Date of Award

8-11-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Robert S. Lightsey

Second Advisor

Edward Christie

Third Advisor

Paul Schmidt

Abstract

In his book, Robin Hood: An Historical Enquiry, John Bellamy asserts that the lack of a study of the relationship between Robin Hood and the sheriff stems from very little evidence in the ballads and external sources. However, the Robin Hood ballads originate in the fourteenth century when tales of justice and chivalry experienced widespread appeal alongside complaint literature addressing social upheaval bubbling to the surface of English life; why would an audience celebrate an outlaw during this time and long after Gawain and Arthur fade in popularity in the ensuing centuries? There must be more to the relationship between Robin Hood and the sheriff of Nottingham. In order to find a deeper relationship between the outlaw and lawman, the estates model should be used as a framework from which to begin the study of Robin Hood and his shrieval desires and not as a specific exercise of explication and application. By doing so, one can see that Robin Hood does assume the role of the sheriff in the early ballads by assuming his duties of managing the forests, collecting money from individuals within the community, albeit mostly from dishonest clergy, maintaining an army for defense, and settling disputes between various parties within the shire. By examining the shrieval position Robin attempts to fill as imagined through the estates model and the period’s accepted role of sheriff, Robin Hood appears as the idealized form of the sheriff in a real-world environment that could not support the ideal.

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