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ROBIN HOOD:The Play

Or How Prince John


Pitted His Wits
Against the Outlaws
of Sherwood Forest

By
James
Watson
Author of Banned! Tom Paine, This Was Your Life,
Gotcha! Wars-R-Us.Com and Out Damned Spot!

Author’s Note: Introduction to a legend


Was there ever a Robin Hood? That is, an actual historical
being; or was Robin the disguise for a dozen rogues
practising, over decades or even centuries, the yeoman
skills of bow and blade made famous at the battles of Crecy
and Agincourt, and using those skills to survive beyond the
reach of the law?

Was there really an outlaw who robbed the rich and gave to
the poor; who made captive bishops dance for their
supper; who was a master of disguise?

The answer has to be – possibly, or probably not; and if


there had been one historical Robin whose exploits turned
fact into legend, the heroic tales of one generation being
layered onto another, historical truth would first be
obscured then vanish altogether, except that is for the
curiously long-lived place-names associated with the outlaw
– Robin Hood’s Well, Robin’s Leap and Robin Hood’s Bay,
suggesting his midland and northerly origins.

Location, location?
There have been plenty of efforts on the part of historians
to ‘nail’ a verifiable Robin, conjecturing answers to the
questions, when might he have lived (in the reigns of
Edward 11 or Richard 1?), where exactly did he ‘hang out’
(Nottingham’s Sherwood or Yorkshire’s Barnsdale?) and
what became of him and his outlaw companions, Will
Scarlett, Little John, Friar Tuck, Alan-a-Dale or Much the
Miller’s son?
Jim Holt, my old professor of medieval history at
Nottingham University years and years ago, wrote one of
the best and most readable books on the outlaw of
Sherwood. The Observer newspaper called Robin Hood,
published by Thames and Hudson, ‘the last word on Robin
Hood…’ There will, of course, never be a last word; but few
will have explored the possible historical background to
Robin (or to the many Robins he unearths) as Professor
Holt.

A quiverful of possibilities
The author takes us through a fascinating
journey of exploration, of detective work,
but concludes, and makes it plain in his
Prologue to the book’s 2nd edition, ‘He
cannot be identified. There is a quiverful
of possible Robin Hoods. Even the
likeliest is little better than a shot in the gloaming’.

But what Jim Holt makes clear is that ‘the identity of the
man matters less than the persistence of the legend’, and
that ‘is the most remarkable thing about him’.

Every generation hears, reads or sees on film or TV, the


exploits of Robin Hood; and each generation adapts the
tales according to the tastes and values of the time. Robin
Hood is a political being because he stands for things
which, adapted, re-worked, enriched with new angles, new
situations, have a relevance to the times in which those re-
enactments take place.

In the shadow of authority


Robin is a boon for writers, TV and filmmakers for the very
reason that verifiable fact does not get in the way of fiction,
though key elements of the story never change and ought
not to change. Robin exists outside the law of the land. He
has, in this situation, been unjustly treated; thus justice,
fair play, fighting for what you think is right are all
universal principles woven and re-woven into the narrative.

In other words, Robin represents a conflict, of ordinary


people in relationship to authority. However, no story as far
as I can tell has Robin rebel against the principle of
authority or of religion. He is neither anarchist nor atheist;
rather he struggles against the misuse of authority and the
abuse of religion.
First printed account
Wynken de Worde printed the earliest account of the
outlaw in the Geste of Robyn Hode some time between
1492 and 1534, though if our tale features Prince John,
brother of King Richard, we must search for our hero some
time before John became King in 1199, later being forced
by the barons to sign Magna Carta in 1215.

In the Geste there is no mention of the


lovely Maid Marian, yet who could even
consider omitting this wonderful love-
interest from a modern story?
Marian probably made her entry into the
tales of Robin Hood from the traditional
May Games. Professor Holt says that this would certainly
not be until the 16th century: ‘It was not simply that Robin’s
devotion to the Virgin Mother left no room for other
women. It was rather that there was no place for them in
the context of the tales.’

In my take on Robin Hood, I hope Marian Fitzwalter, and


indeed the other female characters, serve to challenge
Professor Holt’s pessimism about the role of women in the
Robin Hood saga.

Saxon versus Norman?


Another traditional ‘encrustation’ upon the original tales, a
feature of film and TV versions, is the corny old conflict
between Saxon and Norman. Here there is but the briefest
mention, for I have taken on board Jim Holt’s opinion that
‘there is not the slightest indication [in the early legends]
that Robin played any part in English resistance to the
Norman conquerors who settled in England after 1066. Of
all the fictions about Robin this is the most fictitious’. And
probably, one might add, the most over-worked.

So here, Marian is in, Saxons v Normans are out. Also put


out to grass is the knightly lineage given to Robin by many
writers and film makers. Robin was a yeoman, and it was
to yeoman stock that the earliest tales of the outlaw
appealed.

Although there is no evidence in any of


the stories that Robin Hood would wish
to overthrow established authority, in
this text he is not over-enamoured of
King Richard who has been given a
better persona in fiction, in films in
particular, than perhaps the historical
Richard deserves, a fact that Prince John bitterly, but
accurately, points out.
Just as Maid Marian is a late convention that, in the modern
age, insists on being developed rather than excised, so is
the role in the story of Robin Hood of that conniving villain
of the piece, Prince John – Johnny Lackland. Here he is
joined in villainy by a character from an early 20th century
version of the tales, one Isambard de Beleme, the baron of
Evil Hold, betrothed to Marian.

The Sheriff of Nottingham is here, along with his corrupt


brother Hugo, Abbot of St. Mary’s; but in this version the
Sheriff has a wife who by the end of the play has got pretty
fed up with men in general and the Sheriff and Prince John
in particular.

The main challenge in writing this stage version of Robin


Hood has been to bring together in an evolving drama the
many disparate tales of Robin and his outlaws. What
focuses the narrative is the Great
Tournament to be held in honour of
the visit of Prince John to Nottingham.

The finest archers in Europe will


compete for the Silver Arrow that
Prince John will present to the winner.
The Tournament is John’s cunning
plan to trap Robin Hood once and for all, to destroy the
legend before it succeeds in putting John and his horde of
sycophants in a bad light for ever.

This version of Robin Hood is a cross between straight


drama – there is real danger to the main characters –
pantomime and carnival. There is plenty of humour in the
play.

A number of deliberate anachronisms and switches


between speech patterns of past and present remind us –
as well as being fun – that we are looking through a
window on the past with 21st century knowingness.

For an ambitious production I would like to see action


scenes filmed prior to performance and then back-screened
on stage, though this is only a suggestion. But key
throughout is action interspersed with contrasting moods of
romance and magic. Sherwood may be short of venison for
Prince John’s supper, but it is also a place of mystery, of
superstition in which the Green Man of legend is thought to
roam, keeping a fatherly eye on Robin Hood.
There are 28 speaking parts and though the women are
numerically somewhat outnumbered they are at the heart
of the story (and do a lot of the talking).

However, there are plenty of other parts – soldiers, town


and village folk rolling up to the Tournament, and possibly
a troupe of dancers; indeed in a school production, half the
population of the school could actually be on stage.

As for the sets, these can be sophisticated or simple. The


play opens in the walled garden of Kirklees Abbey. Scenes
that follow are Sherwood Forest, a cell in Kirklees, the
quarters of Prince John at Nottingham Castle, the dungeons
of Castle Beleme (called Evil Hold) and Beleme Meadows on
the edge of Sherwood, where the Great Tournament takes
place.

Bait to capture a hero


Finally, a word about Robin Hood himself. He possesses the
qualities that, in poem, story and movie, have made him
famous and admirable, a leader of men, brave, courteous
and merciful. Yet canny Prince John seems to have spotted
his weakness – Robin’s pride, spiced with vanity, and with
it his rashness and impetuosity.

The chance of winning the Silver Arrow, John knows, will


prove an irresistible temptation for the lord of Sherwood,
prince of outlaws. Johnny Lackland dreams of his own
glittering prize which will guarantee his place among the
immortal heroes – the head of Robin Hood…

JW
Characters in order of appearance

Marian Fitzwalter Sheriff Reinault


Eleanor de Luce Sir Roger, High Steward of
Alan-a-Dale Baron Beleme
Dame Prioress of Kirklees Jailer
Sister Agnes Sir Robert Fitzwalter, a
Isambarde de Beleme prisoner of Beleme
Abbot Hugo of St Mary’s Sir Ralph of Meden Dale,
betrothed to Eleanor
Will Scarlett Hubert of Wisbech, bowman
Much the Miller’s Son to Sheriff Reinault
Sebald Henry (the Squint) of
Cerdic Driencourt, bowman to
Swayn Prince John
Edred Lofty and Shorty, servants
Rufus
Little John
Robin Hood Plus soldiers, dancers and
Friar Tuck members of the crowd
attending the Tournament of
Prince John, brother of King the Silver Arrow.
Richard
Lady Reinault, wife of Sheriff 28 speaking parts
Reinault
Scene 1
Music as the play opens. Kirklees Abbey; a walled garden
with a wrought-iron gate entrance in the centre of the rear
wall. There are plants in tall pots and a bench inside a small
pergola. ELEANOR is standing looking out of the gate and
MARIAN is sitting on the bench. The view through the gate
is on to fields and trees and the outline of low hills.

MARIAN: Is he coming, Eleanor?


ELEANOR: I told him not to. If the Prioress ever finds out –
MARIAN: She’ll hang his guts from the church steeple. Oh
stop worrying, Elly.
ELEANOR: I love him, Marian. I want him to come and I
don’t want him to come, it is so dangerous.
MARIAN: Dangerous? – good… I’m so bored. If I don’t get
some pleasure in life I shall…go into the greenwood and join
Robin Hood’s merry band of cutthroats.
ELEANOR: Excitedly. He’s here.

She opens the gate as ALAN-A-DALE appears, a lute over


his shoulder. He is gaily dressed as becomes a troubadour.

Alan-a-Dale, you’ve become Alan-a-Delay – what kept you?


They embrace.
MARIAN: Impatiently. This is a place of God, you know.
ALAN: As the lovers detach themselves. My apologies.
Crosses himself and looks up to heaven.…It’s been so long
since –
MARIAN: Two days.
ALAN: Two weeks!
ELEANOR: Two days and, six hours.
MARIAN: Alan – what news of the world? She takes his
arm and that of Eleanor and walks to the bench in the
pergola.
ALAN: He slips his lute from his shoulder, strums a single
chord. I bought a new string for my lute. A gradely wench at
Nottingham market offered me a Melton Mowbray pie in
return for a love-song.
ELEANOR: I trust your heart wasn’t in it, Alan.
ALAN: Indeed no, my love, for as my tongue dallied with the
succulent meat, all my thoughts were of you.
MARIAN: Crow’s crap, Alan. Now, what of this Robin Hood
everyone talks about? Who robbed my guardian, Abbot Hugo
of his fat wallet, who despatched his steward, Guy of
Gisborne and all his soldiers naked out of the forest?
ELEANOR: Marian, it is dangerous even to talk of this Robin
Hood. Sheriff de Reinault has offered a reward of 50 gold
marks for his capture.
ALAN: And two apiece for his outlaws.
MARIAN: Surely there are at least ten marks on the head of
that holy man, Friar Tuck, as he should know better than to
consort with vagabonds.
ELEANOR: They say Tuck is eight feet wide and can eat a
roast boar at one sitting.
MARIAN: Yes, and drink twenty flagons of ale without
passing water.
ELEANOR: Marian!
MARIAN: Oh yes, and Robin can split a willow at a hundred
paces…Tall stories, Eleanor. That’s the magic of Sherwood.
Outlaws go in, heroes ride out. It’s my guess, Eleanor, that
this Robin is probably incapable of hitting a lame porker at
twenty paces. But I say, let’s the three of us take a ride into
Sherwood and find out.
ALAN: Who consorts with outlaws, my lady, becomes an
outlaw.
MARIAN: Who’ll tell? The leaves in the forest, will they
whisper it to the Sheriff? Will the squirrels’ chatter be
overheard in Nottingham?
ALAN: These days Sherwood is wick with soldiers searching
for Robin. Only this week four lads from Yorkshire were
caught carrying a slain deer back to their village. They were
hanged from Lord Beleme’s castle walls before nightfall.
There is an uneasy pause. The youngest was but seven.
MARIAN: Stands. Beleme? Isambard de Beleme, of Evil
Hold?
ALAN: Uneasy. Who else, Marian?
MARIAN: My suitor. She raises her hand. For this.
ELEANOR: And your fortune, dearie.
MARIAN: My poor dead father’s fortune. She paces, wildly.
I’d rather jump from his castle walls. She stops, shrugs,
chuckles. Except that I’ve no head for heights. But we were
talking of Robin Hood, with his bold exploits putting innocent
people in danger. He makes fools of the Sheriff and his
brother the Abbot; makes even Prince John hopping mad,
and what happens? The people’s tax is doubled. They’re
driven out of their homes.
ALAN: He puts people at risk, yes. But at least he makes
sure that the poor are fed.
MARIAN: Now where have I heard that before? – robbing
the rich to give to the poor?
ELEANOR: Suddenly alert, turning. Voices! She darts to the
far side of the stage and looks into the wings, right. The
Prioress!
MARIAN: With my guardian, no doubt.
ELEANOR: Away, Alan. It’s the Abbot and My Lord Beleme.
MARIAN: I’ll grant Old One-Eye this – he’s persistent.
Alan and Eleanor embrace at the gate. Alan departs, while
Marian and Eleanor dart back to sit on the bench in the
pergola, Eleanor to pick up and continue with her crocheting,
Marian to return with the book she had been reading.

The PRIORESS enters with ABBOT HUGO, his clerical garb


of luxurious material and BARON ISAMBARD DE BELEME,
who wears a black patch over one eye. Following modestly
behind them is SISTER AGNES.

