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The first record of a Robin Hood game was in 1426 in Exeter, but the reference does not indicate how old or widespread this custom was at the time.The Robin Hood games are known to have flourished in the later 15th and 16th centuries.A complaint of 1492, brought to the Star Chamber, accuses men of acting riotously by coming to a fair as Robin Hood and his men; the accused defended themselves on the grounds that the practice was a long-standing custom to raise money for churches, and they had not acted riotously but peaceably.It is from the association with the May Games that Robin's romantic attachment to Maid Marian (or Marion) apparently stems.No extant ballad early actually shows Robin Hood 'giving to the poor', although in a "A Gest of Robyn Hode" Robin does make a large loan to an unfortunate knight, which he does not in the end require to be repaid; As it happens the next traveller is not poor, but it seems in context that Robin Hood is stating a general policy.The first explicit statement to the effect that Robin Hood habitually robbed from the rich to give the poor can be found in John Stow's Annales of England (1592), about a century after the publication of the Gest.It has been argued that the fact that the surviving ballads were preserved in written form in itself makes it unlikely they were typical; in particular, stories with an interest for the gentry were by this view more likely to be preserved.
In the early ballad, Robin's men usually kneel before him in strict obedience: in A Gest of Robyn Hode the king even observes that '' Their social status, as yeomen, is shown by their weapons; they use swords rather than quarterstaffs.The only character to use a quarterstaff in the early ballads is the potter, and Robin Hood does not take to a staff until the 17th century Robin Hood and Little John. Holt that the Robin Hood legend was cultivated in the households of the gentry, and that it would be mistaken to see in him a figure of peasant revolt.The political and social assumptions underlying the early Robin Hood ballads have long been controversial. He is not a peasant but a yeoman, and his tales make no mention of the complaints of the peasants, such as oppressive taxes.the latter is more comic, its plot involving trickery and cunning rather than straightforward force.Other early texts are dramatic pieces, the earliest being the fragmentary Robyn Hod and the Shryff off Notyngham (c. These are particularly noteworthy as they show Robin's integration into May Day rituals towards the end of the Middle Ages; Robyn Hod and the Shryff off Notyngham, among other points of interest, contains the earliest reference to Friar Tuck.
Since then, Wright has gone from the damsel in distress to roles that allow her to show off a distinctly stronger side.