This fragment of a genuine medieval Robin Hood play is written on the upper half of a half sheet of paper (8’’x10’’) containing household accounts from East Anglia dated May 1475-August 1475 and is kept at Trinity College, Cambridge, MS.R.2. 64 (fragment)
This verse play of twenty-one lines is possibly founded on the ballad of ‘Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne,’ although in this document, Robin’s opponent is not mentioned. But included for the first time in the outlaw gang, is ‘ffrere Tuck’. The manuscript was once part of the collection of ‘Paston Papers’ and therefore could be the very play mentioned in 1473 in a letter by Sir John Paston, where he described a re-absconding servant hired to play Robin Hood and Saint George, who had ‘goon into Bernysdale.’
The speakers are not identified in the fragmentary text, so any re-construction is conjectural.
Knight: Syr sheryffe, for thy sake,
Robyn Hode wull I take.
Sheriff: I wyll the gyffe golde and fee;
This be-hest thou holde me. [If you keep this pledge with me]
(The Sheriff leaves and Robin Hood is challenged by the bounty-hunting knight)
Knight: Robyn Hode, ffayre and fre,
Under this lynde shote we.
Robin: With the shot y wyll
Alle thy lustes to full-fyll.
(Robin and the knight fight)
Knight: Have at the pryke! [I shoot at the target]
Robin: And I cleve the styke. [And I cleave the wand]
Knight: Let us caste [throw] the stone.
Robin: I graunte well, be Seynt John!
(Robin wins again)
Knight: Let us caste the exaltre.
(They toss a wooden axle)
Robin: Have a foot before the!
Syr Knyght, ye have a falle.
(They wrestle and Robin wins)
Knight: And I the, Robyn, qwyte; [I shall quit you Robin]
Owte on the! I blow myn horne.
Robin: Hit ware better be un-borne: [better not to have been born]
Lat us fight at outtraunce. [let us fight to the uttermost]
He that fleth, God gyfe hym myschaunce!
(Robin kills the knight)
Robin: Now I have the maystry here,
Off I smyte this sory swyre. (Robin cuts off the knight’s head)
This knyghtys clothis wolle I were,
And in my hode his hede woll bere. (Robin disguises himself as the knight)
We are now with two unknown members of Robin’s band of outlaws, probably Little John and Will Scarlet . Outlaw 1 seems to meet Outlaw 2 as he approaches a conflict in the forest between Robin’s men and the Sheriff.
Outlaw 1: Welle mete, felowe myn,
What herst thou of gode Robyn?
Outlaw 2: Robyn Hode and his menye
With the sheryffe takyn be.
Outlaw 1: Sette on foote with gode wyll
And the sheryffe wull we kyll.
(The two outlaws watch the fight going on in the distance)
Outlaw 2: Be-holde wele Frere Tuke*
Howe he dothe his bowe pluke!
*First known mention of Friar Tuck amongst Robin Hood’s outlaw band
(The Sheriff enters with Friar Tuck and the other outlaws as prisoners: he addresses Little John and Scarlet)
Sheriff: Yeld yow, syrs, to the sheryffe,
Or ells shall your bowes clyffe. [be cut]
(Outlaws 1 and 2 surrender to the Sheriff)
Outlaw 1: Now we be bownden alle in same:
Frere Tuke, this is no game.
Sheriff: Come thou forth, thou fals outlawe,
Thou shall be hangyde and y-drawe. [hung and drawn]
Friar Tuck: Now, allas, what shall we doo?
We moste to the prysone goo.
Sheriff: Opyn the gatis faste anon,
And late theis thevys ynne gon. [and let these thieves go inside]