Robin and Marion (Le Jeu de Robin et de Marion)

The author of Le Jeu de Robin et de Marion, was known as Adam d’ Arras, Adam de la Halle (Adan de le Hale) or (Adan le Bochu or Bocu). Most scholars tend to disagree with each other over the the scant details of his life, even the name is a problem. Adam was born in Arras, and was generally known as Adam (Adan) or Adam de la Halle (Adan de le Halle), meaning ‘of the market’. This suggests that he was born or lived near the market in Arras, a prosperous city in Northern France; known for it’s patronage of poetic entertainment from a large and literate middle class. He was also referred to as Adam le Bocu (Bochu) or Adam the Hunchback, although there is no proof that he had such an affliction. The dates of his birth and death are uncertain, but he was probably born some time between 1237 and 1250, and believed by many to have died some time between 1285 and 1288. It appears likely however, that he was still alive in 1306.(1)Adam married a young sweetheart named Maroie in 1262, and as a poet and playwright, he became well known. As an active member of the organization the Puy of Arras, he became accquainted with many artists and was himself supported by a number of patrons. Apart from Robin et Marion, Adam is best know for his Play of Madness, and for his poems called Conges, but he also wrote a number of songs, rondeaux as well as several motets. He also wrote a Dit d’ Amour and some stanzas on death, Vers de la Mort, and an unfinished Le Roi de Sicile.

It is believed that Adam composed Robin et Marion (possibly in Naples)  in about 1283, when he was poet and musician to Robert II, Count of Artois, during the Count’s stay in Southern Italy. The play could almost be described as a musical comedy, and is in Adam’s native Arras dialect. Three medieval manuscripts of the play survive, and one of them has all of Adam’s known works. This one manuscript has an expanded version of the play, which appears to have been revised for a performance in Arras, shortly after Adam’s death in Sicily. It has already been mentioned that the medieval French pastourelles (of which Robin et Marion is a dramatized version) were probably the basis for the Robin and Marian of the English May Games.

1. The English Medieval Minstrel, John Southworth, p. 72 (The Boydell Press, 1989): ‘Adenet was to be followed in 1306 by the composer and playwright, Adam de la Hale, from the French Court of Naples, who appears under his popular name of Adam le Bossu in a list of entertainers at the Pentecost feast at Westminster in that year’; Nigel Wilkins, Music in the Age of Chaucer, Chaucer Studies, 1, pp. 3, 4, 141, (D. S. Brewer, Cambridge, 1979). For the assembly at Whitsuntide 1306 at Westminster, see Public Record Office, Exchequer Roll E101/369/6; see C. Bullock-Davies, Menestrellorum MultitudoMinstrels at a Royal Feast, University of Wales Press, 1978. For the listing of Maistre Adam le Boscu, see Annales Londoniensis, ed. W. Stubbs, 1882. For the suggestion that Adam did live to see the dawn of the fourteenth century, see F. Gegou, ‘Adam le Bossu etait-il mort en 1288?’, in Romania LXXXVI (1965), 111-117; and N. Cartier, ‘La mort d’ Adam le Bossu, in Romania LXXXIX (1968), 116-124. We will never know if Adam’s presence at Westminster had any influence on the cult of Robin and Marian in England.

This page contains information found in Medieval French Plays, Richard Axton and John Stevens, (Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1971).

Source: Paris, B.N. fr.25.566.

Printed Editions: Le Jeu de Robin et de Marion, Kenneth Varty, (George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd); Le Jeu de Robin et Marion, E. De Boccard, (Paris, 1923); Medieval French Plays, Richard Axton and John Stevens, (Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1971).