1: Based on what you've read, what contextual information must your group necessarily communicate to the class in order to help us better understand the theatrical material you plan to communicate?
The main socio-historical context that is most important to understand the topic of Tudor Drama is the religious strife between the Catholic Church and the new protestant Church of England. Amongst this grand, theological conflict, existed a newly divided class structure: to the north were the poor, lower class farmers and peasants that maintain support of Catholicism, while the south held the majority of cities, nobles, and protestants of the upper classes. In order to control the northerners and win their support for the protestant clergy, the churches would host the festivals at which Robin Hood plays were most popular. However these festivals differ from our contemporary understanding of festivals through our W.I.E.R.D. lens and existed more or less only as methods of propaganda.
It is also important to note the literary context of these plays. The Robin Hood mythos began evolving around the 12th century through ballads and poems. It wasn't until the 15th century (just before the Tudor Era) that Robin Hood plays began to become prevalent (while there were some before this time, there are no existing texts from those plays. The 15th century marks when they began to be written down). Also at this time, the Robin Hood mythos began to become much more defined. Robin Hood became associated with Richard the Lionheart and the Third Crusade, while The Maid Marian and Friar Tuck were both found for the first time in this era: all distinctly Catholic elements in an otherwise protestant imagining of the hero.
2: How does your topic express the philosophies, ideologies, political circumstances, and/or social movements occurring in the specific time and place you are investigating?
As alluded to in the first question, Robin Hood plays focus on the religious atmosphere of 15th & 16th century England. Also, the religious considerations of the time played into a social divide. These two issues are where our groups focus lies in investigation. Because the two issues are linked, we have in effect only two groups to examine: The protestant upper class, and the catholic lower class. In order to discover the relationship between these two groups and Robin Hood, we begin by investigating the ways in which Robin Hood is presented to theatre. What we discovered was that the Robin Hood plays were mainly seen at the Hocktide festivals popular throughout England. It turned out that these festivals were sponsored and hosted by protestant parishes friendly to Henry VIII. The question quickly arose, why were the protestants so prolifically using such an apparently Catholic symbol? They were obviously aware of the implications of such a figure as Henry himself had been personally warned against Robin Hood portrayals and advised to forcefully shut them down. Our theory is that the churches use a symbol that the lower classes will automatically identify with to imply that Robin Hood would support the protestants against their Catholic "oppressors." On top of this, the festivals provided a church controlled source of catharsis for the grievances against the nobility.
3: Given that you only have 20 minutes to present, what big ideas/contextual elements will you have to leave out?
Robin Hood, as stated above, has existed in literature since the 12th century and as such, there is a great body of work on him. Even the limited amount of dramatic texts still amounts to hundreds of pages spanning approximately 150 years. As such, in twenty minutes, we will be lucky to completely cover one or two of these texts. We also hope to relate the use of Robin Hood during the Tudor period to contemporary iconography, however this will need be condensed. Of course, on top of the exclusions within this limited topic, we will be excluding all the rest of the drama from the Tudor period. The Tudor dynasty lasted from 1485 until 1550, and we are only covering a portion of only one of its four monarchs. As far as theatre goes for that period, we won't even be touching the emergence of comedy nor the public theatre; and the mystery and morality plays of the late medieval and early Tudor period will only be mentioned in passing as we set up the development of the heroic plays (the category in which Robin Hood exists). As Tucker Brooke states, "All that is most characteristic in the development of the English theatre falls easily within the one hundred and eighteen years of [the Tudor's] dominion" and we are only carving out a thin sliver to look at.