Account of May Day revels, 1515

robyn Hode
Image from Little gest of Robyn Hood.

Below is an excerpt from Hall's Chronicle; an account of the May Day celebrations from 1515. Significantly, the theatrical entertainment is seen to occur spontaneously and in an outdoors setting, although we may assume that there is some level of rehearsal or preparation of the parties involved. It is interesting that the outlaws' den mimics the architecture of a noble household; figuring the reciprocity between the inside and the outside according to such sources as The Eltham Ordinances. Also, Queen Catherine participates in the dramatic dialogue, raising the issue of female involvement in courtly revels.

The kyng and the quene accompanied with many lordes and ladies roade to the high grounde of shoters hil to take the open ayre, and as they passed by the way, they espied a company of tall yomen, clothed all in grene with grene whodes and bowes and arrows, to the number of .ii. C. Then one of them, whiche called hym selfe Robyn hood, came to the kyng, desyring hym to se his men shote, and the kyng was content. Then he whisteled again, and they likewyse shot agayne, their arrowes whisteled by crafte of the head, so that the noyes was straunge and great, and muche pleased the kyng and quene and all the company. All these archers were of the kynges garde and had thus appareled them selves to make solace to the kynge. Then Robyn hood desyred the kyng and Quene to come into the grene wood, and to se how the outlawes lyve. The kyng demaunded of the quene and her ladyes, if they durst adventure to go into the wood with so many outlawes. Then the quene said, that if it pleased hym, she was content, then the hornes blewe tyll they came into the wood under shoters hill, and there was an Arber made of bowes with a hal, and a great chamber and an inner chamber very well made and covered with floures and swete herbes, whiche the kyng muche praised. Then said Robyn hood, Sir, outlawes brekefastes is venyson, and therefore you must be content with such fare as we use. Then the kyng and quene sate doune, and were served with venyson and [w]yne by Robyn hood and his men, to their great contentacion. Then the kyng departed and his company, and Robyn hood and his men them conduicted, and as they were returnyng, there met with them two ladyes in a ryche chariot drawen with .v. horses and every horse had his name on his head, and on every horse sat a lady with her name written. On the first courser called Cawde, sate humidite, or humide. the ii courser called Memeon, roade lady vert. On the .iii. called pheton, sate lady vegetave. On the .iiii. called Rimphon, sate lady pleasaunce. On the .v. called lampace, sate swete odour, and in the Chayre sate the lady May, accompanied with lady Flora, richely appareled, and they saluted the kyng with diverse goodly songes, and so brought hym to Grenewyche. At this Maiying was a greate number of people to beholde to their great solace and confort.



Edward Hall, The Union of the two noble and illustre families of Lancastre and Yorke (London, 1550) sig. k2v-k3r.