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Outlawry Notes

History Notes > Crime and Punishment in England c.1280-c.1450 Notes

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An Outlaw and Some Peasants: The Possible Significance of Robin Hood - C. Richmond (Nottingham Medieval Studies, 37 (1993)) pp. 90-101??

'Robehod' applied from 1262 to an outlaw 3 main pre-16th century texts - Robin Hood and the Monk, Robin Hood and the Potter and the play of Robin Hood and the Sheriff Sloth in William Lagland's Piers Plowman 1377
~ 'I kan nought perfitly my pater-noster as the prest is syngeth, but I kan rymes of Robyn hood and Randolf erle of Chester' Nottingham is seen as the last county before the north
~ 'it is on the edge of the wilderness in which the only law and order is kept by the outlaws' (p. 92)
~ Dream of the poor for law and order - ballads celebrate an ideal world
~ Local government and common law are not viewed as 'corrupt' but as innately unjust
~ Sheriff as representative of all government Robs the rich and gives to the poor

The Origins of Robin Hood - R. H. Hilton (Peasants, Knights and Heretics: Studies in Medieval English Social History - R. H. Hilton (ed.)) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976) pp. 221-235???Extreme popularity of Robin Hood - did he even exist or was he the figment of popular imagination?
'the ballad audience was for the most part plebeian' (p. 226) Robin Hood was seen to be a yeoman or free man - this was how 13th century peasants frequently saw themselves or aspired to be Outlawry was becoming less serious by the 13th century - sanction to compel attendance at court
~ Could no longer lawfully kill the outlaw yet still forfeiture of land and goods 'Trailbaston' - only refuge for innocent victims of oppression was to flee to the forest 'The Gest' - should not hurt husbandmen and yeomen but bishops, archbishops and sheriffs
~ Yet surprisingly are very loyal to the king - see him as fount of justice with justice being protection against oppressive landlords
~ To their detriment in 1381
~ Shows that they were only against current circumstances, not the established order Reflect economic and social grievances of the mass of the population

The Origins and Audience of the Ballads of Robin Hood - J. C. Holt (Peasants, Knights and Heretics: Studies in Medieval English Social History - R. H. Hilton (ed.)) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976) pp. 236-257???????

Disagrees with Hilton - no evidence for concern with agrarian discontents of 13th and 14th centuries Ballads were for the yeomanry - similar to chivalry and more pertaining to the gentry than to the peasants Earliest version of the Gest of Robyn Hode - 'of frebore blode...a gode yeman' Misapprehension of ballads - robbing of landlords and clergy is never directly given to the poor
~ Much more of a hint of him as a simple robber - took from rich and poor alike The Gest - could be friends with knights and squires
~ Yet these were also oppressive landlords
~ Robin, therefore, has nothing to do with distinction between landlord and peasant More to do with hostility to the clergy
~ Robin Hood and the Monk - Robin's devoutness is contrasted with the monk's irreligious treachery
~ Robin Hood and the Golden Prize - outlaws compel the monks to take oaths of honesty, chastity and charity
~ Robin Hood and the Bishop - target of wealth, power and worldliness of bishops Infringement of forest laws - done by all strata of society Gamelyn - younger son of a knight flees to the greenwood and becomes king of the outlaws
~ Justice and sheriff are both hanged 'It may be that the knightly versions of Robin Hood survived more easily than the peasant versions and that part of the peasant tradition of the outlaw has not come down to us.' (p. 251) Eustace the monk - Norman-French poem of the 13th century
~ Like Robin, is an outlaw who has violently resisted an act of injustice and has gathered a band of followers around him in the forest Fulk fitz Warin - late 13th or early 14th century prose
~ King is captured and swears to return him to favour Show origins of Robin Hood in French literature - not peasants Can be argued that those such as the Folvilles followed this example Idea of justified crime to help the poor
~ e.g. Kent - capitibus velatis 'masked' or 'hooded'
~ Sold stolen grain for the benefit of many or even gave it to the poor