PRIORESS:They are at their breviaries, My Lords. Thanks to


the good offices of Sister Agnes, they do our abbey proud
with their prayers and the purity of their thoughts – is that
not so, Sister Agnes?
SISTER AGNES: Knowing this not to be the case, and with
a glance at the audience. Purity and demoo-rity, My Lady,
nothing could better describe them. She turns her back on
the audience and demonstrates crossed fingers.
ABBOT HUGO: Demurity?
BELEME: It is not what I have heard, Lady Prioress.
ABBOT HUGO: Clears his throat embarrassedly. Marian, my
dear…
MARIAN: Stands, approaches, curtsies, feigning modestly;
glances respectfully at Beleme, kisses her guardian’s hand.
My Lords, good day to you. Is it not a bright and breezy
morning? In fact it would be perfect but for the crows
blobbing all over the lawn.
PRIORESS: Marian!
HUGO: Such high spirits, My Lord Beleme. To Marian. Now,
my dear…
MARIAN: I am not ‘dear’, Lord Abbot. For I have not the
liberty of a deer.
Sister Agnes giggles.
PRIORESS: No tittering, Sister Agnes, or you will return to
your cell until evensong.
AGNES: Curtsies. A tickle in my throat, My Lady. Marian
and Agnes exchange knowing smiles.
HUGO: Shaking his head. Marian is…a little, er, headstrong,
My Lord Beleme…But that you know all too well.
BELEME: Good day, Lady Marian.
MARIAN: It was, but it isn’t now, that is if your mission is
the same as it was on your last visit.
PRIORESS: Marian, I would urge a degree of respect.
MARIAN: Which I would show, Prioress, if any respect were
shown to me.
BELEME: Madam, my offer is sincerely made, and with
respect.
MARIAN: You seek my lands, My Lord. My inheritance.
BELEME: Whatever is mine will be yours, My Lady.
HUGO: Good heavens, Marian, are you blind to the honour
My Lord Beleme offers you by marriage?
MARIAN: His reputation, My Lord Abbot, has gone before
him. For cruelty, for driving good people into poverty,
snatching their fields, taxing them till they have nothing left
to eat.
PRIORESS: Shocked. Those are scurrilous words, Marian.
You should be ashamed. After all, it is thanks to Baron
Beleme’s generosity that our chapel roof was restored.
AGNES: And the new gate for the pig-sty. Another
meaningful glance between Agnes and Marian. The porkers
are so grateful.
PRIORESS: Sensing she is being made fun of by Agnes.
Yes, well – exactly! We are indebted to My Lord.
MARIAN: All from the monies of those whose lands he has
seized.
HUGO: Silence, silence, you ungrateful wench. You shame
the memory of your father, good Sir Robert. He crosses
himself.
MARIAN: His memory? What have I left to remember him
by – that he abandoned his only child to your mercies, My
Lord, in order to fight a stupid war on a foreign field?
HUGO: You speak disrespectfully of King Richard’s Holy
Crusade, My Lady.
MARIAN: Bunkum. My father was foolish enough to follow a
king who would rather kill the Saracen than stay and govern
his people wisely.
BELEME: Aside to Hugo. Methinks the maid speaks a little
treason.
PRIORESS: Forgiveness, not bitterness, Marian, should rule
your heart.

The turbulence that has driven Marian’s anger fades. Now


sadly she returns to the bench, sits.

MARIAN: I shall not be married, My Lords, to Baron Beleme


or anyone else who is not of my choosing.
HUGO: You would be wise to observe the facts, My Lady.
When your father’s ship foundered, it took with it arms and
stores to the sum of 7000 gold marks – my loan to your
good father. And regardless of the fact that Sir Robert now
reaps the reward of eternal bliss, those 7000 marks have yet
to be paid.
MARIAN: With my body and soul, I suppose.
HUGO: Marian, your body and your soul, not to mention the
stomach I feed, the roof over your head for which I pay good
rent, are under my protection.
MARIAN: You also draw the rents from my father’s lands,
Lord Abbot. You sell our grain at market: it is a goodly
bargain. As for my protection, what do you protect – my
freedom to come and go? I am under arrest here. I cannot
ride out unless I have your written permission. Or take one
step outside these walls.
HUGO: You are safe – be grateful!
MARIAN: Safe? With renewed vigour. And if this outlaw
Robin Hood snatches me from my room in dead of night, can
you guarantee he’ll not have his way with me in Sherwood
Forest?
BELEME: Clears his throat to draw attention. At this
moment, My Lady Marian, Robin Hood will have committed
his last crime in Sherwood.
MARIAN: Oh? Intrigued. You have captured him, My Lord?
BELEME: Let us say that he and his merry men will be
walking into a trap from which there will be no escape. Turns
to Hugo. But My Lord Abbot…
HUGO: Of course, of course. To business. Marian; enough of
this stubbornness, this scullery talk.
MARIAN: The answer to your question, My Lords, is the
same whether it is in the scullery or My Lord Belleme’s
infamous dungeons: no, no, no!
HUGO: The matter is agreed.
MARIAN: You will stretch me on the rack, my Lord Abbot?
ELEANOR: Marian, this is – oh Marian!
MARIAN: Turning on her friend. What, Eleanor, would you
have me sacrifice my future as you have done, committing
yourself to a doddery old fool, simply because he owns half
of Lincolnshire?
HUGO: Sir Ralph of Meden Dale would be a prize for any
woman, albeit that he has seen better days and better
health.
MARIAN: Elly – he’s seventy if he’s a day. And he dribbles!
PRIORESS: Marian! Agnes giggles once more but conceals it
from the Prioress. You should take your friend as an
example, for Lady Eleanor de Luce knows obedience.
ELEANOR: Sadly, wearily. A promise is a promise, though it
was never made by me.
HUGO: Duty is the only promise, My Lady. And devotion to
your master.
MARIAN: What nonsense you men talk! Eleanor was bullied
into this marriage while she, like me, mourned the death of
her father.
ELEANOR: No more of that, Marian. Please!
MARIAN: So it’s Marian Fitzwalter alone who must suffer
your thumbscrews, Baron Beleme. She holds up her hands.
Torture me by all means…but marry you, I will not.
HUGO: Apologetically turns to Beleme, shrugs. My Lord…
BELEME: I will have her. I am resolved. Our bargain stands.
MARIAN: Bargain? Bargain? My Lord Abbot, what bargain is
this?
HUGO: Nothing, nothing!
BELEME: Who cares if the shrew knows? For forty of my
fighting men – that is the bargain as you call it, Maid Marian.
Forty men to assist the abbot and his brother Sheriff Reinault
in clearing Sherwood of Robin Hood and his bandits. His head
for your maidenhood.
HUGO: Er, I wouldn’t put it so –
MARIAN: Brutally?
BELEME: I speak as I act, madam. My wedding gift will be
to hang the outlaws, every jack-rabbit of them.
Contemptuously. And while I, Isambard de Beleme, have my
way with you, as you put it, the same crows that blob on
your lawn will pick out the eyes of Bold Robin and His Merry
Men.
HUGO: My Lord!
BELEME: About to storm away. I shall have this woman to
wife even if I must carry her back in irons.
PRIORESS: It will be with Prince John’s blessing, Marian.
BELEME: On the day of the Tournament in his honour, you
and I, Marian Fitzwalter, will kneel at the altar, and from
thenceforth you will kneel before me when I command it.
HUGO: Seven days, Marian. In the meantime, Dame
Prioress has instructions to keep you under lock and key.
PRIORESS: Sister Agnes?
AGNES: Dame Prioress?
PRIORESS: Escort them within. And bring me the key.
MARIAN: To Beleme, stepping towards him. Perhaps I have
spoken too hastily, My Lord, and with a passion that arises
more from grief at the loss of my father, than is courteous.
She curtsies, almost with demurity.
HUGO: At last, Marian, you are talking sense!
PRIORESS: Indeed, indeed!
MARIAN: I should show respect – for my elders, for my
betters…for my Lord.
HUGO: Precisely!
PRIORESS: Indubitably, child!
MARIAN: Moves closer to Beleme. My Lord!

Belied, he stoops towards her. Suddenly she reaches out


and draws Beleme’s sword, darts back, swishes the sword in
the air, scarcely inches below Beleme’s throat.

MARIAN: Back, my lord, unless you wish to lose your head


as well your one good eye.
HUGO: Marian, what is this wickedness?
MARIAN: You too, my benevolent protector. She flicks the
blade of the sword. Unless you wish me to show the world
what you hide beneath your silken gown wrought from good
men’s wages.
HUGO: I think you had better summon your guards, My
Lord.
BELEME: Shakes his head, laughs though with little
humour. I think not, my Lord Abbot. In this mood, our fair
witch would probably have the better of them. He raises his
hands as if in capitulation. Madam will have her way, it
seems. She will find her temper matches mine. Today, the
victory is yours. For the rest of our married life, it will be
mine… My weapon, if you please.
MARIAN: Hurls the sword into the wings. Find it where it
falls, My Lord. She takes Eleanor’s hand. Derisively. Good
day to you…Gentlemen! She slips her arms through
Eleanor’s. Lead on, Sister Agnes, lest My Lady Prioress
demands of you a thousand Hail Maries before supper.
AGNES: Giggling. Marian, you are a one!

They leave stage right. From off stage, Marian kicks


Beleme’s sword in his direction.

MARIAN: Off. You will need that and more, My Lord, if you
are to stalk Robin Hood in his lair.

The lights fade.

Scene 2
Sherwood Forest, darkness, ethereal and haunting music. A
single spotlight falls on ALAN-A-DALE as he steps towards
the front of the stage, strumming his lute. He gazes out into
the audience. The music fades.

ALAN: How soothing to eye and ear are the glades of


Sherwood. As dawn takes its first blithe step through oak
and elm. How sweetly the song thrush celebrates this
tranquil morning, awash with scents of bluebell and nature’s
piety…

As Alan delivers these words, and as the dawn does begin to


illuminate the forest, all tranquillity is disrupted by the clash
of wooden staves. Seven outlaws – WILL SCARLETT,
MUCH the Miller’s son, SEBALD, CERDIC, SWAYN, EDRED
and RUFUS are fighting hard, but getting a beating, against
one man – LITTLE JOHN.
The lights now illuminate a narrow bridge over a stream. A
gym bench could serve here as the precarious crossing.

The whole scene should resemble a ballet, containing much


movement, leaping, tumbling, shouting.

ALAN: To the audience. So much for romance! Raises his


hand. Cut! The scene freezes. Here before you are the elite
guard of Robin Hood’s motley band. He points to each in
turn, and each nods and bows to the audience. Will Scarlett.
WILL: That’s me.
ALAN: Steady as a rock, and full of doubt.
WILL: Shrugs. Somebody’s got to keep Robin’s feet on the
ground.
ALAN: Much the miller’s son.
MUCH: Bows. Robin Hood’s eyes and ears – that’s me.
SEBALD: Cursties. He carries a horn at his belt. Sebald with
an ‘S’ for see-ductive is my name.
CERDIC: Folds his arms, gruffly. Cerdic. And I’ll cut the
throat of anybody that calls me Sir Dick.
SWAYN: Swayn. I’m from Sveden. Stoke-on-Trent, actually.
ALAN: Pointing at Edred. While the red haired one is Rufus.
EDRED: No it isn’t. It’s Ed-red. Rufus’ere and me is always
gettin’ mixed up.
RUFUS: Well he’s no twin o’mine!
EDRED: I got the freckles, Rufus’as the boils.
ALAN: Pointing now to Little John. As for this beefy stranger,
I have no idea who he is or from whence he comes, but he
has a mighty arm and a lion of a temper. As you were,
gentlemen!

The battle recommences. Alan shrugs and exits. Battle


music.

LITTLE JOHN: Roaring. Pay? To cross a pesky bridge? He


lays in to Will Scarlett. You little runts, I’ll pay with your
heads, you cockcroaches, you slinking slugs. The battle
continues
MUCH: Best call Robin, Will.
LITTLE JOHN: Huh, you want reinforcements? I’ll give you
reinforcements. They are scattered again.
SEBALD: Owch, that was my gammy knee.
LITTLE JOHN: You’ll have no knees by the time I’ve finished
with you. There is a momentary stand-off, and the music
fades.
WILL: All strangers must pay a toll, big man.
CERDIC: Aye, pay the toll –
LITTLE JOHN: I’ll have me throat cut first, Sir Dick!
SWAYN: Stump up, y’gangly Goliath, or get your ass out of
Sherwood.
EDRED: Y’overgrowed pumpkin.
John attacks, brings down Cerdic, drives off Swayn and
Edred.
MUCH: Maybe we could do a deal: half price!
WILL: No deals.
RUFUS: It’s the law of the forest: you gotta pay.
LITTLE JOHN: Who’s law, you little shrimp – the Green
Man’s?
WILL: Robin Hood’s law.
CERDIC: Lord of the Forest.
SWAYN: An’ ’e’ll ’ave yer staff an’ yer purse for this insult to
’is subjects.
LITTLE JOHN: Scattering them again with his staff.
Subjects? What is this madness?
WILL: True, giant, there is no rule in these forests except
that of Robin Hood. Sound the horn, Sebald.
LITTLE JOHN: What, has King Richard resigned his throne?
Has Prince John retired to a monastery?

He charges at the outlaws and they dodge out of his way.


Sebald has swung his horn up from his belt and given it two
desperate blasts. All the characters freeze.
There is a dimming of the lights; a spotlight waits moves
from one side of the stage to the other as if searching out
ROBIN HOOD. The music that opened the scene returns.
The moving spotlight finally rests on Robin as he comes to
stand at one end of the bridge. The music fades.

CERDIC: Robin, we got trouble.


LITTLE JOHN: Laughing. Another dwarf? Has Sherwood no
grown men? They say that you are lord of the forest, my
little man.
ROBIN: And you, master Beanstalk, have refused my men’s
hospitality.
LITTLE JOHN: Contemptuously. Hospitality? You call having
seven wild boars squealing and farting their way from the
undergrowth… hospitality?
ROBIN: Indeed. They were offering you, for an honest price,
protection –
EDRED: Aye, t’best protection between Barnsdale an’
Nottingham.
ROBIN: In your journey through – and out – of Sherwood.
LITTLE JOHN: Protection against what – mice, rats,
hedgehogs, the King’s deer?
RUFUS: Give ‘im a drubbin’, Robin, ’e’s clouted us somethin’
shockin’.
SEBALD: Mi bad knee’s right sore, Robin.
ROBIN: The toll of two groats, stranger, has gone up to five
for upsetting my men, and an extra farthing for Sebald’s
gammy knee. If I find they are suffering bruises, you’ll pay
for every one.
LITTLE JOHN: Then I’ll be paying till doomsday, for I have
a mind to break some heads and bones as well. Including
yours, y’arrogant dribble o’ snot.
WILL: Don’t let him challenge your authority, Robin.
ROBIN: Grasping the handle of his sword. Well, Stranger.
Do I draw my rent or a flagon of your blood?
LITTLE JOHN: I fight wi’ no swords. His raises his staff.
This’ll serve me.
ROBIN: Very well. In the kingdom of Sherwood, we fight
like with like. He holds out a hand for a stave, which Will
hands him. Well, giant, what shall I first splatter over the
crocuses, your head full of arrogance or your bowels full of
wind?

He attacks John, who neatly evades his first strike. The


battle music returns. Clearly John is stronger, the cleverer
and Robin is made to look inept, barely managing to parry
John’s blows. However, his performance improves. He
manages to trip John. The outlaws cheer.

