Scene 1 – prologue
(LIGHTS UP on a forest. It is a beautiful day. Alan, Little John, Will, and Ellen are gathered around a fresh grave. The Sheriff watches from afar. Marian stands as far away from him as possible. She is dressed as a nun and reads from a prayer book. As she reads, Alan and Little John finish covering the grave with stones.)
God our Father,
Your power brings us to birth,
Your providence guides our lives,
and by Your command we return to dust.
(she wipes her eyes)
Lord, those who die still live in Your presence,
their lives change but do not end.
I pray in hope for my beloved…
(she breaks off in sobs)
In company with Christ,
Who died and now lives,
may he rejoice in Your kingdom,
where all our tears are wiped away.
Unite us together again in one,
to sing Your praise forever and ever.
(Alan and Little John finish covering the grave. Marian weeps. Silence.)
MARIAN: Someone should say something. Which one of you knew Robin the longest?
Will: John did.
LITTLE JOHN: Will!
WILL: Didn’t you?
LITTLE JOHN: I knew him no longer than you.
WILL: Well, go on. Say something.
(Uncertainly, Little John steps forward.)
LITTLE JOHN: I…am a man of few words.
(Little John steps back.)
SHERIFF: What a delightful eulogy. Short and to the point.
ELLEN: Please, Sheriff. Show some respect. A man died.
SHERIFF: A man died robbing my home, girl. (dangerously) As I’m sure you remember.
WILL: Sheriff, we had a deal.
ELLEN: He was still a man. Worthy of a proper burial.
SHERIFF: He’s been buried. And it seems no one has anything good to say about him. Fitting for a criminal.
ALAN: He was more than that.
ALAN: He was a hero.
SHERIFF: And what, pray tell, does that mean?
LITTLE JOHN: He did good.
WILL: Alan, you knew him the best. Why don’t you speak?
(Everyone looks expectantly at Alan.)
ELLEN: Go ahead.
(Reluctantly, Alan steps up to the grave.)
ALAN: Robin Hood…was a hero.
(LIGHTS RISE. It is a month earlier. A busy village is revealed: Loxley. In the middle of it all is Little John, a blacksmith, tinkering away at his anvil. He is a bright and cheerful fellow, waving at people as they go by. A minstrel, Alan-a-Dale, enters, lute on his back. He takes in the scene a moment before Little John spots him.)
LITTLE JOHN: Good God! Alan? Alan? Is that really you?
(Alan rushes over. They embrace.)
LITTLE JOHN: By Saint Barbara’s decapitated head, I swear, I never thought I’d ever see your sorry face again! How long has it been now?
ALAN: About three years.
LITTLE JOHN: Three years!
ALAN: My heart never left Loxley.
LITTLE JOHN: Where have you been?
ALAN: Too many places to recall.
LITTLE JOHN: Three years! Did you see London?
LITTLE JOHN: Is it as beautiful as they say?
ALAN: It was a sight to behold. The smell, however, was another matter.
LITTLE JOHN: Three years! That’s an eternity.
ALAN: I suppose. But Loxley looks just the same.
LITTLE JOHN: It’ll be a snowy day in the streets of Persia before Loxley ever changes. You remember? That’s what you always used to say while practicing your archery.
ALAN: I remember.
LITTLE JOHN: You and little Will Scatheloke.
ALAN: How is Will?
LITTLE JOHN: Oh, in a sorry state, I’m sad to say. It was a tragic thing. His father, God rest his soul, couldn’t keep up with his taxes. They lost the mill. Broke the poor man’s heart. He died soon after.
ALAN: I heard…
LITTLE JOHN: The family couldn’t even afford a decent funeral. The indignity…heart breaking, by Saint Peter’s blood-soaked brains.
ALAN: (queasy) What’s Will going to do?
LITTLE JOHN: I’m afraid your little friend has developed a nasty habit.
ALAN: What’s that?
LITTLE JOHN: Pick pocketing. He’s actually pretty good at it. Getting too ambitious though. I keep warning him, but no one ever listens to me. One can only imagine what sort of sermons I might have given. (beat) Say, maybe now that you’re back, you can talk some sense into him. You two were always so close. Like brothers separated at birth. Like twins. Which reminds me, take a look at this.
(Little John takes out a trick knife.)
LITTLE JOHN: Made it myself.
ALAN: It’s beautiful.
LITTLE JOHN: Watch this.
(Little John stabs himself with the knife. Alan is horrified.)
(Little John laughs, taking the knife out and demonstrating the trick blade.)
LITTLE JOHN: I made it for my boys. Had you going there for a moment, didn’t I?
ALAN: (queasy) Yes…
LITTLE JOHN: Look at you. Jumpy as a rooster.
LITTLE JOHN: Didn’t mean anything by it.
ALAN: I know.
LITTLE JOHN: What happened to you, Alan? What, in the name of Saint Bartholomew’s flayed flesh possessed you to leave that way?
(Alan looks pretty queasy again. Marian enters, dressed in regal finery. She turns back to call off.)
ALAN: Who’s that?
LITTLE JOHN: Lady Marian. The Sheriff’s wife.
MARIAN: Hurry along, Ellen.
LITTLE JOHN: Look at her. Isn’t she beautiful? And that hair of hers…
(Ellen enters, carrying several bolts of fabric.)
ELLEN: Yes, my lady.
(Alan makes a startled noise and quickly ducks behind Little John.)
LITTLE JOHN: What are you doing?
MARIAN: Let me take one of those.
(Marian takes one of the bolts.)
ELLEN: Thank you, my lady.
