Into the Green Suit: A Caricature of Gentrification in Munday and Chettle’s Huntington Plays
Anthony Munday’s Robin Hood plays – co-authored by Henry Chettle – are almost univocally reduced to the ‘gentrification’ of Robin Hood and, consequently, accused of conservative complicity in stripping the legend of its radical potential. However, close readings of The Downfall of Robert, the Earl of Huntington and its sequel The Death of the aforementioned reveal that there is much more to the plays than its detractors allow for. While neither The Downfall nor The Death can be counted unmitigated triumphs in terms of dramatic structure, they are notable for high levels of theatrical self-awareness: far from naturalizing an aristocratic Robin, they make the point that one can play Robin Hood but never be him; they also deliberately create moments of farce which subvert the ostensible moral of the plays and in general reflect negatively on the potential for political and personal betterment, presenting characters bogged down by selfishness, lust, and lethargy. In the following, I hope to demonstrate that, contrary to expectation, Munday and Chettle’s plays neither historicize, nor naturalize, nor yet aggrandize the character. Instead, they employ meta-theatrical devices, humor, farce, and unsuspected cynicism to undermine these very tendencies.
Copyright (c) 2023 Sarah Briest
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.