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In this story the monk—not the sheriff or the king—is the true villain. This version of the legend visits extreme violence on the villain, delivered by Little John and Much. Later versions of Robin Hood stories would move away from these deaths that appear as collateral damage, but medieval audiences did not seem overly troubled by them. Medieval crime and punishment often centered around brutality and violence. Kings, lords, and their representatives used it often to punish rebellious peasants.

Bodies hanging from the gallows or displayed as a warning at crossroads were familiar sights during this time. These early Robin Hood ballads begin to show a turning of the tables, in which the lower classes are able to punish the upper classes through trickery and violence. In the 15th century more ballads about Robin Hood spread across England. One of the longest, A Gest of Robyn Hode , originates during this time. In these tales Robin belonged to the lower classes and was considered a yeoman.

7 myths about Robin Hood

The medieval English ballads use this term to describe a status higher than a peasant but lower than a knight. In the Gest Robin is depicted as a Yeoman of the King who, despite his privileged position, misses the forest and so chooses to abandon the court. Robin Hood takes on a role as an administrator of justice for the underclass in the Gest.


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When Little John consults his leader for guidance on whom to beat, rob, and kill, Robin Hood provides him with a code divided along the lines of rich and poor. No peasants, yeomen, and virtuous squires were to be harmed. In the Gest the type of villains has widened to include more figures at odds with the lower classes. The Robin Hood legend also takes a bloodier turn than in previous versions as vengeance is delivered to villains.

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In the Gest Robin shoots the sheriff with an arrow and then slits his throat with a sword. In a 15th-century manuscript of Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne , Robin is not content with just killing his opponent, Guy. He also mutilates the corpse with a knife, a deed he carries out with considerable relish. Scholars sometimes explain these recurring themes of duping and punishing corrupt people in power as reflecting a struggle between dispossessed Saxons of the countryside and the powerful Norman rulers in the cities.

In the centuries when the Robin Hood legend was taking shape, the English government was beset by a number of crises that upended the social order. A civil war in the 12th century, later known as the Anarchy, led to a catastrophic breakdown in law and order. In the 16th century Robin Hood lost some of his dangerous edge as he and his men were absorbed into celebrations of May Day. Every spring, the English would herald in the spring with a festival that often featured athletic contests as well as electing the kings and queens of May.

As part of the fun, participants would dress up in costume as Robin Hood and his men to attend the revels and the games. It is during this period that Robin Hood also became fashionable among the royalty and even associated with nobility. There, accompanied by his noblemen, he entertained the queen and ladies-in-waiting with his exuberant dancing and high jinks. Several more characters begin to appear in the Robin Hood stories at this point. One is Maid Marian, and the other is Friar Tuck.

The two enter into the legend at around the same time. Like Robin Hood, these two were also popular figures at the May games, and they begin appearing in literary works as well. His popularity grew in the coming years, and he appeared more frequently in later works, such as Robin Hood and the Friar from the s. This work features an episode where the monk bests Robin Hood and tosses him in a stream. In the Elizabethan era Robin Hood became a popular presence in plays staged for the upper classes.

Several playwrights, such as William Shakespeare , featured him in their works. Most notable was Anthony Munday, who wrote two plays centered around Robin Hood. Munday reinvents the outlaw as an aristocrat: Robert, Earl of Huntington, whose uncle disinherits him. Robert flees to the forest where he becomes Robin Hood. There he meets Maid Marian, and the two fall in love.


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  7. No longer was Robin Hood a yeoman; he had been gentrified for new audiences. Munday sets his works during the reign of Richard I, the Lionheart. It's all tongue-in-cheek nonsense, but executed with flair and verve by debut feature director Otto Bathurst. Kevin Maher. While it plays fast and loose with loaded political iconography, this Robin Hood has brought a whole new dimension to this age-old tale.

    Katie Walsh. Chandler Levack. It's far from the first Robin Hood film, it almost certainly won't be the last, but it'll take a concerted effort from future generations to overtake it as the worst. Guy Lodge. Several dueling shades of dull, this umpteenth retooling of the outlaw legend is desperate to convince viewers that Christopher Nolan had something to do with it he didn't. Joshua Rothkopf. It's legitimately funny. Not sure that was the intention. Richard Roeper. Robin is one note and the twist at the end - that, surprising no one, allows for the potential of a sequel - can be seen coming a mile off.

    Rebecca Lewis. Neither campy nor fun, this Robin Hood got lost in the Forest and there's a good chance you may not see him again. Linda and Al Lerner.

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    There is nothing this new version offers that feels valuable or significant. Andrew Kendall. We're warned at the film's opening to'Forget history, forget what you believe, forget what you know' Peter Gray. The film's narrator instructs viewers to 'forget what you know' of the man under the hood because what they are about to see is far from a Disney-esque bedtime story Sara Clements. Robin Hood is a discreet adventure and its entertainment is not very effective. Mikel Zorrilla. Top Box Office.

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