This project is aimed at making up a scenario of an interactive role play for English-learners of pre-intermediate/intermediate level. The role play is based on medieval British folklore.
The very idea of mass enactment of fiction works is gaining popularity nowadays. In fact, it’s a combination of two long-lasting trends in the modern mass entertainment industry: reconstructions of historic events and everyday life of the past epochs with foreign tourists as their primary target audience, and mass theatrical enactments for recreational as well as educational purposes.
The object of our project is a scenario of a role play based on medieval legends about Robin Hood. Its target audience is a group of teenagers (12-15 years old) who must be English-learners of at least pre-intermediate level, preferably, acquainted with the legends’ characters and plot. The primary aim of this role play is to increase the students’ motivation in language learning and awaken their interest in British culture, literature and history. Besides, it is an entertaining extra-curriculum open-air activity which can be held at a weekend or during school holidays. It can be set in a park, wood or just on the school playground representing the legendary Sherwood Forest. The required equipment depends on the financial means of the organizers but can actually be reduced to the minimum amount of “weapons” (wooden swords, bows and arrows, quaterstaffs), costumes for the instructors, refreshments for the participants, and printed materials including instructions for the games, advertisements and questionnaires for the participants. Besides, there must be a group of specially-trained instructors, who supervise the whole activity, explain the rules of the contests to the participants and at the same time play the parts of the main characters. The instructors can be recruited from 8 or 9th formers who are interested in the English language, have read the legends and possess the necessary leadership and actor qualities. The enthusiasm of the instructors can be maintained with such rewards as a good school mark, a small dinner party later in the evening, etc.
The scenario consists of a number of episodes, each representing a separate contest or activity.
Episode 1. Training at the outlaws’ camp.
The participants get acquainted with the outlaws’ camp, its atmosphere and inhabitants. They meet Robin Hood, Little John, Will Scarlet, Much the miller’s son, Maid Marian, Friar Tuck and other outlaws. They get basic instructions on safety measures which should be strictly observed during the whole activity. The participants train in bow-shooting, sward– and quarterstaff-fighting. After that they are divided into small teams. Volunteers from each team make their own quaterstaffs under the supervision of the trained instructors. They are also explained the meaning of the phrase “Lincoln green” and get a chance to make their own “outlaws’ clothes” or “monk’s outfit if they choose so.
Welcome to the outlaws’ camp! This place is Sherwood Forest. Do you know what it’s famous for? Right. Robin Hood’s men live and rob on its roads. That’s why it’s really dangerous and therefore exciting to spend a day here. It takes a lot of courage and special skills to survive in such a place. That’s why our instructors are here. You’ll get practical skills in bow-shooting, sword– and quarterstaff– fighting.
Then you’ll make some real outlaws’ clothes. We’ve got all the necessary things for sewing as it took place in those times – needles, thread, some famous Lincoln green cloth which was produced in Lincolnshire.
In short, if you have any technical or linguistic problems, our instructors are here to help you.
Episode 2. Vote for the best costume.
The participants, who have just made their costumes and weapons, demonstrate their outfits in an outlaws’ fashion show. A lively comment on the details of the costumes is strongly encouraged. A jury from the instructors vote for the best costume.
Ladies and gentlemen, our fashion show begins. Here’s Maid Marian. She’s wearing a trendy long tunic with a hood. There’s a smart belt around her waist. A piece of fine yellow cloth is thrown round her shoulders. Charming, isn’t she?
And now comes Robin Hood. He looks stunning in his Lincoln green clothes and – of course – a traditional hood. Why do you like hoods, Robin? Is it for conspiracy purpose?
And here comes… another Maid Marian. She looks absolutely beautiful with that garland of flowers and leaves around her head. Bravo…
Now our jury has to name the winners. They are facing a really difficult task as all the models have been wonderfully unpredictable, original and creative.
Well, according to the unanimous verdict of the jury, the award for the best costume goes to… Our sincere congratulations! You deserve it!
Episode 3. Bow-shooting tournament.