SEBALD: Break ’is ribs, Robin.


CERDIC: Give ’im one on the nose.

But John has weathered the attack, got back to his feet, yet
is driven towards the bridge.

ROBIN: Not bad for a mouse, eh? – not bad for a rat or a
hedgehog.

John counters hard, drives Robin away from the bridge only
for Robin to hold his ground and force John back on to the
bridge.

LITTLE JOHN: You fight well for a spring chicken.


ROBIN: Aye, my bold contender, and you’ll shortly find me
cock of the walk.
FRIAR TUCK: As voice off. Robin! Appears stage right.
Robin, those humble pilgrims we fed with best venison –
they’ve done a bunk, without paying a farthing. The Sheriff’s
spies, if you ask me.
WILL: He’s otherwise engaged, Tuck.

For a moment Robin glances away from his fight and this is
his undoing. He receives a hard clout from John which hurls
him off the bridge. The music fades.

EDRED: Foul play!


RUFUS: Send ’im off, Ref!
LITTLE JOHN: Looking down at Robin as though he might
drown. Huh, let’s pray the manikin can swim.
TUCK: To the audience. Thank the good lord the river’s dry.
LITTLE JOHN: Laughs as he holds his hand out to Robin.
For a hand up, Robin of Sherwood, shall we call it quits?

The outlaws show relief.

WILL: We could do with a warrior of the giant’s strength.


SEBALD: My knee tells me’e’d make a better friend than an
enemy.

John heaves Robin back on to the bridge. In good humour,


he brushes him down.

LITTLE JOHN: You strike a sweet blow, Lord of the Forest.


ROBIN: Not to be compared to the thunder in your staff,
Stranger. Tell me, what name do you go by?
LITTLE JOHN: John Little, and I hail from Whitby where, for
want of order and justice in this land, the pirates make the
lives of good people impossible…Just like in Sherwood Forest,
I’ve been told.
ROBIN: You have been misinformed, John Little. True, ours
is rough justice. We rob to survive, but what we reap from
the pockets of the rich, we share. Here, no man wants for
food or shelter. No man is a slave, nor any woman. Here all
men are equal. We kill the King’s deer because eating is our
right, so long denied us.
LITTLE JOHN: For an outlaw, you talk a fancy bundle.
ROBIN: Amused. Indeed I do – Little John, for that is what
we shall call you if you are of a mind to join us, and right
welcome you shall be, and your stout arm. What do you say
– comrade?
LITTLE JOHN: Let me sample your venison and your ale,
Robin of Sherwood, and if the company’s right, brave
brothers all, and if our labours might fill a purse full of the
Sheriff’s gold, then there’ll be none who’ll serve you better
than Little John.
ROBIN: Raising his staff. Then it’s settled. Gentlemen, with
Little John in our ranks, the World Cup itself is in our sights!
TUCK: Aye, Robin, they’ll get no corners past Little John.

The outlaws cheer and raise their staffs as the scene fades.
Scene 3
A very distant bell strikes three in Sherwood. An owl shrieks.
The outlaws are asleep in varying positions. There is a mist
that almost conceals them. Slow, haunting music sets the
mood. WILL SCARLETT is restively sleeping on the steps
leading into the auditorium. Towards the front of the stage
is a fallen tree, an oak, on which ROBIN is sitting, facing
outwards, in a pale spotlight. He stands, steps slowly
between his comrades on stage; sadly shaking his head.

ROBIN: Speaking to the audience. The dark sleep of winter


is almost over. Alas, in this world I see no bright summer
ahead. My men eat and drink well – for the present. Yet our
enemies grow more powerful each day, as do the wild and
baseless tales of Robin of Sherwood, hero, voice of the
voiceless. The people cry out for justice and in their despair
they put me on a pedestal, garland me in robes of gaudy
romance, of fantasy.

Yet in defending them against oppression, in speaking their


part, I bring on their heads more tyranny. He sighs, returns
to the fallen oak, stares wistfully out into the dawning light.

On the steps, WILL SCARLETT suddenly awakes, alert,


staring out into the auditorium as ALAN-A-DALE,
accompanied by MARIAN and ELEANOR in the habit of
nuns, approaches down the centre aisle. WILL springs to his
feet, draws his sword.

WILL: I spy strangers!


TUCK: Rising, staring out, his own sword drawn. Intruders!
To the other outlaws, slow in awakening. Come on, dozy
lubbers, we’ve got trouble.
LITTLE JOHN: Already on his feet. Sherwood’s getting as
crowded as Piccadilly Circus.

The remainder of the outlaws now leap up, stare out, swords
at the ready.

MUCH: Easy, lads, it’s only Alan-a-Dale.


SEBALD: Well, shiver mi timbers –
CERDIC: A brace o’nuns!
SWAYN: Fer a second, I though they was penguins.
ALAN: Pausing half way to the stage. Alan-a-Dale, Robin:
permission to come aboard.
LITTLE JOHN: So this is the lovelorn minstrel who talks to
the trees, Robin?
ROBIN: The same, Little John. He has a goodly voice when
he has a stoup of ale inside him. Come forward, Alan, and
bring your… companions.
WILL: Suspicious. But not too close, Minstrel.
ALAN: Found them wandering lost in the forest, Robin.
WILL: Huh, take care, Robin, the Sheriff and Abbot Hugo
will stop at nothing to snare you.
ROBIN: With charm and a bow. Ladies!

Followed by ELEANOR, MARIAN mounts the stage. She gazes


round her, pretends not to recognise ROBIN.

MARIAN: Which one of you is the Lord Sheriff? The outlaws


eye one another, grin. Sebald, Cerdic, Swayn, Edred and
Rufus all take one step forward.
ALL: Me, Ma’m!
MUCH: Steps forward, grinning. Me, actually.
ROBIN: Amused. Why do you seek him, Madam, in the
heart of Sherwood rather than among the silken trimmings
of Nottingham Castle?
MARIAN: Why, because we were reliably informed of his
expedition to rid the forest of a miserable bunch of
untrustworthy outlaws led by the vagabond Robin Hood. We
seek the Lord Sheriff’s protection –
ELEANOR: In case we are seized, raped and pillaged.
Glancing at Alan. We owe our lives to the valour of this good
troubadour.
ALAN: Modestly. It was nothing – just a wild boar with a
tusk on him as long as my elbow. He strums his lute. One
chord from this and the beast went packing.
The outlaws grin and laugh.
TUCK: Warily. These are no ladies of the cloth.
MARIAN: Turning to Tuck. Unless, to our great misfortune
we have already fallen into the hands of thieves and cut-
throats. Looking round. I see we have…and you, I guess,
must be the notorious drink-swilling cleric, Friar Tuck, better
known for purse-snatching than saying his prayers.
TUCK: Spluttering. How dare you, madam? The rest of the
outlaws laugh.
LITTLE JOHN: A shrew in holy garb, I see.
MARIAN: And you must be Little John whose head is so
near the clouds it has mist and rain for brains.
ELEANOR: Marian! To the assembled outlaws. Gentlemen –
CERDIC: Oh, we’re gentlemen now!
SEBALD: Never bin called that, ‘afore.
MARIAN: Don’t encourage them Sister Eleanor.
SWAYN: Glancing towards Alan. Eleanor? Isn’t that the bird
you’re always swoonin’ over, Poncy Alan?
EDRED: Mockingly. My beloved El-e-a-nor. He kisses his
hands.
MARIAN: Correcting herself. Sister Eileen, actually.
ROBIN: And you, my little cockatrice are?
TUCK: Neither nun nor lady, that’s for sure.
MARIAN: Sister Silencia.
LITTLE JOHN: Silencia! He leads a roar of laughter.
WILL: Enough of this. Calling to Alan. Alan-a-Dale, how
came you by these two counterfeits?
MARIAN: Counterfeits? That’s a long word for this time of
the morning – Will Scarlett. You I know because at birth your
mother dipped you into a vat of despondency and suspicion.
WILL: It is his turn now to turn to Robin for support. Robin!
MARIAN: Ah, so we meet at last, Robin, Wearer of the Hood
so none might see his face lest they spot his shifty eyes and
his poxy complexion. She approaches Robin. Mm. Still –
blue eyes. They do tend to be my favourite colour. Glances
at Eleanor. Didn’t I tell you, Sister Eileen, that he would not
be as ugly as people claim him to be?
TUCK: Robin, turn them loose, they’re probably whores from
the taverns of Nottingham.
ROBIN: Sebald, go fry some eggs, griddle some venison for
our guests.

Sebald nods, leaves the stage, limping a little because of his


gammy knee.

WILL: Robin, is this wise?


TUCK: Feeding imposters, whatever next?
MARIAN: A truce, gentle friar, for my companion and I – if
truth be told, have staked our all on a kindly welcome.
MUCH: She speaks like quality, Robin.
MARIAN: I thank you, Much the Miller’s son. At Kirklees we
daily bless your father’s name for the quality of his flour. She
turns back to Robin. And, Sir, in exchange for a bite to eat,
we have information that will warrant your serious attention.
TUCK: Mollified. Well, seeing as you, er…Calling after
Sebald. Sebald, there’s best ham on the hotplate –
CERDIC: Aye, an’ five slice o’tripe ’i’ the larder.
SWAYN: Throw in some plum tamaters, Sebby.
RUFUS: Brownies’d be nice!
WILL: It seems, Robin, My Lady Silencia already twists us
around her little finger.
ROBIN: There is, however, a small matter of payment for
your breakfast, My Lady.
MARIAN: I never forget to say Grace, if that is what you are
demanding, Master Hood. As for currency, the nuns of St.
Cecilia carry only purity and honesty in their purses.
WILL: Still suspicious. Ask them how they got here, Robin.
MARIAN: By camel, of course. The nuns of St. Cecilia are
only permitted to ride camels… or are they called
dromedaries these days? As for our dame prioress, she has
been known in her time to mount a full-grown elephant.
LITTLE JOHN: Beginning to laugh. Mount an elephant!
The rest of the outlaws guffaw.
MARIAN: With mock innocence. Did I say something
amusing?
LITTLE JOHN: Truly you did, Sister Silencia. Laughing.
Mount an elephant? Now that I’d come down from the clouds
and the mist to see.
ROBIN: I’m afraid the rules of St. Cecilia do not apply in
Sherwood, and ladies of the cloth, be they mounted on
camels, elephants or dragons, if their purses be empty save
for purity and honesty, then alas they are not permitted to
eat or sup… unless…
MARIAN: Unless?
ROBIN: We are permitted to see the colour of their…hair.
CERDIC: Aye, an’ a bit of ’ead an ’shoulders.
MARIAN: You would have us shed our wimples, Master
Hood?
ROBIN: I would have you shed your disguise, Marian
Fitzwalter!

The scene freezes. The lights dim. Slowly the outlaws exit.
ALAN takes ELEANOR’S arm and retreats with her to the rear
of the stage, where they embrace; leaving ROBIN and
MARIAN alone, centre stage. Music: quietly romantic.

MARIAN: I should have known that the Master of Disguise


would have…er rumbled our deception. Yet to know my
name…
ROBIN: Daughter of the late Sir Robert Fitzwalter,
accompanied by Eleanor de Luce, similarly an orphan…her
fortune dependent on marrying an old goat four times her
age; both of you risking the holy curses of your guardian,
Hugo, Lord Abbot of St. Mary’s.
MARIAN: Whose holy curse will fall upon your head, Master
Hood, for it will shortly be known throughout the shires that
you have abducted us and are demanding ten thousand gold
marks for our return.
ROBIN: Steps back, shows surprised amusement. So little?
MARIAN: Flicks back her nun’s hood and shakes out her
hair provocatively. True, it is a paltry sum. Heavens, my hair
alone is worth King Richard’s ransom…Or do you prefer raven
heads?
ROBIN: I could be persuaded to reconsider. Tell me, how is
it known that Robin Hood has broken the rule of a lifetime
and threatened harm to a woman, however sharp her
tongue?
MARIAN: Because your Will Scarlett left a scurrilous note
which the Dame Prioress of Kirklees – a distant cousin of
yours, I believe – will be reading at this very instant. She
indicates the fallen log. May I? Riding camels is hard on the
legs.
ROBIN: Be my guest.
MARIAN: Sits on the log. They gaze at one another. You
knew my name. That puzzles me.
ROBIN: Joins her on the log, sitting an arm’s length away. I
saw you once, Marian. Almost a year ago, on a June morning
in Nottingham, where the market leads to the river.
MARIAN: You paid me attention?
ROBIN: All men’s eyes turn in your direction, My Lady.
MARIAN: Marian. Please. Pause. That’s curious. My Lord of
Beleme said something similar. I can’t see it myself. Not with
this nose and too much on my rump. But go on, flattery will
get you everywhere.
ROBIN: Shrugs. I followed you.
MARIAN: Planning my abduction? I knew it!
ROBIN: Unfazed. You stood under the willows, gazing down
at the water.
MARIAN: More gently. I do that a lot.
ROBIN: So beautiful, yet so sad.
MARIAN: She turns to face Robin. It was not always so. But
my father was drowned, on his way to fight with King
Richard in the Holy Land. His loss left a crater in my
life….the size of a fallen star. Pause. At the river, why did
you not speak? Are you only bold Robin with a bow or a
sword in your hand? Have you not kind words for doleful
ladies?
ROBIN: Stands. Why did you risk your life and your honour
to ride into Sherwood, Marian?
MARIAN: My honour? Laughs. Next thing you will be talking
of my duty and my obligations. Dromedaries to my honour!
ROBIN: Impatiently. Why have you come?
MARIAN: Oh, perhaps to sample the magic of the forest.
She raises a hand to check his response. Listen. Listen to
your own forest, my impatient warrior.
ROBIN: There is no magic here, only things that grow, that
battle for survival, fade and then die.
MARIAN: Shame on you. Listen: it’s the cuckoo!

From far off, the sound of a cuckoo.

Alan-a-Dale sings an old cuckoo song. Now how does it go?


From the topmost twig in the bushes
Falls the grey-frock cuckoo’s glee;
O it’s good to write in the dear Lord’s light.
Isn’t that a wonderful line, Robin? – ‘Falls the grey-frock
cuckoo’s glee’.
ROBIN: Cuckoos we eat for breakfast, Marian. Along with
swan and lark, peacock, curlew and plover when we can
catch them.
MARIAN: Teasingly. I suspect you have no soul, Robin of
Sherwood.
There is a pause, he smiles, gazes at her and then at the
forest around him.

