Ryan's Individual Blog
Research has begun with Tudor Drama before Shakespeare, 1485-1590: New Directions for Research, Criticism, and Pedagogy. Since we are focused in on the character of Robin Hood for this project, I have decided to focus mostly on the section dedicated to the legendary outlaw and the religious conflicts that surround his identity. Looking through it the first time, it was important to understand which accounts were from historians who might have revisionist tendencies, which the book pointed out and made it easier to sort out. Of course, when dealing with any major conflict (in this case - Protestants v. Catholics), it's common to see people pick sides and try to portray things in their favour.
That seems to be fitting, since our argument is that Robin Hood has been taken for agenda-driven purposes by both sides. I'm glad that we have come across this aspect of Robin Hood and the history behind him because I have always been aware and intrigued by the way stories and ideas are plucked and used to sway opinion, even if it strays from the original ideals. When people aren't aware of it happening, it can become dangerous and threatening to their best interests.
What we see here is a story that didn't just take place in the Tudor era, but throughout history, and it happens today. Beliefs are generated and pressed onto the masses, who are then led to believe that they must give something up (money in this case), and it strengthens the institution while weakening themselves.
I have been specifically assigned to look into the Robin Hood festivals for the presentation. I have obtained this from Tudor Drama before Shakespeare, 1485-1590: New Directions for Research, Criticism, and Pedagogy, as sourced in the bibliography.
Here's a rundown of what I have compiled:
- Under the auspices of the local parish church, Robin Hood games and similar folk revels took place at Whitsuntide, Hocktide and other feast days on the Christian calendar.
- They were money-making ventures to fund devotional interests such as intercessory Masses, altar candles, poor relief, as well as to materially benefit the parish at large.
Because evidence is mostly derived from churchwardens' expense accounts, we don't have detailed records of what Robin Hood revels fully entailed in parish communities.
- They involved little more than an average parishioner, a churchwarden or guild warden dressing up as Robin Hood. They would organise a run to the local Whitsun "ale" or gathering. Robin's cohorts were recruited from the local Maidens or Wives guild.
- "Touring Robin Hoods," who left their parishes for nearby towns and fairs to gather money. There were a range of strategies by these troupes to raise money, from handing out badges in exchange for donations, accosting people in the street or even in their own homes, where mock-robberies were staged.
- In small communities in Somerset, a custom during Whitsun was for Robin and his fellows to process through the streets and take potential contributors back to the church, where they would hand over cash or were placed in stocks until they did so.
- Plays were performed on these occasions. Robyn Hod and the Shryff off Notyngham, A Mery Gest of Robyn Hoode and Hys Lyfe, Robin Hood and the Friar and Robin Hood and the Potter were suited for such occasions. They were all advertised as "verye prper to be played in Maye Games." They featured sporting contests such as archery and wrestling. The works foreground the carnival-esque elements associated with the medieval folk play: slapstick violence, disguisings, social inversion, anti-clericalism and sexual double-entendre. The community was in on the irony of Robin Hood being played by local church leaders and more devout and actives members of the parish, as records show to be the case.
- While these were liberating occasions, these ales marked sacred times when beliefs and practices sanctioned by the official culture were most evident.
They not only raised money for Christian cause, but were deemed spiritually meritorious for all who gave and participated.
- These brought the communities together and while they were organised by the church, they made sure to poke fun of themselves. The irony made for a fun and light-hearted affair when these devout members would play the "lord of misrule" of all people.
It's important to note that while there seemed to have been a carnival atmosphere to these gatherings, the agenda was lurking in the background. It struck me how in Somerset, Robin and his fellows would take people to the church and they either had to give money or get the stocks until they coughed up. These were people who didn't go to the ales, but they're still scouted as "potential contributors" and end up giving money anyway. Basically, people had two options when Whitsun came around: Go to the ales and give their money the fun way or end up possibly giving your money in the not-so-fun way.
ENTRY THREE - Pre-Presentation
At this point, it's not about researching more information, but putting together our presentation. The fear most people have is whether they can fill the time, but I've seen groups split the presentation up so much where each individual feels they have to cram in a bunch of information. Then they go over time or get cut off. I think we'll get it just about right since we're all together in planning out what we're going to present.
I think we have a good idea and hope we can execute, but we'll wait and see. No need to get too excited. It's easy to go off the trail when trying to tie into a contemporary phenomenon, but we seem disciplined enough to avoid it. If I turn out to be wrong and nobody knows what the bloody hell we're talking about by the time we're done, well....
ENTRY FOUR - Presentation Reflection
It was sound. We didn't jump into the plays so much but I think we got enough in with everything else put in there. I think focusing in on Robin Hood and the society and conflicts that surrounded this character's rise in popularity helped us a lot and allowed us to get a solid argument across. I'm very happy with how it turned out, even if we didn't get the video to play. The point still stood regardless and the audience seemed to understand by then anyway.