The medieval Robin Hood ballads and the Robin Hood games of early modern festal customs are both inextricably bound up with ideas of community and companionship. The “performative turn” in recent scholarship reminds us that the combats and contests of both the ballads and the folk games are a central part of early modern customary drama, and such amicable feats of strength and competition add to both the community spirit and the improvisational nature of such calendar customs. Although Anthony Munday’s adaptation of the Robin Hood legend for the Elizabethan stage necessarily recasts this material significantly, Munday at the same time experiments with the thematic and dramatic forms of the earlier tradition. I argue that like other playwrights at the Rose engaged in experiments in popular theatre, Munday attempted an innovative reworking of popular material which engaged with his audience’s expectations, not to appropriate Robin Hood, but to recreate his legend afresh.
KEYWORDS: Robin Hood, Anthony Munday, popular culture, calendar customs, performance theory