ROBIN: I confess, sometimes…Alas, poems, they –


MARIAN: Butter no parsnips? She stands, approaches
Robin. Robin, you are in terrible danger. My Lord Abbot has
sold my body to wedlock in exchange for forty of Beleme’s
most vicious mercenaries. This time they mean to burn the
forest around you. The music fades.
ROBIN: Forty men? I had not realised they valued our lives
so highly.
MARIAN: Your deaths, Robin, are what they value.
ROBIN: Aye. So for that timely warning, Marian, my
heartfelt thanks. They will outnumber us, but they will not
take us by surprise. He shouts into the wings. Will, Little
John, Tuck, Much, lads!

The outlaws appear. Eleanor and Alan come forward to join


Robin and Marian.

ROBIN: Comrades, it would seem that Devil-Eye Beleme


shortly intends to dine on our carcasses.
LITTLE JOHN: But not before my juicy right arm gives him
indigestion.
CERDIC: Aye, we’ll send’im’ome wi’a sore ’ead an no pants
like we did the Sheriff’s men.
ROBIN: Shaking his head. It would seem, gentlemen, that
this time we will face professional men, mercenaries who
benefit nothing from retreat. He turns to Alan. Alan – I want
you to escort the ladies back to Kirklees.
MARIAN: No. I can fight. I want to fight.
ROBIN: Shaking his head. Too dangerous. You could well
trip over your wimple. He raises his hand to meet her
protest. I would not have you harmed for the world, Marian
Fitzwalter.
MARIAN: There are worse deaths than to die in the
greenwood. I have burnt my boats, Robin. I am an outlaw. I
have joined the outlaws of my own free will.
ELEANOR: Marian, it’s good sense –
ROBIN: Marian, it is settled.
MARIAN: Settled?
ROBIN: Between us.
MARIAN: I’m not sure yet whether I fancy you, Robin Hood.
On second thoughts, yes I do.
ROBIN: I will come for you. I promise.
SEBALD: ’E keeps ’is promises, Mi Lady.
MARIAN: He’d better. So how shall we explain this little
jaunt to the Dame Prioress?
ELEANOR: We escape, Marian, with the assistance of the
valiant Alan-a-Dale. Think of all the money the abbot will
save.
WILL: Impatiently. Robin, time –
ROBIN: Rushes on apace, true, Will. We must prepare for
our visitors. Takes Marian’s hands. Marian, I…
CERDIC: Give ’im a kiss, Marian –
SWAYN: Or we’ll be ’ere all day!
MARIAN: Perhaps one for the road. She pecks Robin on the
cheek. The outlaws give a cheer. And one for luck. This time
she kisses Robin on the mouth. Turns to Alan. Okay, Alan-a
-Dale, summon our camels!

Scene 4
Nottingham Castle, a well-appointed room. PRINCE JOHN
appears in a single spotlight. In this soliloquy he stares out
at the audience. Music, low in the background.
PRINCE JOHN: Lightly. I say to myself in the shaving mirror
each morning, to my many faces – Prince John they call
Lackland, Ginger Johnny, John the Miserly, John the
Miserable, John the Callous, John the Conniving, the
creeping, crawling thing ever in the shadows… I say, is it so
unnatural to detest your dear brother?

And the mirror replies, ‘King Richard despises you as you


hate him, so go ahead. Plot his downfall’…Huh, well, thanks
for nothing. Oh, and shut that noise. He waves a dismissive
hand. The music stops. John shakes his head. This medieval
stuff’s got no oomph.

Stares out at the audience. Why do you love him? – the


absent, neglectful King. He struts the stage, pauses. Well,
why? He cares nothing for you. He bleeds you dry to pay for
his games of war, spends all his time on foreign freebies. He
gazes above the heads of the audience, calls loudly. Where
are you now, Richard called Lionheart?

Stares once more at the audience, and speaks more


intimately. I had thought my fortunes made. Richard is
captive. Seized in an Austrian inn, hurled into a dank and
hopefully rat- and lice-infested dungeon in the castle of
Durrenstein, by the thrice blessed Duke Leopold.

For me, Christmas had come early. Richard out of my hair at


last. He wrings his hands in relish. True, there has been the
little matter of a ransom, the 100,000 marks we poor English
must stump up to bring about Dicky boy’s release. What a
headache, dear brother, and how I have struggled to raise
the cash.
PRINCE JOHN (Cont): Alas, the backsliding barons and the
begrudging bishops and the rapacious rabble throw up their
hands and say, ‘Not me, Gov, aint got the price of a jug of
ale’.

Dear brother…In these parts, it’s this Robin Hood who solely
obstructs my gaining your release. He robs us all, kills your
deer so that there is scarce a slice of venison to be had
between Blyth and Barnsdale. Meanwhile, I am here in the
godforsaken midlands, among the nerds of Nottingham, for
what taxes have escaped the villain of Sherwood.
He senses he is not alone, turns, sees LADY REINAULT
approach from the shadows and curtsy. My Lady Reinault,
what a de-licious surprise!
LADY REINAULT: My Lord, you sent for me.
The spotlight widens to include the Sheriff’s wife.
PRINCE JOHN: Merely to express my gratitude for the
warmth and generosity of my welcome here in noble
Nottingham, My Lady.
LADY R: Cursties again. Your wish is my command, My
Lord.
PRINCE JOHN: He advances, takes her hand, raises it to
his lips. The Sheriff, your husband, is ridden to Sherwood?
LADY REINAULT: Indeed, My Lord, with Baron Beleme, and
Abbot Hugo’s steward, Sir Guy of Gisborne.
PRINCE JOHN: To rid the world of this pestilent outlaw who
has emptied the forest of my beloved brother’s deer.
LADY REINAULT: He is a mighty miscreant, Sire, a slippery
scoundrel. But Sir Guy will bring him down, to be sure.
PRINCE JOHN: Then we shall eat venison once more.
LADY REINAULT: All that you could ever desire…Majesty.
PRINCE JOHN: Majesty? Takes her hand, kisses it. Do you
forget that majesty still rests with my brother Richard, who
is fit and well and still sits sturdily on the throne?
LADY R: There is an old fortune teller from Newark, Majesty,
who has read in the ashes of destiny that King Richard,
besieging a castle somewhere in France, will fall to the bolt
of a crossbow.
PRINCE JOHN: Indeed! Perhaps a little excursion to
Newark might be good for our health, My Lady. Jovially. But
what nonsense these fortune-tellers talk. He puts an arm
around Lady Reinault’s waist and begins to lead her off
stage. A mere crossbow bring down the invincible Lionheart?
One would as soon believe that pigs might fly! As they make
to exit, heads touching, the music returns.
PRINCE JOHN: Pausing, staring towards the source of the
music. Snaps. What did I say? The music ceases. Play any
more of those lemon curds, mateys, and you’ll be floating
down the Trent minus your ears! Graciously to Lady
Reinault. Now where were we? Ah yes – your wish and my
command!
Their dalliance is interrupted by a trumpet-call, the clink of
armour and the arrival of the SHERIFF, BELEME and
ABBOT HUGO, in celebratory mood.

SHERIFF: Sire!
BELEME: My Lord!
HUGO: Excellency!
PRINCE JOHN: Don’t all speak at once, gentleman. I see
you grinning like chickens that have escaped the chopper.
What news?
SHERIFF: Victory, My Lord! To his wife. Drinks, my dear!
Lady Reinault retires.
HUGO: A triumph, My Lord Prince!
BELEME: Highness, the outlaws of Robin Hood are driven
out of their lair.
SHERIFF: Once and for ever, Sire.
HUGO: Many dead.
PRINCE JOHN: You were at the scene, My Lord Sheriff?
SHERIFF: Our news is of reliable report.
PRINCE JOHN: Then Robin Hood is taken? Bring him before
me.
HUGO: Sire, it is likely that the leader of the outlaws died in
the battle.
PRINCE JOHN: And his body? Does that still lie in the
forest?
BELEME: His right-hand man, Highness –
SHERIFF: Little John himself – is taken. But not before he
cut down a dozen of my best men.
HUGO: A monster! While the cur of Sherwood murdered my
man, Sir Guy of Gisborne.
BELEME: Stabbed him in the back, My Lord.
PRINCE JOHN: Does not believe him. Whatever! Shrugs.
Gisborne stank. He did not so much bite his fingernails, he
gnawed them. A disgusting habit, like my dear brother
chewing his moustache. You are well rid of him, Lord Abbot.
To the Sheriff. You claim victory, Sheriff Reinault?
SHERIFF: Sherwood is ours once more, My Lord.
PRINCE JOHN: Yours?
SHERIFF: The King’s, Sire. Our conquest was awesome.
PRINCE JOHN: You have the bodies of the outlaws, the
corpses – the evidence?
SHERIFF: Uncomfortably. Many were left in the forest, My
Lord.
BELEME: Too bloodied.
PRINCE JOHN: Too many women and children, perhaps.
SHERIFF: Sire, it was never our intention –
HUGO: Sometimes the innocent have to pay the price of the
guilty, Sire.
PRINCE JOHN: Thank you for that philosophical
observation, My Lord Abbot. But I am talking outlaws. Show
me them! Ah, I seem to have missed them: there they are,
lying at my feet.
Prince John Mockingly he pretends to identify bodies.
PRINCE JOHN (Cont.): Now don’t tell me, this mangled
heap must be the notorious Will Scarlett, the thinking
woman’s favourite outlaw.
He kicks the corpse. And this…He raises his foot to suggest
a corpulent corpse. Is the hilarious joker Friar Tuck who has
had more hot venison dinners than I have had of late. He
stops, raises his hands as if in celebration. While this
porcupine of arrows, could it be…He stares closely. The king
of the outlaws himself? Straightens up, turns to the Sheriff.
Here, Sheriff, my eyes have become misty with your
awesome victory. Tell me, is this the corpse of the bandit of
Sherwood?
SHERIFF: Sire, I cannot quite see –
PRINCE JOHN: The terrorist? He is everywhere, yet you
cannot see him. What a pity. Perhaps the villain slipped
under a table. Pretends to look under a table. Robin Hood,
are you there, or still defiant, helping yourself to the wealth
of my brother’s kingdom, shortly to be mine if the seer of
Newark is to be believed? No weapons, no body. He stares at
his three visitors. Gentlemen, I am impressed!
SHERIFF: Hastily, glancing at his colleagues. We have it on
good report, Sire, that Robin Hood was struck down by a
crossbow. I have witnesses waiting below.
PRINCE JOHN: Nodding, calmer now. Gentlemen, your
mistake was attacking the enemy on his own ground. Such
ventures always end in disaster.
BELEME: What do you suggest, Sire?
SHERIFF: To Beleme and Hugo. I sense his majesty has a
cunning plan.
PRINCE JOHN: You have Little John in Evil Hold, Beleme?
BELEME: He will be executed at dawn, unless he dies of his
wounds.
PRINCE JOHN: No, spare him, and go easy on the
thumbscrews.
LADY REINAULT returns with a tray bearing four goblets.
LADY REINAULT: Our last flagon, Sire, the outlaws
ambushed the last shipment.
Then men take their glasses; Lady Reinault bows, cursies
and leaves.
PRINCE JOHN: Gentlemen, I have three sprats in mind to
hook our mackerel, that is if Robin Hood is still alive, which I
am certain he is… heroes don’t get knocked off in the middle
of stories.
HUGO: The villain is known to be true to his friends, Sire. My
theory is that he will try to rescue Little John.
PRINCE JOHN: Exactly. Triple your guard, Beleme, but let it
be easy for the villain to gain entry to Evil Hold. Then let the
doors shut with the swiftness of a shark’s jaws.
BELEME: I will feast on his liver, My Lord.
SHERIFF: And the second prat, Majesty?
PRINCE JOHN: Your niece, Abbot Hugo.
HUGO: Sire, I fail to see –
PRINCE JOHN: The Lady Marian is a great beauty, is she
not? She’d be the heroine in any story.
BELEME: Betrothed to me, My Lord.
PRINCE JOHN: Willingly? Look yourself in the mirror,
Beleme. My advice is, seize the lady before the cheesecake
charmer snatches her from under your nose.
PRINCE JOHN: How do I know of these things? He taps his
own nose. Forests have ears, Gentlemen.
SHERIFF: Nodding. Hood is known for his gallantry.
HUGO: I get your drift, Sire. And the third sprat to catch our
mackerel?
PRINCE JOHN: The final sprat, gentlemen is the outlaw’s
vanity. No power in the world will prevent Robin Hood
contending for The Silver Arrow at the Grand Tournament.
SHERIFF: Nottingham will be at the ready, Sire.
PRINCE JOHN: No. Too many sewers, too many slums to
hide in, should one jack-rabbit of his gang escape. To
Beleme. Evil Hold is but a spit and a stride from Sherwood,
am I not right, My Lord? Then the Tournament will take place
on Beleme Meadows. The fresh air could do us all good.
HUGO: And what better venue, Sire, for the completion of
the nuptials between my ward, Lady Marian, and His
Lordship?
PRINCE JOHN: At which time the fortune of Lady Marian’s
father, deceased, will pass in to safe hands, eh, Beleme?

Beleme, the Sheriff and Abbot Hugo glance guiltily at each


other.

BELEME: My Lord, the Lady Marian will want for nothing.


PRINCE JOHN: Looks suspiciously and with mild contempt
on his three companions. I am not concerned what diabolic
plots you have been hatching, gentlemen, so long as I am
granted a prince’s share. Otherwise, just make sure my
brother Richard doesn’t turn up to spoil the show.

He exits, leaving his companions staring at each other.

HUGO: My Lord, I think he suspects that Sir Robert is still


alive, and your prisoner.
BELEME: Patient!
HUGO: Of course. Pray he does not yet recover his memory.
BELEME:What of it? Fitzwalter will never leave my dungeons
except in a body-bag.
SHERIFF: And if the Lady Marian discovers the truth about
her father?
BELEME: Come St. Swithin’s Day Fitzwalter’s fortune and his
lands become mine. Marian will have a choice – keep her
mouth shut or be banged up for ever in Kirklees Abbey, in a
cell without a door!

Lights fade.

Scene 5
The ante-room of the dungeons of Evil Hold. The JAILER sits
at a table, his head resting on his hands and between two
lighted candles. Keys to the dungeon lie next to an empty
jug of wine. On a rear wall, there is an array of chains and
steel tools used for the torture of prisoners. The entrance to
the dungeon, stage right, is denoted by a lighted torch
lodged on a metal stand. At stage left are steps leading
upwards into the wings.

The Jailer is dozing, snoring fitfully. ROGER THE CRUEL


appears on the steps. He looks around him then advances in
fury upon the Jailer.
ROGER: Wake up, dog! He hurls the Jailer from his seat.
JAILER: Sir Rog, I were just…

He is pursued by Roger, who kicks him, fells him, then drags


him to his knees, holding a dagger to his throat.

