In the late fifteenth century, Robin became associated with the May Games. Maid Marian appears as the May Queen in the sixteenth century, where the two came together, Maid Marian as queen of May, Robin as her king. The poet Alexander Barclay, writing about 1513-4, is the first person known to mention Robin Hood and Marian together, but he suggests the two stories are still separate.
|Yet would I gladly hear some merry fytte|
|Of Maid Marian, or else of Robin Hood.|
There are References to a Robin and Marion in the French pastoral play Robin et Marion written about 1283, by Adam de la Halle. The shepardess Marion resists the advances of a knight, and remains loyal to her lover Robin, this story became attached to the May Games in France. An English poet John Gower, wrote Mirour de l’ omme, in 1376-79, this long poem written in French, has Robin and Marion participating in rustic revelry. The French Robin and Marion were probably the basis for the later Robin and Marian of the English May Games, in which a friar also appears as a character.
Anthony Munday wrote two plays in 1598, The Downfall of Robert Earl of Huntington and The Death of Robert Earl of Huntington. Munday makes Robin a fictitious earl in the reign of Richard I. He appears to be following Richard Grafton, who in his Chronicle at Large written 1569, mentions Robin as a disinherited earl. Munday may have derived the date for his earl from John Major, who in his History of Greater Britain written 1521, places Robin in the reign of Richard I. In Munday’s first play Matilda daughter of Robert Fitz walter is persecuted by King John, she follows Robin to the greenwood where she changes her name to Maid Marian. In the second play Matilda is preyed upon by the lecherous King John who poisons her at Dunmow Priory. Munday’s work influenced later writers, who added more changes to the story.
In about 1599, Shakespeare wrote of Robin Hood in his play As You Like It:
They say he is already in the forest of Arden, and a many merry men with him; and there they live like the old Robin Hood of England.
In the British Library there survives the earliest known prose ‘Life’ of Robin Hood, in a manuscript which formed part of the Sloane collection. This was rescued from obscurity by Joseph Ritson, who used it for the introduction to his first edition of Robin Hood in 1795. The Sloane manuscript is believed to have been written in the late sixteenth century, probably before the plays by Anthony Munday, and it seems to rely on the theories of John Major. Its only new contribution is to give Robin a birthplace – Locksley.