" Curteyse Outlaws " versus Sinister Rogues: The Sixteenth-Century Context of A Gest of Robyn Hode

Stephen Basdeo

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


    Crime historians often pay little regard to medieval outlaw literature, but my paper aims to use the history of crime in the early modern period to add a new context to their study. The ballad A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode was first printed in the early sixteenth century. Around the same time also we see other outlaw ballads printed such as Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough, and William of Cloudesly (c.1530). My paper explores one reason why the figure of the outlaw hero became popular in print during the sixteenth century. Could it be that the idealisation of the outlaw occurred during the sixteenth century because another, more sinister criminal figure was also emerging in print: the ‘rogue’? Whilst outlaws such as Robin Hood were ‘curteyse’ and ‘dyde pore men moch god’, the figure of the rogue was more menacing. Unlike the relatively good greenwood outlaw who lived apart from mainstream society, however, rogues were part of it, describing somebody who would rob, cheat, and swindle people indiscriminately, all the while effecting the disguise of a law-abiding citizen. Thus there was a need for people to believe in a good outlaw, because real-life offenders were ultimately more menacing. Hence the proposed paper explores the dichotomy between outlaws and rogues in print, in the process highlighting how changes in the nature of crime in the early modern period might have affected medieval outlaw myths.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusUnpublished - Jun 2016
    EventMedieval and Early Modern Festival - University of Kent, Canterbury, United Kingdom
    Duration: 17 Jun 201618 Jun 2017

    Academic conference

    Academic conferenceMedieval and Early Modern Festival
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


    • medievalism
    • outlaws
    • rogues
    • medieval
    • early modern


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