hood is a lesson in reinvention and re-appropriation, but the outlaw started as a popular hero, appearing in exciting tales filled with archery, action, and adventure – tales that were apparently in circulation long before the stories appear in print. The first reference to a story of Robin Hood comes in 1370 in a version of Piers Plowman, an allegorical poem by William Langland written in Middle English. The drunken priest Sloth explains that he doesn’t really know the words to all his prayers, but he knows all the “rymes of Robin Hood.” In the period this poem appeared, most recorded literature was liturgical or political, so it is a mark of how popular and widespread the tales of Robin Hood are that they appear in this religious poem. This also tells us that Robin Hood tales were very much stories for the people by the people; Langland implicitly criticizes Robin Hood when he paints him as the favorite hero of a drunk, lazy priest. Robin Hood stories were adventure stories, full of recognizable heroes, stock baddies, and familiar story structures. Written in Middle English metrical poetry, the earliest tales were in ballad form and sung to recognizable tunes.

A LITTLE GEST OF ROBIN HOOD The largest single Robin Hood tale amongst the early ballads is A Little Gest (pronounced “jest”) of Robin Hood. It is composed of several interlacing stories adapted into eight “fyttes” (fits) totaling 456 stanzas. The bulk of the story concerns Robin and his men aiding a knight named Sir Richard Atte Lee, who has been cheated out of money by the greedy abbots. Robin is eventually taken into service by an unnumbered King Edward, but longs for the greenwood, and, after a year returns to the forest, where he continues his exploits for twenty years. At the end of the Gest, Robin goes to see his female cousin, a prioress at Kirklees, and for reasons unknown, she and her evil lover, the knight Red Roger, orchestrate his murder. Scholars date the Gest to around 1500, though as with all Robin Hood ballads, the stories were probably circulating orally long before then. The end coda of the Gest says Robin “did poor man much good,” and Robin is shown robbing sheriffs and abbots. The wealthy aristocracy are offered as a target but never actually robbed. Robin is also shown helping working class, honest men and providing them with service, clothes, food, and protection.




Use this worksheet to record initial ideas about your play: where it takes place, who the hero and other characters are, and the conflict they face. Name of Playwrights: ________________________________________ Where are you? ____________________________________________ _________________________________________________________ Characters: ________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________ Setting: ___________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________ Conflict: __________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________ Describe the hero of the story: _________________________________ _________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________




Your play should be no more than five minutes long when performed, but no less than two minutes long. Include the following ‘ingredients’ in your script! 1. 1 to 3 unique characters 2. At least 30 lines of dialogue 3. A conflict (remember, this doesn’t necessarily mean a fight!) 4. A heroic act 5. A surprise 6. A reference to your surroundings 7. 5 seconds of silence 8. A clear sense (through dialogue, action, or character) of the time of day and time of year Brainstorming a Character 1. Give your character a name, age, and physical description. 2. Where does your character live? 3. What does your character like to do? 4. Name one thing that would make your character angry. 5. Describe a typical day for your character. 6. Describe a dream your character has had. 7. Pretend your character has a secret. Why is it a secret? 8. What is your character’s goal?


ENGAGE TEACHERS: QUESTIONS FOR YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS Here are some great questions to ask your student if he or she gets stuck while writing their play. • How might the characters’ true feelings be communicated to the audience through dialogue? • What dialogue could be cut without damaging the story? • What narrative clues have been left out? • What is your favorite piece of dialogue? Why? • How does each character feel about the other characters? How do we know? • Who is this character? • What else might this character do? • What might this character say? • Why does the character do/say what he does? • Does your character have a secret? • What kind of mood is he in now? • How does the character’s background affect what he says? • What is his relation to the other characters? • Do you care about this character? Why? • Who is the story about? • Does the character have to sacrifice anything to achieve his or her goal? How big a sacrifice? • How did the character change and what initiated the change? • Who is this play about? • What does this character want? • What is stopping this character from getting what he or she wants? • What is the conflict in this scene? • Why is there a conflict? • What happened before this? • What happens next?