ROGER: How many times have I told you not to call me ‘Sir
Rog’. Rog-er – what is it?
JAILER: Rog-er.
ROGER: Again.
JAILER: Rog-er. But Sir Rog, I were just.
ROGER: Bellowing. Rog-ER! He casts the Jailer across the
floor, dusting himself down as if suddenly invaded by fleas.
You want to be hanged along with the outlaw Little John?
Confound you, did not Lord Beleme warn everybody to be on
red alert?
JAILER: Aye, Sir. To be on our guard, that’s so, but I ain’t
had no relief since yesterday nightfall.
ROGER: Relief? Your only relief will be a rope round your
neck, you lazy ox. Open up.
JAILER: Aye, Sir. He stands, also dusts himself down. All’s
in order. He takes the keys from table, steps almost into the
wings, unlocks the dungeon door which is out of sight of the
audience. Roger takes the torch from its stand, and enters
the dungeon. The jailer looks out at the audience, nods in
Roger’s direction.
JAILER (Cont.): Creep! To the audience. Roge is all the
sillybules ’e deserves. Shrugs. This eight foot outlaw’s sure
got’em fussin’, but there’ll be no strength left i’the rogue, not
after Old One Eye’s been at ’im tomorra. Pauses, steps
closer to the audience as if sharing a secret. And there’s the
other, the old gent, starved till a skeleton wouldn’t recognise
’im. Got spirit, tho’, I’ll grant him that. From off stage comes
the sound of a whip and a cry of pain.
JAILER: Nodding. This Rog-er is worse’n ’is master. He
listens. They say the poor soul down there was a knight
once, owned property. Can’t remember nothin’, though – not
’is name, not where ’e’s from…’cept one thing: ’e got a kid, a
girl… My child! ’e says, My child! An’e weeps a bucketful fer
’is loss. Right touchin’, it is.
ROGER: Returning from the cell, pulling the door to behind
him, placing the torch back on the stand. See that the outlaw
is gagged as well as chained.
JAILER: On account of ’im getting’ pally wi’the old man,
y’mean?
ROGER: It’s not your business to ask Why, What or
Whenever, Jailer. Just do it!
JAILER: Sire. Makes to do Roger’s bidding.
ROGER: Wait. There’s more. I want you eagle-eyed. Fail me
and you’ll be no-eyed. On My Lord’s business, I hasten this
instant to the abbey at Kirklees, with an armed guard.
JAILER: Alarmed. An’ leave me on me tod, Sire?
ROGER: The castle is impregnable.
JAILER: Aye, but is it secure? I mean, that Robin ’ood, they
say ’e’s in cahoots wi’the Green Man, an’ can turn into a
raven or a bat, that he can walk invisybule through walls.
ROGER: Evil Hold is proof against ravens and bats, Jailer,
and the stupidity of tittle-tattles who think Sherwood’s full of
trolls and sprites. He steps towards the table with the
intention of pouring himself wine from the job.
JAILER: It’s empty, Sire –
ROGER: The fairies been at it, have they? – then if you don’t
want a goblin up your rectum, see that the wench fills it for
my return.

He slams the jug down on the Jailer’s table then strides


across the stage to the steps and away. The lights fade for a
few moments to indicate the passing of time. The Jailer is
asleep on his arms.

ROBIN: Off stage, in a high-pitched voice. Jailer, my


sweetie? Robin appears on the steps, dressed as a woman, a
shawl over his shoulder. He carries a jug of wine. Wakey,
wakey, honeybunch!
JAILER: Lifting his head, still dazed with sleep. Is that you,
Mil-der-ed? Pause, sees Robin. Mil-der-ed?
ROBIN: Approaching. Not Mil-der-ed, my luscious lovely.
Curtsies. It’s Ivy bringin’ you a sip o’the best for the
’andsomest gallant this side of Ashby-de-la-Zouch.
JAILER: Cut the crap, wench, where the devil’s Milderid?
ROBIN: She gone an’got ’erself wi’child, Yo-woe-shipful.
JAILER: What, since this mornin’?
ROBIN: Come all over strange, she did. Puked up on Mi-
Lord Beleme’s partridge pie an’ got a right old thrashin’ she
did an’ all. Yet fear not, my pretty one – I bought you a drop
o’the best bleedin’ Burgundy, that’ll put some lead in yer
pencil. To audience, as Robin. Did they have pencils in those
days?
JAILER: Lead i’ mi’pencil? What y’ talkin’ about?
ROBIN: As himself now advancing on the Jailer; walks past
him then traps him in an arm-lock, dragging him to his feet.
Keys, I’m talking about, Master Jailer. He calls. Will?

WILL SCARLETT appears on the top of the steps, dagger in


one hand, a length of rope in the other.

Look to our friend here.

Will scares the Jailer into sitting down by stabbing the


dagger into the table.

JAILER: Mercy, I’ve a wife an’four kids, one i’the pot.


WILL: Shut it. He begins to tie the Jailer to the chair.
ROBIN: And stop his mouth, Will.
WILL: Aye.
ROBIN: While I inspect Beleme’s handiwork. He seizes the
torch. What damage you and your master have done to my
friend Little John, I will return tenfold.
JAILER: I just follows mi’orders.
ROBIN: Where have I heard that before? He steps into the
wings. We can hear the turn of the lock in the dungeon door.
JAILER: ‘0w the devil did ya get in ’ere? – the place is
crawlin’ wi’guards.
WILL: Because Robin Hood can walk through walls, that’s
how.
JAILER: Ye’ll never get out. Oh! He is gagged.
ROBIN: Calling, off. Will, give us a hand.

WILL darts into the wings. We hear both of them struggling


with the weight of the wounded LITTLE JOHN.

LITTLE JOHN: Off. I knew you’d come for me, Robin.


ROBIN: Save your breath.
WILL: Easy, John.
LITTLE JOHN: I can make it. A broken rib, maybe. Nothing
to fuss about.
ROBIN: You’re bleeding.
They emerge from the cell, Little John leaning heavily on
Robin who assists John with one arm and carries the torch
with the other.

LITTLE JOHN: It was just a starter, Robin. They were


saving up their main course for tomorrow.
WILL: Take a rest, Little John.

He ejects the Jailer from his chair. Robin and Will ease Little
John into it. Robin returns the torch to its stand.

ROBIN: Did this man harm you, John? He snatches the


Jailer’s collar, raises him up on to his knees.
LITTLE JOHN: Still groggy, shakes his head. And he’s been
good to my friend. He must come too, the old man.
WILL: We can’t rescue the whole prison.
LITTLE JOHN: Kept me going, he did. I’ll not leave without
him.
ROBIN: Can he walk, John?
LITTLE JOHN: Hardly.
WILL: Then it’s no go. We have to swim the moat.
LITTLE JOHN: I can’t swim neither.
ROBIN: Wrenches off the Jailer’s gag. How many other
prisoners have you got rotting in Evil Hold?
JAILER: Never counted ‘em.
ROBIN: We’ll take the lot, no questions asked. To WILL and
JOHN. There’ll be strength in numbers. And if we can’t make
the Moat, we’ll disturb Beleme’s indigestion and shimmy
through the Great Hall.

ROBIN snatches the torch from WILL.

WILL: Just like that? He shrugs as ROBIN strides back into


the jail.
ROBIN: Off. Gentlemen, stay cool, I am not your torturer
with further agonies at my fingertips. I am Robin Hood, once
an honest yeoman, with a patch of land like some of you
must have had.
WILL: God, he’s making speeches again!
ROBIN: Off. My land was seized. I became an outlaw and
took to the forest. It’s my kingdom now, my fellow outlaws
its citizens, as are the animals and birds. We are free and I
offer you that freedom – fresh air, plenty of it, pure water
and the occasional blue sky, not the least, for once in your
lives, perhaps, a full belly of venison. Do I hear ‘Yeah’?
LITTLE JOHN: Rises unsteadily to his feet. I’ll drink to that!
WILL: Checking him. Easy, comrade.
ROBIN: Off, calling. Will, stir your stumps, we’re coming up.
JAILER: Bless me, Robin Hood really can walk through
walls.
WILL: Doubtfully. Well let’s hope he can also walk on water.
Scene 6
Kirklees Priory. There is a furious banging from off stage left
as the DAME PRIORESS enters from stage right, followed
by SIR ROGER, who in turn is followed by two armed men;
and behind them is SISTER AGNES.

PRIORESS: Not before time, Sir Roger. She has been


shouting the house down… Calls. Marian, this is a sanctuary
of peace and prayer – be silent.
MARIAN: Off, banging still. Not until you unlock this door.
ROGER: Has she gone mad?
AGNES: She hates closed spaces, Sir. And locked doors.
ROGER: The Lady Marian is imprisoned?
PRIORESS: Simply, er…confined in the Chapel of Repose.
For her own good.
ROGER: I do not understand you, Dame Prioress. Has she
not recently escaped the clutches of Robin Hood?
PRIORESS: Clutches? Embraces more like.
AGNES: In protest. My Lady, I really must –
PRIORESS: You really must shut up, Agnes.
MARIAN Off: Shouting. Let us out, Dame Prioress, or as
sure as God is my witness I’ll take this sanctuary apart stone
by stone.
ELEANOR Off: Marian, leave it. They can’t keep us locked in
here for ever.
MARIAN: And we shall have to piss all over your precious
tiled floor.
PRIORESS: How dare you? To Roger. You have come for
her?
ROGER: Both of them. They are to be married at the
conclusion of the Tournament, with the blessing of Prince
John himself.
AGNES: Sure as the Lord made little eggs, Marian’ll never
agree to it.
PRIORESS: Did I order you to be silent?
AGNES: But it’s true, Ma’am. She’d rather top herself.
PRIORESS: Top herself - what language is that?
MARIAN: Shouting. We’re waiting.
ELEANOR: And I’m bursting.
ROGER: Turns to his men. Be ready to handle a shrew with
more venom in her tongue than a rattlesnake. To the
Prioress. You may unlock the door. He nods to his men who
stand on either side of the wing from which Marian and
Eleanor will emerge. Hold her only on my command. The
Prioress steps into the wings. We hear the sound of a key
turning a heavy lock.
Marian and Eleanor emerge at speed, are startled at the
newcomers.

MARIAN: Huh, for a moment, My Lady, I thought you had


given in to reason and compassion.
PRIORESS: You were held on the command of Abbot Hugo,
your guardian, and for your own safety.
MARIAN: And who might be these intruders upon our
sanctuary?
ROGER: Bowing. My Lady, Roger de Burgh, High Steward to
Baron Beleme. Here to escort you to Castle Beleme in
preparation for the solemnities.
MARIAN: Solemnities? – what solemnities?
ROGER: Why, your marriage to my lord, and that of Lady de
Luce to Sir Ralph of Meden Dale.

There is a silence as Marian stares first at Roger, then the


Prioress, then back at Eleanor.

MARIAN: Calmly, but coldly. You may have Eleanor’s


reluctant consent, but not mine. And I tell you now, Beleme
will never have my consent. Never!
PRIORESS: Marian, you have no choice in the matter.
MARIAN: No choice? She suddenly produces a dagger.
Agnes crosses herself in apprehension. No choice? The
guards draw their swords, but Roger signals them to stay
back. Who will prevent me cutting my own throat, or that of
any who dare come near me? The very thought of My Lord
Beleme turns my stomach.
ROGER: It is true, Mistress Fitzwalter, that my master’s
looks were…not improved by the loss of his eye, in the
service of his country.
MARIAN: It is of no matter whether your master has one
eye or two, or a third in his buttocks. I shall have none of
him.
ROGER: You love another?
PRIORESS: She has sold her soul to an outlaw!
MARIAN: No, not my soul not my heart or my body. All of
these are mine, no one else’s.
PRIORESS: The sin of pride, Marian, is the road to hell.
MARIAN: Then set my feet on it. Liberate me, let me take
my chances.
PRIORESS: I do liberate you. From this day forth you have
no home here at Kirklees. Go with Sir Roger or be gone to
the greenwood where you will learn to regret the privileges
you have so undutifully scorned.
ROGER: Calm yourselves, ladies. He glances first at the
Prioress, then slowly back to Marian and Eleanor. I have no
doubt that what I have to say next will persuade My Lady
Marian to accompany me to Castle Beleme.
ROGER (Cont.) He turns to Marian. That is, Madam, if you
ever wish to see your father again.
This comment astounds. Music: gentle and emotional.
MARIAN: My father?
ROGER: Calmly. Your father.
MARIAN: My father, Sir, was drowned at sea a year ago, so
how dare you? –
ROGER: He is alive. But only just.
MARIAN: You lie!
ROGER: My Master commanded me not to raise your hopes,
My Lady, but in the circumstances –
ELEANOR: Do not listen to him Marian – it is a trick.
ROGER: Sir Robert Fitzwalter was feared drowned, that is
true. And until a little while ago My Master had no idea
whatever that the old man who sought refuge at his gates,
and whom he took in and cared for as his brother, was your
father.
MARIAN: Lies – diabolical lies.
ROGER: No, hear me out. The old man had lost everything,
Madam, most of all, his memory. He knew not who he was,
nor from where he had come.
MARIAN: Almost convinced. My father?
ROGER: For months he has been cared for in the infirmary
of the castle. A vagabond?…who could tell? A broken man
returned from the crusade? Knowing his Christian duty my
master took him in. For weeks your father’s life hung by a
thread. Twice he was administered the last rites.
ELEANOR: It’s nonsense, Marian.
PRIORESS: Abbot Hugo mentioned such a man. Of good
speech, hands that had known a gentler life.
ROGER: Nodding. Yet did not know himself…
ELEANOR: Marian? You’re not swallowing this.
ROGER: Till he mentioned your name, My Lady.
MARIAN: Willing herself to believe. My name.
ROGER: Until an hour ago, he spoke only of his child – ‘My
child, My child!’ which he repeated over and over again,
deliriously.
MARIAN: Deliriously – my name?
ROGER: Your name, Marian.
ELEANOR: There are dozens, hundred of Marians in this
world. Don’t listen to him.
ROGER: And how many are also called ‘Little Goose’?
MARIAN: Eleanor – it’s him. He’s alive.
ELEANOR: Shaking her head. Oh Marian!
MARIAN: Little Goose was what he called me.
ROGER: He is ailing, My Lady. There will be time only to
bring him a brief gift of joy before…He shrugs. But…if you will
not set forth with us. He sighs.
MARIAN: I will set forth.
ELEANOR: Marian!
MARIAN: I feel it, Elly. I feel him close. It’s possible. It has
to be. What do I lose by…? And if I didn’t go, if it were all
true and I declined…I would never forgive myself.
ELEANOR: Very well. We go together. The music fades. To
Roger. As for me, I believe none of this. It’s a trick, a trap.
And if it proves to be so, my curse be upon you and your
master. Come Marian. She takes Marian’s arm. The
information about her father has stunned Marian. Evil Hold
awaits us.