The teams move towards an open-air shooting gallery. On their way they watch a scene enacted by the instructors “Robin Hood against Friar Tuck”. The setting includes “a bridge” (an improvised elevation made of wide wooden planks) across “the river” (a marked place on the ground). A short dialogue between the characters is followed by sword-fighting on the bridge. The loser (one who fall off “the bridge”) carries the winner to the other side of the river on his back. After the show volunteers from the teams can exercise their skills in sword-fighting with either of the “actors”.
Then the teams take part in the bow-shooting tournament. They must mark the target shooting from bows. The Royal award – 300 pieces of gold – is divided among the teams according to their results. In addition, the best two bowmen are given a gold and a silver arrow as individual prizes.
After that comes a brief break with congratulations to the winners and a prize-giving ceremony.
Episode 4. Take it safely to the camp.
Each team is given a map of the location. Their aim is to get back to the camp “safe and sound” and manage to keep at least half of the money received as a prize in the previous contest. This task is rather difficult as the “forest” is full of outlaws “who take money from the rich and give it to the poor”. The teams must decide on the most suitable tactics: to run one by one, each participant carrying a small sum of money, or to advance in a big group ready to defend their “gold” with “weapons available”, or to try convincing the robbers that they are just poor yeomen lost in the forest.
Now you might experience one of the greatest shock in your life – being robbed on a forest road. Feel a bit nervous? Get ready for the worst but don’t lose hope. After the bow-shooting you’ve become rich. You must return to the camp with all your money. The forest roads are dangerous. You might meet the outlaws who take money from the rich and give it to the poor. But remember, they don’t take anything from women or good yeomen. You have to think of the most suitable tactics. First, each of you can take a few pieces of gold and move in ones or twos. If you meet the outlaws, just pretend to be sick and poor. Make up some convincing details of your miserable life. The more details about your hungry little children and hard work in the field, the better. It’s a good chance to try your eloquence on the robbers.
Strong-arm tactics are another possible alternative. You can choose to advance in a big group with your quaterstaffs ready. But think twice before adopting this approach. The outlaws are experienced fighters. In any case, you’ll need all your bravery, eloquence, resourcefulness and – fast legs.
Episode 5. Pay your taxes and sleep well.
The very moment the participants have more or less successfully reached the camp they are warned that the Sheriff of Nottingham is coming to collect taxes on the money received as a prize in the bow-shooting tournament. The fact that some of the gold might have been lost while traveling along the dangerous paths of the forest won’t be taken into consideration by the greedy Sheriff. The only way to save the gold is to hide it somewhere. Will the teams be inventive enough?
Our congratulations to those of you who managed to bring all your precious pieces of gold to the camp. Who’d like to share impressions about robbery on the road? What did you do to persuade the outlaws to let you go? How did you manage to keep your money intact?
Oh, we’ve just got a written message. It’s for you. “Beware! The Sheriff of Nottinham has learned about the money received as awards in the bow tournament. So, he is coming to collect taxes. You know, he’s really tough on it. What? You had to give some of your money to the outlaws during the robbery? He doesn’t care. The only way to save your gold is to hide it somewhere about here: in the grass, in the branches of the trees, under those bags. Be quick!
Episode 6. Hunting.
Dinner-time is coming and the participants must get some good deer meat. While the girls stay in the camp laying the tables, volunteers from the teams go to the “shooting gallery” and hit moving marks in the shape of deer. Having supplied themselves with “deer meat” they return to the camp.
Are you hungry? It’s about time to learn what the outlaws eat and how they get their food. Who knows their favourite dish? Yes, it’s grilled meat. Get ready your bows and arrows. We are going hunting. The girls will stay at the camp and lay the tables. We’ll be back in no time, hopefully, with a bagful of nice deer meat.
Episode 7. Dinner at the outlaws’ camp.
While some experienced outlaws prepare barbecue, the teams compete in the culinary contest. Every group receives similar products and tries to cook something really delicious. Whose dish will be the tastiest? The verdict will be pronounced at dinner by majority vote. Those lacking in culinary skills can take part in another contest – “Give it a good name”. They give names to the dishes already cooked or that might possibly be cooked from the products available in the camp.