Unlike other outlaws from the Middle Ages, Robin Hood has proved extraordinarily difficult to kill. The pages devoted to his adventures might equal a Sherwood Forest’s worth of trees, and he has appeared in all manner of guises, from a Saxon freedom fighter to a singing gangster and even a cartoon fox. The character possesses a protean quality that has allowed his legend to survive over five centuries of vigorous rebranding, finally producing the Robin Hood we know and love today—an outlaw, but a charming one, whose band of Merry Men rob from the rich to give to the poor, nobly defending the common man from injustices with a wit as quick as his arrow. It might come as a surprise then that Robin Hood started life happily robbing the rich… and keeping the spoils for himself. The first written account to appear was in the late fifteenth century as a Middle English ballad-poem: A Little Gest of Robin Hood. The Gest packs Robin’s adventures with plenty of thieving, double-crossing, and murdering—committed by both stock bad guys like the Sheriff of Nottingham and the Merry Men. In these tales, Robin is a simple yeoman who always returns to the greenwood richer and triumphant, preferring the dark and mysterious wood to the society of the King and court. Robin Hood received a makeover in the late sixteenth century, as a character who preferred forest life to a king’s beneficence made those in power uneasy. Thus, Robin changed from thuggish thief to dispossessed earl when Anthony Munday published The Downfall of Robert, Earl of Huntingdon and The Death of Robert, Earl of Huntingdon in 1598. In these plays, Munday backdated Robin Hood to the twelfth century: Sir Robert is outlawed by Prince John, ruling while the rightful king, Richard I, fights in the Crusades. Robert flees into the forest with his beloved Maid Marion and loyal followers, rechristens himself Robin Hood, and picks up a bow to fight for the king’s justice. Munday pillaged a 1521 history book for the most enduring detail—that Robin began robbing from the rich to give to the poor. Despite the political subtext, theater audiences loved this new Robin Hood. The Admiral’s Men, who produced Munday’s plays, soon did a roaring trade in Robin Hood entertainments. William Shakespeare, who worked for a rival theater company, never wrote a Robin Hood play; but he did get in a subtle jab at the Admiral’s Men in As You Like It, his take on the outlawed aristocrat theme, when a character dismisses the banished Duke Senior, saying that he and his men “fleet



the time carelessly,” living like “old Robin Hood of England.” Although the Puritan government closed English theaters in 1642, broadside printers kept the legend of Robin alive. These single sheets of paper, sold for a penny, told a story of Robin Hood and printed an accompanying tune to which it was sung. The broadsides kept the innovation of the dispossessed earl, but borrowed older plots from the Gest to keep Robin’s adventures fresh. Robin Hood again became a stage favorite when theaters re-opened in 1661, but most writers didn’t know what to do with the hero. On one hand, the Robin Hood from medieval tales, who would stick an enemy’s decapitated head on a pike, was too raw for Restoration audiences, who preferred light operas and pantomimes. On the other, there were only so many ways to retell the story of an aristocratic Robin Hood’s banishment before the story got stale. Thus, Restoration dramatists of the 1700s trod a middle ground, presenting a gentleman Robin whose chief problem was winning Marion’s love from rivals. This Robin, though living in the forest, rarely picked up a bow or displayed any of the derring-do he had possessed in previous incarnations. Robin conquered the novel in the nineteenth century appearing as a Saxon freedom fighter in Sir Walter Scott’s historical novel, Ivanhoe. Following Scott, Thomas Love Peacock published Maid Marian in 1822. Peacock’s luminous Marian, entering the forest armed in pursuit of Robin, possessed the combination of chastity and sublimated eroticism beloved by Victorians, and the novella became a smash hit. It was immediately turned into an opera, sparking a craze so great that when Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Arthur Sullivan musicalized their version of Robin Hood in 1892, they called it The Foresters because the original title, Maid Marian, was already taken by three other operas. Given a new robustness in novels, Robin Hood’s popularity exploded. He enjoyed increasing publicity in children’s literature. Writers of the Georgian age, obsessed with the intrinsic value of English culture, placed his exploits in countless textbooks. Publishers marketed Howard Pyle’s sumptuously illustrated The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood to young boys. Mark Twain’s boy hero Tom Sawyer gave Hood a ringing endorsement as a “proper robber” and “the greatest man that ever was.” The entertainment market boasted a Robin Hood for every occasion and every type of audience. The birth of cinema in the early twentieth century ensured that Robin’s legend would never die. On screen, Robin’s world could be experienced as never before with the aid of lavish sets and editing techniques that allowed seamless action sequences. In 1922, Hollywood power player Douglas Fairbanks initially refused to play a “heavyfooted



