Performing Medieval Narrative Today

A Video Showcase

Robin Hood and the golden arrow, guitar accompaniment

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About the scene and clip:
The performer sings the ballad and accompanies himself on a guitar. (A fellow student serves as music stand from which the performer reads the words of the song.)

About the work:
Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow is one of many ballads about the legendary popular hero Robin Hood, yeoman outlaw, defender of the poor and weak against the rich and powerful. Such songs and tales arose in 14th-century England, and this ballad may have originated in the medieval Gest of Robyn Hode. The ballads tell of Robin Hood’s life and numerous adventures, and of his encounters with a wide array of characters. In this lengthy ballad, Robin Hood, dressed in red instead of green, and therefore unrecognized, bears away the prize of archery—the golden arrow—against the arrogant Sheriff of Nottingham. Robin Hood ballads continue to be sung today in the United Kingdom and in parts of the United States.

About the genre:
A ballad is a song that tells a story; ballads are often fairly long, composed of a dozen or more stanzas. Although many other songs, both long and short, also tell stories, the term “ballad” used in this particular sense dates from the late Middle Ages. Some late-medieval ballads and a great many early-modern ballads survive, some of them in multiple versions, and throughout the world. Documentation for ballad melodies is in general substantially later than for the texts.

About the edition/translation:
A recent edition of the text of this ballad is in Robin Hood and Other Outlaw Tales, ed. Stephen Knight and Thomas H. Ohlgren, Kalamazoo Michigan, Medieval Institute Publications, 1997 (this ballad is also at present available on the web: search “TEAMS texts online”). The classic edition for traditional ballads, often with many variants, is The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, ed. Francis James Child, New York, Dover, 1965, 5 vols (1888); this song is Vol. 3, No. 152. Ballad melodies, like the words, often exist in many versions; for this song, as for most, the surviving melodies are substantially later than the Middle Ages; see Bertrand Harris Bronson, The Singing Tradition of Child’s Popular Ballads, Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press, 1959-72, 4 vols.; Vol. 3, p. 52.

About the performer/ensemble:
Greg Powell is a Drama student in the Experimental Theatre Wing at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (2005).

About the production:
This performance was created for a group independent study with Prof. Timmie (E.B.) Vitz in fall 2005. It took place on December 15, 2005, as part of an event titled “Making It Real: Performing the Middle Ages,” at an Off-off-Broadway venue in New York City—The American Place Theatre, 266 West 37th St (22nd floor). The performance was also sponsored by “Storytelling in Performance,” a workshop funded by the Humanities Council of New York University and co-directed by Profs. Timmie Vitz, Nancy Regalado and Martha Hodes. Gina Guadagnino was the videographer.