Marion most bold : feminine transgression in the greenwood
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In my project, I focus on the role and depiction of women found in the Robin Hood greenwood: specifically, those of Maid Marian. Maid Marian rarely appears in early Robin Hood texts, and especially not in a capacity in which she herself speaks, so it is striking that today she has become almost as synonymous with the greenwood in Robin Hood tales as the man himself. Indeed, one of the rare instances in which Marian plays a lead role occurs in the seventeenth-century ballad “Robin Hood and Maid Marian,” which appears in only one manuscript, after the original Robin Hood ballads of the Middle Ages, and does not seem to have been popular. This seventeenth-century ballad allots Maid Marian an agency typically reserved only for Robin’s merry men. Though I agree that Marian exhibits certain transgressive behaviors, especially in “Robin Hood and Maid Marian,” by the end of Robin Hood texts—medieval, early modern, or otherwise—though the space of the greenwood allows a certain level of freedom for the men in the texts, the “good” women in the Robin Hood texts remain noble ladies who still act as they ought to even though they live outside the confines of civilized society. The same social rules of urban society continue to apply to them, and even in the few cases where the women get to demonstrate more traditionally masculine qualities, they still must end up back in their proper role at the end of the Robin Hood ballad or play.
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