Englishman trampling about in the woods,” but he was convinced of the filmability of the story when producers converted the backlot of his studio into a huge Sherwood Forest. The rate at which celluloid Robin Hoods have accumulated suggests an insatiable taste for outlaw stories. In bold Technicolor, Robin Hood’s adventures became even more grandiose and compelling. On television, The Adventures of Robin Hood made Richard Greene synonymous with the outlaw in the 1950s, but those born after 1970 are likely to remember Michael Praed from 1984’s Robin Hood. The numerous iterations illustrate the tale’s capacity for reinvention—when Praed tired of the role, the show-runners simply cast a new Robin. As recently as 2006, the BBC updated Robin Hood with a band of attractive young stars constantly engaged in slow-motion fight sequences. Centuries of reinvention have allowed for a grab bag of Robin Hoods. Some versions emphasize Robin’s swashbuckling adventures, others his historical value as a freedom fighter, still others the element of breaking the law for the greater good. Disney animated Robin Hood for children in 1973, telling the tale of Robin’s fight against Prince John with the characters rendered as animals. Outlaw Robin becomes a sly fox, the Sheriff a wolf, and Richard I and John lions. Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack turned the story into the gangsterland musical Robin and the 7 Hoods in 1964. Funnyman Mel Brooks sent up the inherent silliness of the canon, creating the sight-gag rich serial “When Things Were Rotten” for television in 1975, and, in 1993, the parody Robin Hood: Men In Tights, in which a chorus line of Merry Men dance a can-can, and Marian is oppressed just as much by her chastity belt as by the Sheriff. Newer adaptations have foregrounded Marion. “The New Adventures of Robin Hood” in 1997 included a mini-skirted, whip-wielding Marion, and “Maid Marian and Her Merry Men” cast her as primary hero. When playwright David Farr began writing The Heart of Robin Hood, he kept his young daughters in mind when fashioning a tale about Robin Hood meeting his match in a capable, sword-wielding Marion and looked to the earliest tales for inspiration, feeling Robin’s journey from thug to good thief lent the character a more compelling arc. The recent emphasis on Marion proves that the legend of Robin Hood has gone far beyond the character attached to the name—after centuries of refashioning, the name Robin Hood has come to evoke the spirit of a hero dedicated to justice, freedom, and putting up a good fight.





John appears in Hood beg the earliest ballads as part legends as a of the Merry Men, and Robin’s chief who robbed from lieutenant. A broadside ballad of the 1600s kept the spoils for h called Robin Hood and Little John first explains evidence exists that p that Robin Hood and Little John met by getting into a Hood, but the outlaw my fight on a bridge before becoming friends. In the Gest, chronicles, ballads, theate Little John has his own subplot where he disguises himself the thirteenth century on as Reynold Greenleafe and eventually teams up with a Robin gets a moral make cook in an aristocratic household to help Robin Hood. In sessed earl who flees to these early ballads, Little John is Robin’s equal; as Robin and begins redistributing gains aristocratic status, Little John loses status and in the side of Richard I. I L M L many versions was Robin’s steward or servant before around the world and E E H Much R’S T Robin was outlawed. In the light operas of the H the Miller’s Son is SO forms, from books to UC mentioned 1700s, Little John was usually portrayed as an to comics. He rem N in early ballads M actual giant for comic relief purposes. He generosity as part of Robin’s band. In the Gest, is usually shown to be a proficient Much is the one who tries to convince Robin quarter staff fighter. not to go to the abbey at Kirklees (where Robin is ultimately killed). In the ballad Robin Hood and the Monk, Much kills the page who serves the evil monk of the title. Because he has a profession G attached to his name, Much is sometimes portrayed a as a working man who joined Robin’s gang to escape an ea oppression at the hands of the Sheriff. In the Douglas Guy of G Fairbanks film of 1922, the tension between Much S in a skirm C and Guy of Gisborne represented the tension WILLWill ARLET Sheriff of N between the oppressive lords and the peasScarlet is mentioned for Robin, who ants. In the 2006 BBC series Robin Hood, in A Little Gest of Robin Hood which Robin o Much replaces Little John as Robin’s as part of Robin’s band. He is sometimes kills him, sticki partner and confidante. called Will Scathlock, Scarlock, or Scadlocke. Dressed in Guy In some early ballads, Scarlet and Scadlocke are he has the head two separate characters and appear as brothers resLittle John, wh cued from danger by Robin. Over time, Will Scarlet has flee to the fo evolved into a brother/son figure to Robin, and is usually the up in Robin H youngest member of the Merry Men. In some stories where Pyle’s child Robin is also an aristocrat, Will is part of the Gamelyn, or law who Gamwell, family, which is usually distantly-related to Robin. more c This comes from the conflation of the Gamelyn outlaw myth to t with Robin Hood’s; Gamelyn was a younger brother whose elder brother contrived to outlaw him in order to cheat him of his inheritance. In the young adult series Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen, Will Scarlet is the identity of a girl disguised as a boy to join the Merry Men. He is often portrayed wearing red silk and being an excellent swordsman.




