The Play of Robin Hood and the Friar

The survival of the play ‘Robin Hood and the Friar’ and ‘Robin Hood and the Potter’, is due to the decision by William Copland to append them to his edition of the Mery Geste of Robyn Hoode c.1560 (see Printed Sources for the Tales of Robin Hood). Copland described the two plays on the title page of this edition, as ‘a newe playe for to be played in Maye games very plesaunte and full of pastyme’. He actually published without a break in the text, two seperate plays: the first is based on a version of the ballad Robin Hood and the Curtal Friar; and the second was derived from the opening stanzas of the ballad Robin Hood and the Potter. Copland had probably published his ‘Play of Robyn Hoode’ in a sperate edition prior to his publication of the Gest, however no copy has survived.(1) Towards the end of ‘Robin Hood and the Friar,’ Robin presents Friar Tuck with a ‘lady free’, possibly the Maid Marian of the Morris dances, in which she usually partners the Friar.

1. The play of Robin Hood entered in the Stationer’s Register on 30 October 1560 (Aber, I, 152) was probably identical to Copland’s ‘newe play’ (Chambers, Elizabethan Stage, IV, 44).

Source: Sigs. H 2v-H 4v of William Copland’s edition of A Mery Geste of Robyn Hoode, printed at Three Cranes Wharf, London, c. 1560 (British Library copy, press-mark C. 21. c. 63).

Other Editions: Appended to Edward White’s edition of A Merry Jest of Robin Hood, printed at London, c. 1590 (Bodleian Library, Oxford, Z. 3. Art. Seld.); Ritson, 1795, II, 192-8; Gutch, 1847, II, 52-7; Child, 1888, III, 127-8; J.M. Manly, Specimens of the Pre-Shaksperean Drama (Boston, 1897), I, 281-5; Malone Society, Collections I, Part 2 (Oxford, 1908), pp.127-32; Old English Drama, Students Facsimile Edition, ed., J. S. Farmer (Amersham, 1914); F. J. Tickner, ed., Earlier English Drama from Robin Hood to Everyman (London, 1926), pp. 17-20; Rymes of Robyn Hood, Dobson and Taylor, 1976, pp. 208-14.