By Lucas Mikael Darche Aykroyd
[Snip] The linked themes of deception and impersonation have played a key role in the literary tradition of Robin Hood since its medieval inception. Especially in the earliest works, it is not just that the legendary English outlaw’s reputation as a popular hero relies heavily on his talent for fooling his enemies. In such representative ballads as the seminal A Gest of Robyn Hood and “Robin Hood and the Monk,” “Robin Hood and the Potter,” and “Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne,” as well as in the play fragment Robin Hood and the Sheriff, both Robin and those who support him use deception and impersonation for more than merely avoiding danger or gaining material benefits. People who become Robin’s supporters seem to gain from him the ability to be effective tricksters, fabricating cunning stories and wearing disguises with skill similar to that of Robin himself. And such trickery often furnishes ironic or subversive commentary on the conventions of medieval English society. Robin’s subversiveness is not aimed at overthrowing or reforming society’s institutions, but often calls into question the validity of the authority exercised at the intermediate levels of the social hierarchy. The corruption of society is emphasized in order to justify Robin’s lawbreaking. In turn, as I shall argue, the subversive narrative represents a way to fulfill the revenge fantasies of the popular audience that can be inferred from the anti-authortarian content of these few surviving works.
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