Bravo! Our hunters have been lucky so we’ll have tasty grilled meet today. The outlaws are already cooking it. Smells really delicious. As the cooking will take some time, you’ll have to exercise your patience.
Now each team will receive some products. Please, make something really terrific. We’ll try it at dinner and vote for the tastiest dish.
And the last we have to do to make our dinner really exceptional is giving our dishes unforgettable names. Look at the menu. We’ve already got a fizzy drink called “the Sheriff’s blood”, a delicious cake “Maid Marian’s kiss”, yummy juice called “Friar Tuck’s blessing”, a green salad “Poor yeomen’s leftovers” and grilled meat “the King’s pet deer”. Who could enlarge the outlaws’ menu? Think of some original names for our dishes.
Episode 8. After-dinner entertainments or the outlaws’ intellectual pleasures.
The groups take part in a quiz. Each right answer wins for the teams an extra piece of the outlaws’ speciality (which can be a cake).
- A yeoman walked outside in a heavy rainstorm for half an hour without getting a single hair of his head wet. He didn’t wear a hat, didn’t carry an umbrella, or held anything over his head. His clothes got soaking wet. How could this happen? (He was bald-headed, he had no hair).
- There are four corners in a room. There is one cat in each corner. Opposite each cat there are three cats. How many cats are there in the room? (four)
- Here are three sticks. How can we make four without breaking them? (IV)
- What woman doesn’t look at herself in the mirror? (blind)
- What can there be in an empty pocket? (a hole)
- When do people have as many eyes as there are days in a year? (on the second of January)
- When is a man in the room without the head? (When he has popped out of the window).
- When can a black cat easily get into the house? (When the door is open).
- Name five days without saying dates and days of the week (today, tomorrow, yesterday, the day after tomorrow, the day before yesterday).
- What question cannot have a positive answer? (Are you sleeping?)
- Under what bush does a rabbit hide when it rains? (under a wet one)
- What dish cannot be filled? (a full one)
- There are three people, they have a brother called John. But John has no brother. What can you say about that? (The three people are women).
- If you take three apples from a basket that holds 12 apples, how many apples will you have? (two)
- When my mother was 41 years old, I was 9. Now she is twice as old as I am. How old am I? (The difference between the ages is 32 years, so I am 32 since my mother is twice as old).
- Why can’t a man living in Nottingham be buried in York? (Because he is living).
- How many times can you subtract the numeral 2 from the numeral 24? (Only once. After the first time, you are subtracting from 22, then 20, and so on).
- “I guarantee”, said the pet shop assistant, “that this parrot will repeat every word it hears”. A customer bought the parrot but found it would not speak a single word. Nevertheless, the salesman told the truth. Explain. (The parrot was deaf).
- Two father and two sons shot three deer. Yet each took home one deer. How was that possible? (they were grandfather, father and son).
- One month has 28 days, of the remaining 11 months, how many have 30 days? (All of them).
- Once Friar Tuck arrived at a small town. He decided to have his hair cut but the town only had two barbers, each with his own shop. Friar Tuck glanced into one shop and saw that it was extremely untidy. The barber needed a shave and his hair was badly cut. The other shop was extremely neat. The barber was freshly shaven, his hair was neatly cut. Friar Tuck returned to the first shop for his hair-cut. Can you explain why? (The town had only two barbers, so each barber must have cut the other’s hair. Friar Tuck chose the barber who had given his rival the better haircut).
Episode 9. Seizure of the castle.
As soon as everything has been eaten and all the riddles solved, there comes a messenger with some really bad news: the Sheriff’s men are attacking. Robin’s merry men are receding to Sir Richard of the Lee’s castle. Little John is badly injured and Robin Hood is bleeding heavily. The first task is to make a stretcher out of sticks, branches and some cord. The winner is the team that copes with the task fastest and produces the stretcher strong enough to carry Little John on. The other task consists in providing Robin Hood with first medical aid to stop his bleeding. The teams should demonstrate necessary first-aid skills.