N H OO D obin

gan in the forest outlaw m the rich … and himself. No conclusive points to a real Robin yth exists in law records, er, and May Games from nward. In the late 1590s, eover, becoming a disposo the safety of the forest g wealth and fighting on Robin’s story has gone today exists in multiple o films to video games mains a symbol of and justice.




Maid Marion comes primarily from the May Games, where she started as the friar’s girlfriend. She eventually became an aristocratic lady named Matilda Fitzwalter, who fled to the forest and took the name Marion when her lover Robin Hood was outlawed. Onstage, she often appeared as a damsel in distress who needed Robin to save her from unsavory suitors. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, Marion gains more agency, pursuing Robin into the forest in operas like The Foresters or spurring him to action against corruption in the 1922 and 1938 Robin Hood films. Now, she often appears fighting alongside Robin as a capable heroine.

GISB Y OF Guy ORNE U G of Gisborne first

appears as a bounty hunter in arly ballad called Robin Hood and Gisborne. After Little John is captured mish between the Merry Men and the Nottingham, Guy enters the forest looking o challenges him to an archery competition, of course wins. He and Guy fight, and Robin ing his head on a pike and disfiguring him. y’s clothes, Robin goes to the Sheriff, saying d of the outlaw Robin Hood. Robin then frees ho shoots the Sheriff dead as he and Robin orest. Since this ballad, Guy has popped Hood tales always as a villain. In Howard dren’s book, Guy is a murderous evil outo is a foil to the good Robin Hood, but commonly, Guy is a right-hand man the Sheriff or to Prince John, and often a rival of Robin’s for Marion’s love.


John is also based on a historical figure. John was the fifth and youngest son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, part of the House of Angevin. His elder brother Richard ruled England from 1189 to 1199. John attempted to seize the crown while Richard was away on the Third Crusade. Richard later forgave his brother, and John inherited the throne when he died. Historians, from medieval chroniclers onward, often took a cool view of John’s reign, and he entered the Robin Hood tradition in the 1590s in Anthony Munday’s Earl of Huntington plays. Much Victorian literature presents John as an ineffectual and even evil king, which is solidified into Robin Hood canon in Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe. The twentieth century films of Robin Hood often show John as weak, cowardly, and effeminate, for example, Claude Rains’ John in the 1938 film and the Disney film, where John is presented as a cowardly, thumbsucking lion who wears a crown too big for his scrawny head.




Who is Robin Hood? Robin Hood is a legendary English outlaw dating to at least the thirteenth-century. Written tales of Robin Hood date to 1450. In the earliest stories, Robin is a forest outlaw who makes a living through thieving. He is a skilled archer and the de facto leader of a band of men that includes Little John, Much the Miller’s Son, and Will Scarlet. The legend evolved into the story of an aristocratic but inherently good man named Robert, Earl of Huntington, who was outlawed via the machinations of his enemies in the court of Prince John. Robert fled to the forest, renamed himself Robin Hood, and became a champion of the oppressed, robbing from the rich to give to the poor and upholding the law of the true king, Richard the Lionheart, who was away fighting in the Crusades. Through many incarnations over the centuries, Robin Hood has always been a popular symbol of goodness and justice, whose “criminal” activities help those in need who cannot fight for themselves. Was Robin Hood a real person? That’s unclear. Scholars over the centuries have tried to find the real-life inspiration for Robin Hood: There are records of real people named Robin Hoode, Robin Hode, Robert Hode, and even one surnamed Robynhode, but nothing indicates that these men were outlaws. There are just as many references to criminals and outlaws who used those aliases and are described as behaving like “Robin Hoods,” so we know that by the fifteenth century, the name was regularly used to describe troublemakers. Some outlaws have taken other names from the legend, including a chaplain in Sussex who turned to a career in robbery under the alias Friar Tuck in 1417, and a man who robbed under the name Reynold Greenleaf, which is an alias adopted by Little John in a Robin Hood adventure tale from 1500. Some chroniclers refer to Robin as a real person whose exploits have been fictionalized for their popular appeal, but none of these writers name any individual as the father of the legend. And Robin Hood didn’t always steal from the rich to give to the poor? Nope! In the earliest tales, he stole stuff and kept it for himself. One chronicler mentions Robin’s targets as rich aristocrats and clergymen, and an early ballad says that he “did poor men much good,” but the idea that Robin “stole from the rich and gave to the poor” dates to the late sixteenth century. This generous outlaw was so popular that it was reused in broadside ballads: the seventeenth-century equivalent of dime-store novels, these were single sheets of paper sold for a penny that had a story of Robin Hood on one page, and music for the ballad on the back. They were popular well into the 1800s, and by then, novelists were also on the Robin Hood bandwagon. He has been a generous outlaw ever since, his story often used as an example of economic heroism. Most recently, members of Occupy Wall Street have dressed as Robin Hood to support a “Robin Hood tax,” which would tax the financial sector in order to redistribute wealth and stabilize the economy.


