English Law and the Outlaw: Resistance and Contempt
Keywords:Robin Hood, outlawry, violence, English law
This article compares the actions and charges against characters in early Robin Hood tales to historical accounts of individuals charged with outlawry. The commonality between the tales of Robin Hood and historic charges of outlawry is the idea of being in contempt of court through non-appearance. Historic individuals charged with outlawry could have all their liberties under common law removed, their lands and goods confiscated by the crown, and they could be seized and taken to prison without warning. The literary Robin Hood’s experiences mirror those of these historic individuals, and comparison between tales and history demonstrate the range of behaviors audiences found plausible: wrongful charges, untrustworthy officials, plaintiffs who challenged their charges while imprisoned, and those who fought charges from outside the system as outlaws.
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