Robin Hood - Peasant or Gentleman? - Maurice Keen (Peasants, Knights and Heretics: Studies in Medieval English Social History - R. H. Hilton (ed.)) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976) pp. 257-266????Dominant theme - righting of wrong and downfall of those who control the law by bribery and the abuse of office
~ Triumph of justice of those who are outside the law Not against the system, against individual landlords Robin Hood is similar to peasant outlook
~ No firm outlook on a class - individual landlords and knights In the outlaw stories the final resolution is the substitution of just men for corrupt officials: the way to set the world to rights is not to reform the system, but to kill the sheriff of Nottingham and to make Gamelyn Chief Justice of the Forest.' (p. 261)
~ Distinction of personal character rather than social class
~ e.g. Gamelyn, the Outlaw King, is the hero and his brother, the sheriff, is the villain - both of same social standing Courtly and chivalric material, unlike in other romances, is not in Robin Hood - not for nobility?
Focus on outlaw being kind to the peasants
~ The Gest - 'For he was a good outlawe and dyde pore men moch god' Eustace de Folville, Leicester bandit under Edward III, and Lionel, 'king of the rout of raveners' had place in popular esteem - 'champions of a justice which could not be found within the framework of the legal system' (p. 265) Robin Hood may be Hobbehod, fugitive in 1228 Pipe Roll 'The ballads in fact mirror accurately the attitude and grievances of the socially oppressed in this later period. Since it was then they were composed, it seems natural to see a connection between their literary bias against the establishment and these contemporary protests of the influential against oppression' (p. 266)

Robin Hood: Some Comments - J. C. Holt (Peasants, Knights and Heretics: Studies in Medieval English Social History - R. H. Hilton (ed.)) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976) pp. 267-269?

Mixed audience of Robin Hood - not class literature Disagrees with Keen that 1381 rebels did not see grievances in economic terms and unquestionably accepted stratified society
~ Demanded abolition of villeinage, right to rent land at 4 d. an acre and free negotiation of labour services
~ Not reflected in Robin Hood ballads

Robin Hood - T. H. Aston (Peasants, Knights and Heretics: Studies in Medieval English Social History - R. H. Hilton (ed.)) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976) pp. 270-272?Dependent upon whether he was the hero of the gentry or the peasantry (Keen) Ballads did not reflect aims of 1381 Peasants enjoyed listening to stories yet 'the primary social significance of the Robin Hood ballads does not lie in the realm of peasant discontent' (p. 272)

Ballads and Bandits: Fourteenth Century Outlaws and the Robin Hood Poems - Barbara A. Hanawalt (Chaucer's England: Literature in Historical Context - Barbara A Hanawalt (ed.)) (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992) pp. 154-175?Can assume ballads were recited frequently - reference in Piers Plowman ~ 1377 'He was a hero who could defy the law, right wrongs done by corrupt officials, fleece the church and be rewarded by the king for his actions' (p. 154) Hobsbawm - had made Robin Hood into an anachronistic rebel for peasant resistance

? A Gest of Robyn Hode - fundamental story
~ Epic poem apparently pieced together from various ballads at the time
? Other poems with late medieval roots - Robin Hood and Guy of Guisborne, Robin Hood's Death, Robin Hood and the Potter and Robin Hood and the Monk
? Robbery is traditionally the crime of the bandit Real Bandits and Ballad Bandits:
? Real ones closely resemble ballads
? Robin Hood had similar rules - outlaws gained pardon for serving a year in the royal armies
~ 14th century - 2-12% troops
? Robin Hood and band sometimes sheltered in peasant homes
~ Although a felony, peasants may shelter them to gain stolen goods e.g Robert Redynge with 4 men on series of robberies - retreated to home of Alice Robyn of Buckeby and gave her part of clothing from the robbery Victims: Real and Imagined:
? Servants might not escape violence - extensions of the authorities that they served
? 37% victims of criminal bands were women - 18% in ordinary homicide pattern
? Children were 4% likely to be victims of bandits, 2% likely homicide
~ Were present in homes at time of burglary
? Real bandits knew that goods were more accessible in peasant homes
? Fear of outlaws even if one were a peasant - e.g. Gest - fear when king entered Nottingham disguised in Lincoln green
? Bandits occasionally attacked authorities - most famous example of murder of Sir Roger Bellers by Folville and Coterel gangs Altruistic Outlaws or Strong-Armed Robbers?:
? Poems cite no specific aid to the poor
? 'Bandits could sometimes benefit them, but they could also be a scourge. They were useful to peasant communities in that they provided an opportunity for some illegal acquisition of movable property' (p. 167)
? Until 1521, literary image of the outlaw and Robin Hood in particular was negative
? Jurors' response to robbers and burglars shows general fear and distaste - usually only 23%
indicted were convicted, 31% of robbers and burglars
? Yet bandits were not entirely evil - did sometimes attack oppressors of populace, could provide stolen goods
~ Folvilles shown as heroes in Piers Plowman

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