EXPERIENCE What about Maid Marion and Friar Tuck? The earliest Robin Hood tales from the 1400s to the mid-1500s include the usual suspects like Little John and the Sheriff of Nottingham, but Maid Marion and Friar Tuck didn’t enter the tales until the later 1500s. Both characters likely come from the May Games held from May to June in English towns. A lusty friar and his girlfriend May Marion were characters who danced in the popular Morris dances that often followed performances of short plays. Robin Hood was also a figure in the May Games, both as a character in plays and in the person of a prominent member of the community who was given the title Robin Hood and in charge of collecting charity money and leading sporting competitions during the festivities. Marion and Robin were also familiar names for lovers in French pastorals that were in vogue in the medieval period. Because the May Games were occurring at the same time the early Robin Hood stories began appearing in print, it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint exactly which genre influenced the other. After 1600, Marion and Friar Tuck start showing up in the written stories, too, and Marion is promoted to an aristocratic lady and girlfriend of Robin in the stage plays of the 1600s and 1700s. So how did Robin Hood become associated King Richard and Prince John? In early tales, Robin Hood lived in the days of a generic King Edward and was indifferent to royal authority. The idea of a popular outlaw who actively opposed local government and lived a life of rebellion made the late Tudor monarchs nervous. Though Tudor king Henry VIII enjoyed Robin Hood stories and pageants, his daughter Elizabeth I didn’t. She was aging and had no heir - a weak position for royalty. Therefore, putting Robin Hood firmly in the past and re-writing him as a nobly-born man forced into outlawry sent a message about obeying your rulers. The reigns of King Richard I and his brother Prince John were a safe choice for Robin’s relocation – a chronicler’s account had already Robin Hood in the twelfth century, and John had a ready-made reputation as a bad king. Therefore, placing Robin as an outlaw who was Richard I’s man through and through and only went outside the law to act against the corruption of a pretender to the crown told audiences that Robin Hood was still a story to be enjoyed … but only as a reminder of obedience to your monarch. Writers in the 1800s shored up the good Richard/bad John dynamic in their push to establish Robin Hood as a thoroughly national, thoroughly English hero. Sir Walter Scott was especially helpful in this regard, publishing the enormously popular Ivanhoe in 1819, which presented Robin as a good Saxon freedom-fighter rebelling against the “Norman yoke” and King John. (This is somewhat ironic because Richard and John both grew up in Aquitaine in France, where the Normans were originally from.) Despite the ahistoricity of the original Robin Hood stories, it has become traditional to place the time of Robin Hood in the twelfth century under Richard’s reign.