Agnes rushes forward to embrace Marian, then Eleanor.

AGNES: Oh I pray that it be true. She places her hands


together in a gesture of supplication and raises them to
heaven. Lord of All Mercies, I beg you to make it so.
PRIORESS: Agnes, you’re an embarrassment!
ROGER: Graciously bowing and bidding Marian and Eleanor
to proceed him. Ladies, at your pleasure. As they pass him
he glances knowingly at the Prioress, bows. Lady Prioress.
PRIORESS: Nodding. Sir Roger: a safe journey. May Sir
Robert’s strength last till his joyful reunion with his… Little
Goose. She looks at Agnes, snaps. Have you no chores, girl?
– then get on with them!

Scene fades.

Scene 7
Darkness, ALAN-A-DALE in a spotlight. Music, a soft
accompaniment.
ALAN: Was there ever such ill-luck? Eleanor, my heart, my
soul, my destiny, my… gone with Marian, escorted to Evil
Hold. Robin in a rage of grief that matches my own, for have
we not the good Sir Robert, who was dead but now lives,
safe at last, his frail arms yearning to embrace his child? I
fear the Green Man no longer looks with favour upon the
outlaws of Sherwood.

The spotlight switches to the DAME PRIORESS.

DAME PRIORESS: Be assured, Sir Robert will be safe in our


care. A little bleeding will set him on the path to recovery.

The spotlight switches to the JAILER.

JAILER: A patient, what – here, Mi-Lady? Are y’jestin’? Old


One-Eye don’t have no patients, only prisoners, and them no
more’n skellitons.
The spotlight switches to MARIAN.

MARIAN: Then we have been betrayed. My story was to be


one of love, now, alas, it must be one of vengeance. She
holds up her dagger into the spotlight which now switches to
ROBIN.

ROBIN: Marian…Oh Marian. Your father weeps, for we’ve


raised in his heart such hopes…hopes that I shared, joyful
anticipation – dashed! I had grown to relish life again. Your
glance, your touch, was suddenly my purpose. Sherwood had
grown bright and golden once more.

The spotlight switches back to MARIAN.

MARIAN: Oh Robin, what a trusting fool I’ve been. When I


confronted Beleme about my wretched father, his laugh
echoed through Evil Hold. He seemed even to relish my grief,
for I think he suspects my feelings for you.

The spotlight switches back to ROBIN.

ROBIN: Marian, we shall kiss in Sherwood again. That is my


promise.

The spotlight switches to PRINCE JOHN.

PRINCE JOHN: Three words, Gentlemen - The Silver Arrow,


the bait which will hook our Master Hood once and for ever.
You have my guarantee. But, mark you – on no account
must the mercenaries act before I give the signal.

The spotlight switches to WILL SCARLETT.

WILL: Robin, are you mad? The Tournament is Prince John’s


trap, the Silver Arrow his deadly snare. Shaking his head
sadly. You’ll have your way, but I fear your rashness will be
the death of us all.

The spotlight and the music fade.


Scene 8
The edge of Sherwood Forest. Meadows stretch from a line
of trees and in the far background are the turrets of Castle
Beleme, Evil Hold. Cheerful, country dance music. This scene
is a prologue to the Tournament, offering the opportunity for
an ensemble of dancers to express the spirit of the forest on
a May day morning.

It may be possible in a production to use a film sequence in


which the colour and movement of a country fair can be
screened. Scenes of crowds arriving, of jugglers and
acrobats, sellers of cakes and ale can jostle with archers
arriving to compete in the Tournament.

A brightly decked viewing platform sits at an angle to the left


of the stage, awaiting the arrival of distinguished guests.
Seats are arranged in two rows, three at the front, six to the
rear, ideally on two levels. One of the chairs on the front row
should be distinct, as it is reserved for Prince John.

Opposite the platform are two archery butts and standing


between them, at attention, are LOFTY and SHORTY,
servants of Sir Roger. Immediately below Prince John’s seat
is a presentation plinth covered with an embroidered cloth.
On this will be placed the Silver Arrow.

The dance concludes with cheers and clapping from the


crowd. ALAN-A-DALE steps from the wings to the front of
the stage. He strums his lute to draw attention. The dance
music is now succeeded by the music of the forest, and this
continues through Alan’s speech.

ALAN: Friends, on this feast day there’ll be no digging of


the fields. The forester will lay aside her axe, the cook his
pot, the blacksmith her anvil. Aside. Sexism? Not here!
The spring breeze has shaken dry the forest leaves and the
warming sun burns from a cloudless sky. May is the month of
merriment, of thanksgiving for winter’s end. May is for music
and dance, but most of all for the poetry of the heart, the
discourse of … love!
CROWD: Turning as one to Alan. Aaah!
ALAN: Again!
CROWD: Aaah!
ALAN: Gazing in to the auditorium. But what disturbance
have we here?
Entering by way of the audience are LITTLE JOHN and
FRIAR TUCK, both dressed as women, garishly toffed up.
John leans on his crutch. He pauses as he approaches the
stage, chooses a member of the audience, samples a collar
or a coat.
LITTLE JOHN: Nice bit o’cloth.
TUCK: Y’say true, Mad Matilda. Looks like all the top knobs
is out for the Tournament.
LITTLE JOHN: Hey, not so much o’ Mad, Mistress Muck. I
were a great beauty in me time. As they reach the front row
of the audience, John bangs his crutch on the ground. Come
on, Citizens, hudge up for Muck and Matilda.
TUCK: Muck and Mat, that’s us. Potions our speciality. He
raises a tiny bottle of liquid. If yer lovers is a bit backward i’
comin’ forward, ’ere’s yer remedy. They both sit.
ALAN: Two noble ladies of the court, it would seem. And
here comes Sir Roger, Master of Ceremonies.

SIR ROGER THE CRUEL enters from stage right.

LITTLE JOHN: Master o’red’ot irons, ye mean!


TUCK: Old Stretch-em-till-their-bones crack!
LITTLE JOHN: Aye, got a starred A in Garottin’,’e did.

From stage left, ROBIN enters, in the disguise of an old


man, long haired, his clothes in rags. He carries a bow and a
quiver of arrows slung over his shoulder.

TUCK: See who I’m spottin, Matilda?


LITTLE JOHN: Well, I’ll go to the bottom of our stairs – if it
isn’t Old ’Odden from Darley Dale.
TUCK: To Robin. You got lost in the forest, did you, Odd-un?
ROBIN: In a high-pitched, squeaky voice. Now you know me
better than that, Mistress Tuck –
TUCK: Swiftly correcting him. Muck…
ROBIN: Muck indeed. How could I forget it?
LITTLE JOHN: Don’t say it’s the Prince’s silver arrow you’ll
be after.
ROBIN: Could be, my pretty. They say that wildman Robin
Hood’s got ’is eye on it, an’ I’ve a bone to pick wi’im.
LITTLE JOHN: There’ll be no bestin’ Robin Hood, friend.
ROBIN: I’ll warrant thee I’ve an even chance, Mistress
Matilda. To Roger. I’m ’ere for the Tournament, good sir.
Delayed. Yet I pray not too late, for I was put upon by some
pesky outlaws as I made my progress through Sherwood.
Demanded a silver groat for my safe transit they did, an’
ordered me bring you a message.
ROGER: We want no message from outlaws.
ROBIN: No, from one o’ their guests, like. Some old buffer
claimin’ ’e’s the Abbot o’ St. Mary’s.
ROGER: Suddenly interested. Abbot Hugo?
ROBIN: They’re offerin’ ’im breakfast, lunch and dinner –
ROGER: Abbot Hugo is a captive?
ROBIN: Aye, and that dinner’ll cost ’im ’is purse an’ ’is silver
plate an all.
TUCK: What’s the world comin’ to I’d like to know, wi’all
these’eathens filtchin’ the King’s deer, robbin’ our good
masters o’ their bags o’gold –
LITTLE JOHN: An’ nobblin’ yer clericals.
ROGER: Hold your tongue, Madam. As for you, Hadden –
ROBIN: ’Odden. The ’Addens is fro’ Bakewell, Sir. Us
’Oddens is fro’ Darley Dale.
CROWD: In unison. Addens from Bakewell, Oddens from
Darley Dale.
ROGER: Dismissively.Whoever you are, peasant, from
Bakewell, Belper or Brassington – we have no category in the
tournament for geriatrics.
LITTLE JOHN: Gerry Attrics? I knew a Gerry Mander once,
from Matlock, or was it Mickleover?
ROGER: The lists are full. We have no time for ill-dressed
vagabonds with scarce the strength to draw a bow cluttering
up proceedings. Now, unless you want a whipping, step
aside!

A trumpet voluntary heralds the arrival from the rear of the


auditorium of PRINCE JOHN with an armed escort. He is
followed by the SHERIFF of Nottingham, his wife, LADY
REINAULT and ISAMBARDE DE BELEME with the LADY
MARIAN beside him but keeping her distance.

Behind them come SIR RALPH of Maden Dale, stooped and


shaky on his feet, with ELEANOR less on his arm than
offering him support. Last in line are the contestants in the
archery.

Prince John signals his companions to take their places on


the platform, while he remains in the foreground. His retinue
of soldiers lines up on each side of the stage, while the
contestants stand in single file in front of the butts.

PRINCE JOHN: Are the contestants in order, Sir Roger?


LITTLE JOHN: Except for Old Odden, Your Worshipful
Greatness.
PRINCE JOHN: Odden?
ROGER: This bag of bones from Bakewell, Sire.
ROBIN: Stepping forward, bowing. Nay, Your Eminence, it’s
the Addens fro’ Bakewell, us Oddens is fro’ Darley Dale.
TUCK: We supplicate, oh Prince.
PRINCE JOHN: Supplicate, Madam? Then take deep
breaths.
TUCK: That is, we plead –
ROGER: These harridans, Your Majesty, have taken it upon
themselves to be cheerleaders for this stinking bag of bones.
I have informed the rogue that the lists are full.
LITTLE JOHN: Fair play for the little man, O Prince.
PRINCE JOHN: Looking Robin up and down. Begone, old
man. This Tournament is for the best and only the best. By
the look of you I doubt you could fire a shaft more than
twenty paces. To Roger, impatiently. Where is Abbot Hugo?
Has the lump of lard overslept? He was due to bless our
revelries.
ROGER: Unavoidably detained, Sire. According to this old
man, by none other than Robin Hood.
PRINCE JOHN: Wandering in his sleep was he? Well hear
this, he can expect no ransom money from us, unless it be a
cart of turnips. To ROBIN. You, step forward. How came you
by this information?
ROBIN: I’s been Robin ‘Ood’s unwillin’ guest, your
Mightyship. By God’s leg, I’ll be ’avin’ me ten groats back or
’e’s a dead man.
ROGER: This man has plainly consorted with outlaws, My
Lord. He should be arrested and shackled.
PRINCE JOHN: Wait. Intrigued. Robin Hood robbed you, a
poor man in rags, of –
ROBIN: Me life’s savins, ’oly Greatness. I’ll give ’im turnips
when I finds him! He twangs his bow threateningly.
PRINCE JOHN: Could you find the bandits’ lair again, Old
Man, with two gold marks to bolster your courage?
ROBIN: Chance to fire for the Silver Arrow, Sire, that’d give
me courage enough.
LADY REINAULT: Impatiently. Heavens, are we going to sit
here all day twiddling our thumbs and lunch going cold?
SHERIFF: Plainly, my dear, you got out of the bed on the
wrong side this morning.
LADY REINAULT: How would you know?
BELEME: Half rising from his seat. My Lord, should we not
proceed with…the proceedings? Sits again.
MARIAN: I would see the arrows fly, My Lord.
PRINCE JOHN: Turns, eyes Marian. Addresses Beleme.
Chafes at the bit, does she, the delicious filly of your choice?
MARIAN: I am no horse, My Lord Prince.
PRINCE JOHN: No indeed. To himself. Nor yet broken in, I’ll
warrant. Loudly. I shall exercise a prince’s prerogative, Sir
Roger. Never let it be said Prince John ignored the will of his
peasants, er – people!
The crowd cheer.
ROGER: Assemble the contenders. A group of archers step
forward. To the right of the line, the Prince’s man, Henry of
Driencourt. Cheers.
SHERIFF: Not forgetting the Sheriff’s Man, Your Excellency,
Hubert of…er –
HUBERT: Wisbech, Sire.
CROWD: Wisbech! Wisbech!
LITTLE JOHN: Aye, there be no flies on Wisbech!
The crowd cheer.
TUCK: Not forgettin Oddin fro’Darley Dale.
CROWD: Oddin fro’Darley Dale! Cheers.
PRINCE JOHN: With a touch of menace. Oddin, I shall
expect revelations about Sherwood when the arrows have
met their target.
ROBIN: Aye, there be plenty o’revelations i’Sherwood, that I
can promise Your Moo-nificence.
PRINCE JOHN: Turning to his entourage on the platform.
Shall the Prince Regent sit on his lonesome, My Lord
Beleme?
BELEME: Sire?
PRINCE JOHN: Sir Ralph? Aside. Good grief, the old turkey
is dozing already.
ELEANOR: Nudging Sir Ralph. The Prince is addressing you,
Husband-to-Be.
SIR RALPH: Bees? No bees. I’m allergical to bees.
PRINCE JOHN: Gentlemen, I claim an old Angevin custom.
SIR RALPH: Funny thing, though, wasps don’t bother me.
PRINCE JOHN: Ladies…He raises his hands to Marian and
Eleanor. I claim droit de seigneur.
LADY REINAULT: Well I for one know what that means.
PRINCE JOHN: Mounting the platform steps, takes the
centre seat, gestures for MARIAN and ELEANOR to sit on
either side of him. Be your prince’s company, for I do
confess the English have the edge for beauty over all other
women. Marian! He holds out his hand for her. Although it
has to be admitted they also have more edge on their tongue
than other women. I trust, My Lady Marian, that is not true
in your case.

John takes her hand, kisses it. The main stage lights fade so
that attention is focused on John’s exchanges with Marian
and Eleanor.

MARIAN: Sits. Only if you speak us wrong, My Lord.


