Article

Robin Hood

John Marshall

in Medieval Studies

ISBN: 9780195396584
Published online February 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0031
Robin Hood

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy
  • Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400)
  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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For someone who probably never existed, Robin Hood has led a remarkable life. Indisputably a creation of the Middle Ages, Robin has not been confined by periodization. Unlike other medieval outlaws, real and fictional, Robin Hood has remained a cultural force from the first mention of him in a literary context in the late 14th century to a major Hollywood film in 2010. His appeal transcends the limitations of origin. As a significant player in popular culture he has responded to and been transformed by generic developments and technological advances. Beginning as an outlawed yeoman in the early poems and an efficient money gatherer in parish games, he becomes gentrified in the Renaissance drama to fit the character demands of tragedy. Through post-Napoleonic war novels he emerges as a national figure embodying Saxon bravery and identity. In pantomime the principal boy adopts the iconic tights that s/he is only now beginning to shrug off. In film and television his derring-do of the past is revitalized in swashbuckling action. He is adopted by New Age believers as a pagan deity and by rap artists “from the hood’” as a hero of retribution. All possible because, in the early material, he lacks definition: no biography, no family, no love interest, no specific period, and no consistent location. As an almost invisible man, he came to personify the central concerns, after poverty, of all human beings: natural justice and unconditional freedom.

Article.  8665 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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