Maid Marion, the woman who wins Robin Hood’s heart in The Heart of Robin Hood, is as much a fierce fighter and free spirit as the legendary outlaw. She flees the advances of Prince John while her father is away fighting in the Crusades, disguising herself as a man in order to live in Sherwood Forest with Robin’s band of thieves. The character of Maid Marion (also spelled Marian) has deep roots in English and French folklore as far back as the Middle Ages. She was a character in the May Games festivities, celebrations of springtime fertility, held in May and early June, and thusly associated with the Virgin Mary, who in Roman Catholic tradition is celebrated on May Day. The May Games’ Marian seems to come from the medieval French pastourelle, a song narrating an encounter between a knight and a shepherdess – in Le Jeu de Robin et Marion, a play based on the pastourelle, Marion’s shepherd lover is named Robin. Furthering the connection, in early versions of the Robin Hood legend, his love interest is often Le Jeu de Robin et Marion a shepherdess. Moving forward to the 17th century, Marian has been elevated to a noblewoman, as in The Heart of Robin Hood. In the ballad Robin Hood and Maid Marian, she dresses as a young man in order to wander Sherwood Forest in search of Robin Hood. They meet and, neither recognizing the other, they fight, with Robin Hood losing. In contemporary times, Marian is nearly always included in the Robin Hood story, and she is generally a high-born woman with a rebellious or tomboy nature. The Heart of Robin Hood’s background of the Crusades, religious wars in the Middle Ages that were conducted by the Catholic Church against Muslim control of holy places in and near Jerusalem, raises an interesting question: Is there any basis in reality for a woman like Marion, who is a capable fighter who travels in men’s clothing, in that time? What was the role of women in the Crusades? That’s a hotly contested question. The first Crusade was declared by Pope Urban II in 1095, launching an intermittent 200year struggle with Muslim territories for control of the Holy Land – a campaign that ultimately ended in failure in 1291. It seems relatively clear that women’s roles changed if their male family members “took up the cross” and went to battle. Records show that women aided in recruitment of men to the crusades, took on responsibility for business and property matters, acting as regent of their estate in a husband’s absence, and


The crowning of Fulk V and Melisende


provided financial and moral support. Some aristocratic women are known to have accompanied their husbands to the battlefront, including Eleanor of Aquitaine and Queen Melisende of Jerusalem. It also seems clear that some non-aristocratic women traveled with the crusaders in ‘feminine’ roles, such as washerwoman. But some disputed accounts indicate that women engaged in battle, as well. Here, the extent of women’s involvement depends heavily on a historian’s ideology, particularly because the idea of a woman engaged in violence was considered barbaric and ungodly at the time. Christian accounts, when they acknowledge the role of women in the Crusades at all, indicate that women fought in emergency situations only: to defend their camps or their own lives. Muslim historians, however, argue that some women took up arms in battle, indistinguishable from men unless they were struck down and their armor was removed. Looking at the royal women, whose histories have been more carefully recorded, we see great cleverness and strength. Queen Melisende of Jerusalem was the daughter of King Baldwin II of Jerusalem and the Armenian princess Morphia of Melitene. She was married to a powerful lord, Fulk V the Young of the Anjou line that would soon form the House of Angevin, rulers of England. Though her father wanted her to rule alone as Queen, Fulk V pushed for co-rule, then quickly excluded her from governance. When she gave birth to a son, Baldwin III, in 1130, her father designated Melisende the sole guardian of the child in order to protect her position. In turn, her husband accused her cousin, Hugh II, Count of Jaffa, of an affair with the queen, exiling him for 3 years and allegedly attempting an assassination against the Count. But the Queen’s supporters overcame the king in a palace coup, diminishing his influence. They reconciled, and when Fulk died in a hunting accident, Melisende assumed governance. During her rule, she contacted the Pope following the overthrow of the state of Edessa in 1144. The pope declared the second crusade, and the queen and her constable Manasses conferred with Eleanor of Aquitaine and Louis VII, agreeing to attack Damascus in response. Eleanor of Aquitaine married Louis VII, prince of France in 1137, shortly after her succession to the duchy of Aquitaine. Within a few days of their marriage, Louis’ father died, so he and Eleanor assumed the throne Eleanor of Aquitaine on Christmas Day of the same year. Eleanor has been described as high-spirited and was criticized by church elders as indecorous, but the king was deeply in love and gave her whatever she wanted. It is believed that she herself took up the Second Crusade, recruiting several royal ladies-in-waiting along with several hundred vassals. She insisted on participating as feudal leader of the soldiers from her duchy, but rumors that she and her ladies dressed as Amazons in battle are unfounded. The crusade failed, however, and Eleanor was humiliated.




The Robin Hood legend has deep Here are a fe








Anthony Munday writes T Downfall of Robert Hood The Death of Robert Hood for the Admiral’s Men wh begin the tradition of Rob outlawed earl who robs t to give to the poor.