PRINCE JOHN: And if Beleme would have you not speak at
all?
MARIAN: Then he shall learn the difference between an
edge and a point.
PRINCE JOHN: God protect the man that crosses you, My
Lady.
MARIAN: Civility and respect, Sire, have no need of divine
protection.
PRINCE JOHN: But royal protection, Marian – that is not
something to be sniffed at.
MARIAN: So long as it is not royal exploitation, My Lord.
PRINCE JOHN: I see you will not be bested, Lady Marian.
To Eleanor. And you, my pretty, are you content with your
catch? He takes her hand, kisses it.
ELEANOR: Content, My Lord?
PRINCE JOHN: Marian, you snort, as if you disapproved of
your friend’s marriage.
MARIAN: A forced marriage, My Lord, like my own.
PRINCE JOHN: For the material benefit of you both. Beleme
has creamed off a fortune from the King’s taxes, while Sir
Ralph is worth thousands and owns half of Lincolnshire. Do
not turn your noses up at rich villains or foolish ones.
MARIAN: So you approve of the women of England being
bought and sold, My Lord?
PRINCE JOHN: People of quality, my dear, do not marry for
love.
ELEANOR: Yet I would wish it so, My Lord.
PRINCE JOHN: It is whispered that you love a troubadour,
and a friend of outlaws, My Lady.
ELEANOR: Sire!
PRINCE JOHN: Love as you wish, Madam. He places a
seductive hand on Eleanor’s knee, then nods towards Sir
Ralph. And look at him, your dear betrothed. A sharp breath
could blow him over. He will not live out the year. Then, my
pretty, you can take what lovers you wish. He shakes
Eleanor’s knee. I suggest you return to his side, My Lady,
lest the chill of the afternoon rob you of a fortune.
ELEANOR: My Lord. She stands, curtsies, glances at Marian,
anxious that she is leaving her on her own with Prince John,
then returns to sit beside Sir Ralph.
PRINCE JOHN: Signals to Sir Roger. Sir Roger, let the
Tournament of the Silver Arrow commence.
Trumpets sound, the Crowd clap and cheer.
SHERIFF: The Lord be praised! To his companions. Any
more delays and I’ll starve to death.
LADY REINAULT: My own stomach’s been rumbling all
morning.
SHERIFF: And there I was thinking it was – drums?
Instantly we hear the beat of a drum from the rear of the
audience. Good heaven’s what’s this? He stands. Oh my God
– the Penitents are back!
LADY REINAULT: I can smell them from here! She clamps
her hand over her face.

From the rear of the auditorium, accompanied by the soulful


beat of a drum, slow-march seven PENITENTS, Robin
Hood’s outlaws, WILL SCARLET, MUCH, SEBALD,
CERDIC, SWAYN, RUFUS and EDRED, dressed in rags.
They stagger forward, whipping themselves, wailing, while
RUFUS and EDRED stagger under the weight of a huge
wooden cross.

OUTLAWS IN CHORUS: Sin! Lord save us from sin! Punish


the wicked!
CROWD: Gasp and recoil in shock and no little disgust.
SHERIFF: Still on his feet. Shouting. Be off, the lot of you,
or I’ll show you what a true whip feels like.
PRINCE JOHN: Turning to the Sheriff. Penitents at a picnic?
Isn’t this a trifle too wacky, My Lord Sheriff?
WILL SCARLET: Sin! Punish the wicked!
MUCH: Screw the high and mighty!
SEBALD: Them bankers wi’their snouts i’ the trough – string
‘em up wi’ their fine bootlaces!
CERDIC: ’Ellfire awaits all sinners, except them poor sods
faced wi’negative equity.
RUFUS: Unless they’re still runnin, their four-wheel drives.
EDRID: Beware the day o’grudgment!
BELEME: Stepping from the platform, his sword drawn. I’ll
give you repentance fourfold, you miserable curs. Guards!
Arrest the lot of them. Skewer the first who tries to object.
PRINCE JOHN: Nay, cool it, My Lord…So long as they keep
their distance and give sin a break for an hour…We do not
wish to bring their curses upon us.
SEBALD: The ’eavens bless Good Prince John. The other
outlaws nod and say ‘Aye!’
PRINCE JOHN: Flattered. Now settle down and ease off on
the old scourging. No wailing, mind, and if you must pray,
keep it to a whisper lest you put our master archers off their
aim.
WILL: Beckons to his fellow penitents to sit on the ground
down the centre aisle or to each side of the audience. Edred
and Rufus rest their wooden cross. May the silver arrow be
won by the pure and godly, Sire.
PRINCE JOHN: Indeed it will… Sir Roger, bring on the prize.

Roger exits stage left and returns with the Silver Arrow on a
silken cushion. He presents it to Prince John who raises the
silver arrow to gasps from the crowd.

LADY REINAULT: I embroidered the cushion myself. And


much good it’s done me.
SHERIFF: As aside. His Excellency still hopes Robin Hood
will turn up to claim the prize.
LADY REINAULT: Has it ever occurred to you he might be
among us now? She gazes around her. Though looking at
some of the scumbags assembled here today, I doubt it.
PRINCE JOHN: Whoever wins this unique treasure will
command a place in the golden tapestry of myth and legend,
for he will be the greatest, and all other contenders –
whatever their claims to mastery – will fade into the shadows
of history.

The lights begin to fade. There is music, and all the


characters freeze in to a tableau. Darkness.

Scene 9

Still in darkness.
ROGER: Round one – weapons at the ready.
LOFTY: Targets in place, Sire.
SHORTY: One o’them’s wobbly, Sir Rog.
ROGER: Don’t call me Rog! Use your wits, man, prop it up
with something.
ROGER: Contestants, step to the line on my command.
SHORTY: I can’t find nothin’, Sir Rog.
ROGER: Then prop it up with your hands. From Shorty there
is a mumbling protest. What did you say?
LOFTY: He don’t want to get shafted, Sire.
BELEME: Shouting. Do it, Shorty, or you’ll be a head shorter
by nightfall.
ROGER: Gentlemen, to the victor the spoils!
We hear the flight of arrows, some striking the targets.
LOFTY: Hit a pigeon, Mi Lord!
ROGER: Disqualified.
The arrows continue to fly.
SHORTY: Two pigeons.
LOFTY: No, it were a barn own.
SHORTY: Hey, that one put a partin’ in me ‘air!
The flight of arrows quickens.
LOFTY: That old man’s sharper ‘n Rooney [or any other
famous striker of his day].
CROWD: Cheers.

Now a spotlight picks out ALAN-A-DALE who steps to the


front of the stage. As he speaks the sound of arrows
continues, accompanied by the gasps, cheers and clapping of
the CROWD.

ALAN-A-DALE: All but three contenders for the Silver Arrow


have been eliminated. Never has there been archery like it.
ALAN-A-DALE (Cont.): The arrows of the Sheriff’s man,
Hubert of Wisbech, share the honour with the Prince’s
marksman, Henry the Squint of Driencourt. Pause. And
with…have you guessed? – Old Oddin from Darley Dale.

Full stage lighting returns.

ROGER: Commanding. Bring the target!

LOFTY and SHORTY enter from the wings carrying the


target in which three arrows compete for the bullseye while
one arrow still lodges in Shorty’s hat. They display the target
to the CROWD and the audience. The CROWD gasps. Marian
and Eleanor clap enthusiastically.

LITTLE JOHN: Oddin got the bullseye!


TUCK: An ’oly miracle!
WILL: It’s ge-nius!
MUCH: Dead centre!
CERDIC: As good as Robin Hood!
SWAYN: Better!
PRINCE JOHN: Bullseye? – impossible! To Roger. Sir Roger,
check the arrows.
EDRED: It were a true aim, Johnny lad!
RUFUS: Truer!
Sir Roger strides towards the target.
LITTLE JOHN: A shoot-off – there’ll have to be a shoot-off!
LADY REINAULT: We could be here all day!
SHERIFF: My man was closest to the bullseye.
Sir Roger returns from the target, shaking his head.
TUCK: A shoot-off, it’s only fair.
THE REST OF THE OUTLAWS: A shoot-off.
WILL: Or we start a-wailing –
CERDIC: An’a-groanin’
SWAYN: An’a-scourgin’.
ROGER: Approaching the PRINCE. Sire, I smell a rat. No
starving geriatric could fire an arrow as this Oddin has.
PRINCE JOHN: Aside. I too have the stench in my nostrils.
ROBIN: Anybody got a rag to swab an old codger’s face?
MARIAN: Here, bold yeoman, I would not have your aim
spoilt by a drop of honest sweat – use my kerchief.

She holds the handkerchief up, giving it a mischievous wave.

ROBIN: Bowing. Me Lady, such a h-onour [sounding the ‘h’]


makes me quite quiver…wi’joy, an’ I shall cherish this
moment more than tekkin’ a score o’ the King’s deer. To
Prince John reassuringly. Deer in me dreams, Me Lord. He
bows again and limpingly approaches Marian. He takes the
handkerchief, presses it to his cheek. Lady, I am
intoxificated! He grasps her hand and kisses it.
CROWD: Gasp. Aaah!
MARIAN: May your aim be true, good Yeoman.
ROBIN: And yours too, Me Lady. There is a long pause as
each stares meaningfully at the other. May the bright spirits
of the greenwood garland your hair with blessins.

There is a cheer from the outlaws.

BELEME: Standing, his hand angry on his sword. Excellency,


this villain deserves a whipping for speaking thus to my lady.
PRINCE JOHN: Calm yourself, Beleme. Odden merely jests
to provoke his betters.
BELEME: He’ll have his throat cut for such a jest.
PRINCE JOHN: Low. We shall have our way with him in
good time, Beleme. Be patient. He pauses, stands. Very well
– a tie it is. So far. To the archers. Gentlemen – a proposal.
Such sport as we have seen has no further use of mere
targets. Raising his voice for all to hear. We shall have the
splitting of the cane!
CROWD: Gasps. Splittin the cane!
BELEME: Brilliant, Excellency. None but Henry of Driencourt
has ever split the cane.
SHERIFF: My Hubert did once.
HUBERT: At thirty paces, My Lord. But I am game.
PRINCE JOHN: None ever split the cane at fifty paces as
you did, eh, Henry? I remember the day well, in Angouleme.
My wife had a choking fit and nearly died. Peaches and cider
– a cruel combination. Alas luck played me foul and she
recovered.
HENRY: Hesitantly. Sire, on that occasion as I recall there
was not a breath of wind –
PRINCE JOHN: True, and the light was a miracle of clarity,
while the evening here is closing in.
ROBIN: Then let’s to it, Me Lord, or the roast ox ye
promised’ll end up burnt to a cinder.
PRINCE JOHN: I promised a roast ox? He glances at the
Sheriff.
SHERIFF: You sort of mentioned it, Majesty. For the
common folk.
PRINCE JOHN: Be sure to charge it to Abbot Hugo’s
account. For a moment he is in spotlight, while the rest of
the stage is dimmed. He speaks intimately to the audience. I
am not blind or deaf, or stupid. If this old man fires true,
then Robin Hood will be Prince John’s prisoner. We shall have
him hang from the castle walls and sliced into quarters
before nightfall. As for these Penitents, roast ox is off the
menu and I’ll have them gorge on the entrails of their
master. The lights return. Very well, the Silver Arrow shall go
to he who splits the cane. Sir Roger.
ROGER: Shrugs. My Lord. To LOFTY and SHORTY. Bring on
the canes.
LOFTY: Rasberry –
SHORTY: Or green beans?
LITTLE JOHN: So long as it’s not hurri-canes, lads. The
CROWD laugh as Lofty and Shorty return in to the wings.
PRINCE JOHN: Sits, turns jovially to glance at the Sheriff.
Would you have a wager, My Lord Sheriff, my man for yours?
SHERIFF: Sire, I hesitate to –
PRINCE JOHN: Done. A hundred marks, the price on the
head of Robin Hood.
LITTLE JOHN: One gold piece on Oddun splittin the cane.
TUCK: Oddun for gold!
PRINCE JOHN: And what say you, My Lord Beleme?
BELEME: Ten gold pieces, My Lord, is all I can afford.
PRINCE JOHN: A measly sum. Nay, I will settle for a dance
with your lively bride come the evening’s festivities. To
Marian. And you, my dear, seeing that your kerchief was
offered with such alacrity to this old Odden, might you
chance your maidenhead on the accuracy of his aim?
MARIAN: If it would nurse my father back to health, My
Lord.

Lofty and Shorty return with a bundle of canes over their


shoulders. They lay this down. Lofty takes out one cane,
looks to Prince John.

PRINCE JOHN: Thinner.


CROWD: Gasp.
Shorty now makes a choice.
PRINCE JOHN: Thinner.
CROWD: Gasp more loudly.
PRINCE JOHN: Is that the best you can do?
LOFTY: Any thinner, Your Worship –
SHORTY: An’ it wouldn’t prop an ’ollycock.
ROBIN: Odds-bodkins, Johnny Lackland, do you delay the
competition in the ’ope old age teks me off afore I can win
the Silver Arrow?
PRINCE JOHN: I promise ‘old age’ won’t be written on your
death certificate, Odden of Darley Dale.
ROGER: Paces, Sire?
PRINCE JOHN: Fifty.
CROWD: In awe. Fifty!
ROGER: To Lofty and Shorty. Which one of you can count?
SHORTY: Me, I got GCSE in Arithmeticals.
PRINCE JOHN: Good, you do the counting, Shorty, but let
Lofty do the pacing. Go to it!
SHORTY: Right, Your Excellency. They step into the wings
and we hear Shorty counting out. Four, six, fifteen, twenty-
four, nine…
PRINCE JOHN: Oh my God, what’s happened to numeracy
in this country?
ROGER: I’d better do the job myself, Sire. He now paces off
stage. The lights fade. Alan steps into a spotlight. The lyrical
music of earlier scenes returns.
ALAN: As dusk deepens over field and forest, the worlds of
men and nature hold their breath. Three marksmen who
know no equal past or present draw the strings that will
affirm or deny their greatness. The spotlight swiftly picks out
Eleanor.
ELEANOR: You do have a lovely turn of phrase, troubadour.
LADY REINAULT: In darkness. He does indeed. Not to
mention a bottom to die for.
As the music fades, a drumroll takes over.
ROGER: Returning from the wings and in shadow. My Lord
Sheriff’s man…Hubert of Wisbech – step forward. You have
one arrow only. Take aim and in your own time – fire.

Drumroll, then the sound of the arrow spinning through the


air.

CROWD: Gasp loudly.