(Marian and Ellen cross the stage together. They exit the other side.)
LITTLE JOHN: So that’s it. You’ve gotten yourself in trouble with the law.
LITTLE JOHN: Don’t worry. Didn’t you recognize her maid? That’s Ellen Scatheloke. Little Ellen Scatheloke. All grown up now. Pretty little thing. Anyway, she tells me the Lady Marian is a kind-hearted soul. A sweet lady. She would never report you to her husband.
ALAN: I’m…glad to hear it.
LITTLE JOHN: The way things are, these days, there isn’t a single, blessed soul in Loxley who hasn’t broken one law or another. Must be snowing in Persia after all.
ALAN: I’ve heard the new Sheriff is…severe.
LITTLE JOHN: It’s true. He’s devoted to making the earls happy at any cost. But we take care of our own, here in Loxley. (beat) I imagine you’ll want to visit with young Will?
ALAN: I would like that.
LITTLE JOHN: Let me walk you over there. I’ve been meaning to check up on that boy. I swear to you by Saint Lucy’s rolling eyeballs-
ALAN: (queasy) Rolling eyeballs…
LITTLE JOHN: …if he keeps stealing, he’s going to get himself into a mess that even his nimble fingers and quick mouth won’t get him out of.
ALAN: Is it really that bad?
LITTLE JOHN: Just a sign of the times. Things will get better.
LITTLE JOHN: When all the heroes aren’t away on the Crusades, I suppose.
ALAN: That is where all heroes go…
LITTLE JOHN: Well, we could do with one or two back home. (beat) Come along.
(They start to head off.)
LITTLE JOHN: Three years!
ALAN: Far too long.
LITTLE JOHN: A minstrel, huh?
ALAN: It seemed a suitable vocation for me. All you have to do is come up with a rhyme and the women just want to give you things.
(Little John and Alan exit. LIGHTS OUT.)
(LIGHTS UP on the Scatheloke house. Will is tied to a chair. His face is bloody and bruised. The Sheriff paces around him, holding a wooden club. They’ve been at this for awhile now.)
SHERIFF: You have a surprising reserve of stamina.
WILL: That’s what the girls say.
SHERIFF: That is sinful.
WILL: You want to talk about sin? Let’s talk about your face, ugly. Now that is a crime against nature.
(The Sheriff hits him with the club.)
SHERIFF: It is my task to maintain order, Scatheloke. And it makes no difference to the order of things if your jaw is broken. That’s merely your inconvenience. Why do you persist in provoking me to anger?
WILL: Because I could tell you the sun was round and it would provoke you to anger.
(The Sheriff hits him again.)
WILL: See what I mean?
(The Sheriff takes out a book, making a few notes in it.)
WILL: I’m not a thief.
SHERIFF: I have my doubts about that. You reek of…anarchy.
WILL: Cheap ale, more likely. (beat) You’ve searched my pockets, you’ve beaten me senseless, what more evidence do you need?
(The Sheriff hits him.)
SHERIFF: Try having an earl breathing down your neck over the town’s expenses. See how much patience you have for evidence. Maybe another good beating will stir your memory.
WILL: I’d prefer a bad beating, if it’s all the same to you.
LITTLE JOHN: (offstage) Will? Are you in? I’ve got a surprise for you!
(Little John enters, followed by Alan. Both of them are stunned by the scene. Alan instantly gets queasy.)
LITTLE JOHN: What’s this?
SHERIFF: Nothing to concern yourself with.
SHERIFF: I’m in the midst of an official investigation.
ALAN: You call this an investigation? It looks more like an inquisition.
LITTLE JOHN: Will, what did you do?
SHERIFF: He stole tax money.
WILL: I didn’t do it!
SHERIFF: The guard whose pocket was picked saw an individual slip away, into this…for lack of a better word…house.
WILL: I wasn’t here. I was with John Little. Tell him, John!
LITTLE JOHN: Uh…Will sometimes sweeps up my shop for a few pennies. He’s a good boy. I’ve always had a soft spot for him. He looks a little like my brother and curses like my sister. He would never steal tax money; he would never steal a thing. I swear on Saint Lawrence’s roasted rump!
ALAN: (queasy) Oh, God…
SHERIFF: Is that so?
LITTLE JOHN: I swear it! I give you my word as a friar of St. Mary’s Abbey.
SHERIFF: You’re not a friar of St. Mary’s Abbey.
LITTLE JOHN: Lapsed.
ALAN: Sir, did your guard describe the thief?
SHERIFF: Who are you?
SHERIFF: (looking in his book) Why aren’t you in here?
LITTLE JOHN: Alan’s just returned to Loxley. He left before you were appointed.
SHERIFF: Where have you been?
ALAN: Across the whole island. But please, tell me, did your guard describe the thief?
SHERIFF: He didn’t get a look at his face. It was just a man in a hooded cloak, who ran back to this…house.
ALAN: A man in a hooded cloak? Well, I’m afraid to say it, but I believe Loxley’s been visited by Robin Huntington.
ALAN: Robin Huntington.
SHERIFF: I’ve never heard of a Robin Huntington.
ALAN: He’s an infamous thief from Sherwood. I passed through that area recently. He’s quite legendary for making bold heists, stealing valuables; tax money, signet rings, kisses on the sly.
SHERIFF: Is that so?
ALAN: No soldier has been able to see his face. It’s been a total embarrassment to the tax collectors in the area, which is probably why you haven’t heard of him. He’s quite beloved by the villagers around Sherwood. They all harbor him after his thefts and, in return, he gives them a share of his bounty. Except the kisses, of course. Those he keeps for himself.