Historians identify eight outlaws or criminals with the surname Robinhood or Robehod. No clear connection to the Robin Hood legend, though.


A character in the poem Piers Plowman mentions the “rymes of Robin Hood.”


A True popula ballads of Robi


First record of Robin Hood in connection with the May Games.

c. 1500

A Little Gest of Robin Hood appears: 8 interwoven tales of the outlaw.









p roots in English literary history. ew highlights.






Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s opera The Foresters makes Maid Marion the central character of a Robin Hood story.

The and d, plays hich bin as the rich


The Royal Shakespeare Company presents The Heart of Robin Hood.


Tale of Robin Hood, a ar collection of broadside s, continues the tradition in Hood as noble outlaw.


Errol Flynn’s wildly successful Technicolor film The Adventures of Robin Hood becomes the definitive version of Robin Hood in America.


John Keats writes sonnets about Robin Hood. He becomes a favorite subject of Romantic poets.





Disney anthropomorphizes the characters in its animated musical Robin Hood. Robin and Marian are foxes - a nod to Robin’s outlaw status.





The Green Man is a creature with several points of origin in European history and a loose association with Robin Hood dating to modern times. The oldest appearance of the Green Man is in the form of a carved stone or wood figure found in medieval churches of Europe (see image at left). Many roof bosses, knobs or protrusions of stone or wood particularly found in the vaulted ceiling of a church, were doleful or grimacing faces peering through foliage, or with leaves sprouting from the mouth, ears, even nostrils or eyes. These were originally called foliate heads. Another type of Green Men was found in the public pageants of the Tudor and Stuart eras (late 14th to early 16th centuries). Whifflers, men whose duty it was to drive back the crowds in a street to make way for a procession, often dressed as wild men, covered in shaggy hair or leaves – they were also called Greenemen, or Green Men. At masques (pageants) at the Tudor court, some performers dressed in moss and ivy, like the Green Men of public pageants. In the 18th century, many pubs used the image of the Green Man: clubwielding figures clad in greenery, but by the 19th century, the motif was largely replaced by the image of Robin Hood, or another green-clad forester. The tie to the foliate heads of Europe’s medieval churches, on the other hand, dates to a 1939 article by Lady Raglan, who associated the term Green Man with the carved heads for the first time, arguing that they were tied to the legend of Robin Hood, among others. The Green Man on a pub sign.




BOOKS Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen The Downfall of Robert Hood, Earle of Huntington and The Death of Robert Hood, Earle of Huntington by Anthony Munday The Sad Shepherd by Ben Jonson (unfinished) The Foresters by Alfred, Lord Tennyson Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott Maid Marian by Thomas Love Peacock Robin Hood and Little John: or, the Merry Men of Sherwood by Pierce Egan the Younger The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood of Great Renown in Nottingham by Howard Pyle Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Robin Hood: An Outlaw by Alexandre Dumas the Elder FILMS

Robin Hood (1922) starring Douglas Fairbanks The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) starring Errol Flynn Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964) starring Frank Sinatra Robin Hood (1973) – Disney animated film

Robin and Marian (1976) starring Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood (1984) starring Tom Baker Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) starring Kevin Costner Robin Hood (1991) starring Patrick Bergin and Uma Thurman Robin Hood: Men In Tights (1993) – Parody by Mel Brooks TELEVISION The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955) starring Richard Greene Robin Hood (1984) starring Jason Praed Maid Marian and Her Merry Men (1989) starring Kate Lonergan The New Adventures of Robin Hood (1997) starring Richard Ashton and Barbara Griffin Robin Hood (2006) starring Jonas Armstrong and Sam Troughton “Sniffing the Gauntlet (Ivanhoe)” and “Paw Prints of Thieves (Robin Hood)” episodes of Wishbone (1995)


Thank you for participating in the

A.R.T. Education Experience! If you have questions about how to implement the information and activities in this Toolkit, or would like to schedule an A.R.T. teaching artist to visit your classroom and assist in administrating the lesson plan, please e-mail the A.R.T. Education and Community Programs department at: The Heart of Robin Hood Educational Toolkit Supervising Editor Brendan Shea Editor and Designer Georgia Young Contributors Alexandra Juckno

The Heart of Robin Hood Toolkit  

American Repertory Theater's Education & Community Programs department presents the educational toolkit for The Heart of Robin Hood!

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