ROGER: A miss.
SHERIFF: Protesting. By a whisker – the wind blew it off
course!
PRINCE JOHN: A palpable miss! In this life, Lord Sheriff,
quality will out. Step forward, Henry of Driencourt, let glory
and riches be yours.
ROGER: Henry of Driencourt, you may take aim.
PRINCE JOHN: Do not rush him.
LADY REINAULT: He stepped over the line!
PRINCE JOHN: As you seem determined to do, My Lady.
Lord Sheriff – a bridle on your woman’s tongue would not
come amiss. Henry, stay calm, there will be no more
interruptions.
WILL: That counts as encouragement in my book.
LITTLE JOHN: Looks after ‘is own, does Johnny Lackland.
ROGER: Henry of Driencourt, are you ready to fire?
HENRY: Proudly, puffing out his chest. Sixty paces, My
Lords.
CROWD: Gasps. Sixty!
PRINCE JOHN: Amazed and uncertain. Sixty?
ROBIN: Seventy-five.
CROWD: Gasps louder.
HENRY: Eighty.
CROWD: Gasps louder still.
ROBIN: Ninety-nine point nine.
BELEME: My Lord, the rascal is taking us for a ride.
SHERIFF: Poking fun at his superiors, My Lord. Only the
Good Shepherd himself could split the cane at that distance.
ROGER: Sire?
MARIAN: Old Odden has spoken, My Lords: one hundred
paces.
TUCK: Would that be in yards or metres, Your
Grandiloquence?
LADY REINAULT: Let him fire – it’s only fair!
ELEANOR: We are unanimous, My Lord!
PRINCE JOHN: Very well, as the ladies insist, one hundred
and ten paces – the number of days till my birthday.
LADY REINAULT: You told me it was yesterday.
PRINCE JOHN: Stride out, Sir Roger.
The spotlight falls on Henry as Roger returns into the wings.
LADY REINAULT: Low. He’s still got his toe over the line.
A more prolonged drumroll. Henry fires and once more we
hear the haunting whistle of the arrow. For dramatic
purposes this is extended in time, as will Robin’s arrow later.
CROWD: Gasp, whistle.
PRINCE JOHN: A hit! The stage lights return.
ROGER: Appearing from the wings. Missed by
millicentimetre, My Lord – but brought down a red squirrel.
SEBALD: Isn’t that a protected species?
PRINCE JOHN: Then he must try again, for My Lady
Reinault broke his concentration.
CROWD: No, no second chances.
WILL: Let Old Oddun ’ave’is turn.
LITTLE JOHN: Aye, afore ’is artheritis gets the best of ’im.
TUCK: An’ the rumbin’ o’ me stomach puts ’im off ’is aim.
PRINCE JOHN: To Marian. You are smiling, Madam. Could
that stinking old man mean more to you than an object of
pity? With these words, the outlaws scent danger. The
increased number of soldiers on stage has been observed.
Prince John signals to Roger. Odden may fire, but let it be
quick, I am fast tiring of this whole charade. As he speaks
Will nods at Much and Sebald who rise slowly to their feet
and edge towards the rear of the platform, their target,
Beleme.

The stage lights dim and Alan appears once more in the
spotlight.

ALAN: Such is the silence as Old Odden steps to the line


that the rustle of blossom can be heard a league away.
ROGER: Take aim, Master Odden –
PRINCE JOHN: Low to Beleme. Your men are in place, My
Lord?
BELEME: They await your signal, Sire.
ROBIN: Forgetting his accent. Tut, tut, My Lord Prince –
would you disturb an old man’s concentration with your
mumbling?
PRINCE JOHN: Rising dramatically from his seat. You have
fired your last arrow on this earth…Robin Hood!
CROWD: Gasps, in awe. Robin Hood?
LADY REINAULT: I think I am going to faint. Is it truly
Robin Hood?
SHERIFF: Aye, the villain of Sherwood.
PRINCE JOHN: Beleme – arrest this dissembler, and round
up his pestilential penitents.

Scene 10

BELEME is about to stand and give orders to the guards


when he is grasped from behind by MUCH.

MUCH: Sit, My Lord, for this dagger is hungry for your


throat.
BELEME: Sits, a prisoner. Vermin!
MUCH: Shut it, lest you want a patch over both eyes.
PRINCE JOHN: Sir Roger, order your men to fire!
Roger is now the prisoner of Sebald.
SEBALD: Easy, Sir Rog or somethin’ funny’ll ‘appen to yer
funny bone.
ROGER: Sire, I…Drops his head.
PRINCE JOHN: Cowards all!
LITTLE JOHN: Stands, discards his womanly weeds,
mounts the stage with his crutch now held as a club. Loudly,
commandingly. Let Master Odden fire ’is shaft, Johnny-O.
PRINCE JOHN: Nodding. The infamous Little John, I might
have guessed.
TUCK: Not forgetting Friar Tuck, My Lord. He too discards
his women’s clothes, draws his sword and plants a heavy
foot on the stage steps.
PRINCE JOHN: The drunken prelate, grown fat on the royal
deer.
TUCK: God’s deer, O Prince. There be no privileges for
royalty in heaven.
PRINCE JOHN: Nor in hell, where you will be despatched,
Friar, after I have personally removed your tongue.
ROBIN: Commandingly. Heaven or hell, Johnny Lackland,
shall Old Odden of Darley Dale’ave his turn ’afore the day
grows black as your reputation?
PRINCE JOHN: Sits sullenly. Very well, Outlaw. Your shaft
will sign the death warrant of Robin Hood.
ROBIN: Bowing. God bless ’ee, kind sir.
WILL: As himself. Split the cane, Robin!
CROWD: Split the cane! Split the cane, Robin Hood!
ROBIN: You flatter an old man, my friends. He licks a
finger, holds it up into the breeze, nods and smiles. I’m
thinking how many poor folks’ dinners that Silver Arrow’ll
pay for.
The drumroll begins.
LITTLE JOHN: Show ‘em you’re the best, Old Odden.
TUCK: Better than the best.
CROWD: Loudly. One!
ROBIN: Don’t rush me.
CROWD: Two!
CERDIC: Two and a half!
CROWD: Three!

All the lights go out. We hear, greatly amplified, the flight of


Robin’s arrow. It could pursue its course with the zip of a
modern rocket, an exocet or a cruise missile. Then there is a
breathless silence.

ROGER: Calling into the wings. The cane is split?


LOFTY: Off. Split as split can be.
SHORTY: Off. Couldn’t be splitter.

CROWD: Responds with a great cheer and applause. The


cane is split! The Silver Arrow is won! The lights return, to
reveal that Prince John has seized both Marian and the Silver
Arrow, which he now holds to Marian’s throat.
PRINCE JOHN: Not so fast, unless you want this fair jewel
to bleed all over Sherwood.

The crowd, with the exception of soldiers and the outlaws,


fling themselves to the ground in fear. There is absolute
silence.

The boot is on the other foot now, eh, Robin Hood? What’s
the deal, outlaw – your life for that of your lady fair?
Addressing the audience. Here ends the fairy tale of Robin
Hood. The troubadours will have to re-write their shooting
scripts, tinker with their titillating tales. To Robin. We’ll shake
the golden apples from the tree of legend, villain, and the
world will see you as you really are – a petty thief fit only for
the hangman’s noose. The game is up! Beleme, arrest the
whole stinking lot of them.
BELEME: It will be my pleasure, Excellency. He pushes away
Much’s dagger. To the outlaws. Drop your weapons. They
lower them slowly, reluctantly to the ground.
SHERIFF: Good grief, Sire. He points into the wings. My
brother Hugo back from the dead!

Naked, except for a flag of St. George around his waist,


ABBOT HUGO stumbles on to the stage.

HUGO: Appealing to Prince John. My Lord Prince, I was


milked of every penny. They’ve filched the very deeds of St.
Mary’s Abbey, not to mention stripping me to my knickers.
He points accusingly to Robin. By that blackguard!
ROBIN: Bowing towards Hugo. Old Odden, Sir – at your
service.
MARIAN: My Lord, have you forgotten something?
PRINCE JOHN: Not a thing, this tale concludes exactly as I
had planned it.

Suddenly MARIAN stamps on Prince John’s foot, at the same


time swivelling round and kneeing him with great energy in
the crutch, forcing him to drop the Silver Arrow, which she
kicks to the side of the platform. The dagger she had
planned to use on Isambarde de Beleme is out now. The
guards advance but Marian is commanding.

MARIAN: Stand back, or Prince John will meet his maker


before you can say Magna Carta.

The outlaws slowly retrieve their weapons. The crowd rises,


hesitantly, to its knees, and one or two stand.

PRINCE JOHN: Stooped in agony. Magna Carta? Never


heard of her.
LADY REINAULT: There come more from Sherwood. I
recognise that face.
ELEANOR: Marian – it’s your father.
ALAN-A-DALE: Back from the dead.
BELEME: Oh God, we are ruined.
CROWD: Sir Robert!
They begin to clap as SIR ROBERT enters slowly and
unsteadily from the wings, assisted by SISTER AGNES and
followed by the PRIORESS, giving him extra support. Gentle
and emotional music accompany them.
LITTLE JOHN: Aye, my good friend, the Prisoner of Evil
Hold. A miracle to have survived Beleme’s dungeon.

He becomes Prince John’s jailer as Marian walks between the


mercenaries, the outlaws and the crowd towards her father.

MARIAN: Father!
SIR ROBERT: Little Goose!
MARIAN: Is this a dream?
AGNES: Not a bit of it, Marian. Your Dad’s as tough as old
boots. And he’s just beat me at backgammon.
PRIORESS: ‘Beaten’. Agnes, not ‘ beat’.

Marian and Sir Robert embrace, and the CROWD goes


‘Aagh’.

PRINCE JOHN: Sloppy sentimental slush! Wrenches away


from Little John’s grasp. Loudly, commandingly. Have at
them men! Drown the beggars in blood!
All at once, there is mayhem as the mercenaries of John
clash with the Outlaws of Sherwood. BELEME, his sword
drawn, makes for ROBIN. Combat is fierce. The whole scene
should be a thrilling set-to but also a sort of ballet, a
carnival, with comedy moments.

MARIAN: Excuse me, father.


SIR ROBERT: Be my guest, Little Goose.
Marian joins in the scrum, wielding a wooden staff.
MARIAN: Come on, Ellie – get some exercise.
Eleanor joins in.
ELEANOR: Agnes, kid – come on, Every Little Helps.
AGNES: Joining in. Why not? Better than Vespers!
LADY REINAULT: Count me in. We girls must stick
together! She joins in.

The swordfight between ROBIN and BELEME has gone from


stage to audience, fiercely continuing up the aisle to the rear
of the theatre, then through the entrance doors. We hear the
clash of steel and then a cry of pain.

The battle freezes as all the combatants look to see who has
triumphed, ROBIN or BELEME. A cheer goes up as ROBIN
returns.

MARIAN: Robin, are you hurt?


ROBIN: Nothing a tender kiss wouldn’t heal.

He returns to the stage, slips his arm round Marian; together


they approach Sir Robert and Robin shakes his hand.

CROWD: Cheers.
AGNES: With delight. Oh goody, a wedding – in the
greenwood.
PRIORESS: Be silent, Agnes.
ALAN-A-DALE: Taking Eleanor’s hand. Two weddings. He
bows toward SIR RALPH. By your leave, Sir Ralph.
The outlaws look warningly towards Sir Ralph who is still
dozing in his chair.
ROBIN: Sir Ralph, what say you?
SIR RALPH: Oh yes, yes – tikki marsupial, my dear, but go
lightly on the basmartha.
ELEANOR: I will not have you, Sir Ralph, but I will show you
no disrespect.
SIR RALPH: Stands, looks about him. He points to Sir
Robert. Sir Robert, my old buddy – is that you? A game of
chequers, man, a stoup of ale and a pipe by the fire’ll make
me well content.
SIR ROBERT: A bottle of Glenfidick would be my
preference, dear friend.
RALPH: And Ellie, my chick – bed your troubadour, if it
pleases you.
PRINCE JOHN: And give up the fortunes of the De Luces in
favour of a swineherd with pretensions to banjo playing that
would curdle milk? Has the world lost its marbles? Pauses.
Incidentally, who’s nicked my silver arrow?
ROBIN: My silver arrow, Johnny Lackland.
LADY REINAULT: Hand it over, Husband, or there’ll be no
nibbles for you tonight.

The SHERIFF sheepishly draws the arrow from his sleeve


and returns it to the Prince, only for LITTLE JOHN to seize
it from his grasp.

WILL: Old Odden’s arrow, Johnny boy!

LITTLE JOHN slips the arrow into the quiver over ROBIN’S
shoulder.

LITTLE JOHN: Only to be fired in the name o’liberty, Robin.

ROBIN: Grasps and shakes LITTLE JOHN’S hand. Or to


protect a friend, Little John. He turns, addressing Prince
John, the crowd and the audience. A truce, my lord. Enough
of conflict, at least while this spring night lasts…A celebration
of all that remains free and pure and honest and joyful.

As he speaks the music of enchantment sets the cast in the


first, slow steps of a dance. The scene becomes a tableau.

MARIAN: For one spring night, My Lord – a world turned


upside down.
PRINCE JOHN: To Robin. Eggs Benedict for breakfast?
ROBIN: It can be arranged.
The dance quickens, involving all on stage.
HUGO: Do I smell a roast?
AGNES: Bags I get some crackling!
PRINCE JOHN: All right, just this once, a bit of escapist
nonsense – but back to the grizzly in the morning!
AGNES: Taking his arm. The first dance, My Lord Prince.

The music quickens. All the cast take partners: HUGO with
the PRIORESS, while SIR RALPH and SIR ROBERT sit on
the platform and chat. The women in the crowd are invited
to join the dance by the outlaws, though those left over can
dance with each other. The archers, HENRY and HUBERT
partner each other as do LOFTY and SHORTY who take it in
turns to give a whirl to SIR ROGER.
ROBIN has stacked his bow and quiver of arrows against a
tree, and he and MARIAN join the dance; after a few
moments, they pause towards the front of the stage and
form an arch through which all the cast, in twos, pass
through the audience. PRINCE JOHN alone, hesitates, only
to be given a kick through by MARIAN.

Robin and Marian are left alone on stage. The rest of the cast
pause, turn towards the stage and applause as hero and
heroine embrace. The lights fade to darkness, and as they
do so, we hear PRINCE JOHN’s guttural laugh.

A spotlight picks him out. He is grinning as he draws the


silver arrow from under his jewelled jerkin.

PRINCE JOHN: Suckers!

THE END

The author is happy to give permission to schools,


youth theatre groups and amateur dramatic societies
for his play to be read or produced, without charge. He
would hope that, as a courtesy, he is informed of any
public performance. Professional theatres and
commercial publishers should contact the author at
the following email address:
Watsonworks@hotmail.co.uk

Thank you – and enjoy the magic of Sherwood!

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