We seem to have really bad news. The Sheriff’s men are attacking. Robin’s men are receding to Sir Richard of the Lee’s castle. And you know, it never rains but it pours. Our dear Little John has been badly wounded in the knee. He can’t walk and is in danger. We must him.
Firstly, make a stretcher out of sticks, branches and canvas. You can use this cord to tie them together. Let’s see which team will be the fastest.
Now, the strength of your stretches needs checking. Put the poor Little John on the stretcher and carry him to the castle (which is ten metres away). Don’t drop him! It can seriously aggravate the state of his health! They whose stretcher has fallen apart can still save Little John carrying him on their hands put in chair grip or even on their backs. Well, Little John, have your say. Which “ride” did you enjoy most? Which one was the smoothest, the quickest, the most exciting?
We’ve just received even worse news. Robin Hood has been injured and is bleeding. Now, everybody to Robin’s rescue! What must we do to stop the bleeding? Right. First, we have to clean the wound and put a sterile compression bandage on it.
Honourable jury, which team deserves the prize?
Episode 10. Robin Hood on trial.
Robin Hood is on jury trial for robbery, murder, illegal shooting of the king’s deer in Sherwood Forest and other minor offences. The jurors are all the participants. The prosecution is represented by the Sheriff of Nottingham and his men. The defence includes Sir Richard of the Lee, Little John, Much the Miller’s Son, and Will Scarlet. Any participant can join either the side of prosecution or the side of defence. After the debates the jury must pass the verdict of guilty or innocent by simple majority vote.
Ladies and gentlemen! You have been invited to a show trial. Robin Hood is being accused of organizing a criminal gang, numerous armed robberies, illegal hunting and other minor offences. You are the jurors. After hearing the case, you’ll pronounce your verdict. The defence is represented by Little John, Friar Tuck and Will Scarlet. The Sheriff of Nottingham is the lawyer for the prosecution.
The Sheriff has the floor. Sheriff, swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.
Sheriff: Your Honour, honoured jury, it won’t take much time to prove this outlaw’s guilt. He has committed a great number of robberies on the forests roads. A lot of respected citizens – lords, monks, and rich knights – have been robbed and offended by this scoundrel. He has killed many of my men, stole my gold and silver cups, inveigled my cook into his criminal gang. He claims to have given the money to the poor. But has anybody seen his financial accounts? Just for your information: they call themselves “merry men” which has two meanings: “happy and lively” and “slightly drunk”. Can I ask you whose money do they buy their ale with? And last, but not least, he poaches the king’s deer in the forest and catches the king’s fish which can lead to mass extinction of these species in our forest. I am deeply convinced of Robin Hood’s guilt. He must be sentenced to life imprisonment
Now the side of the defence has the floor.
Defence: Honoured jury, have a look at this man! Everybody knows him as a hero and a real benefactor of mankind. His principle has always been – rob the rich to help the poor. Never in his whole life has he offended a woman or a poor yeoman. Besides, he and his merry men have made a priceless contribution to the British culture. A great deal of the British folklore is based on his heroic deeds. What would schoolchildren of the 21st century read for their home reading if it hadn’t been for Robin and his merry men? We insist on clearing him of all the false accusations and his immediate liberation from custody.
Well, honoured jury, your verdict will be passed by simple majority vote. Which opinion do you agree with? Why?
The final step.
All the participants are given a short questionnaire which enables them to evaluate the activities of the day, estimate their individual participation in them, revise some useful vocabulary. A photo cession follows.
- Did you enjoy today’s activity?
- Which contest did you like most (least) of all?
- What would you change?
- What practical skills have you acquired?
- Has this activity helped you improve your English?
- Would you like to take part in a similar activity in the future? What book or historic period should it to be based on?
The legends about Robin Hood abound in dramatic scenes and exciting episodes. The list of presented activities and contests of the role play could be enlarged according to the language level of the “instructors” and the participants, the time and the material means available and can only be limited by the organizers’ imagination. Needless to say that this methodological concept can be applied to a wide range of fictional and historic events. It allows students “to try on” a fictional or historic character, to experience his/her troubles and feel his/her sensations “for real”. Role plays based on historic events can animate “dry” facts of the past providing immediate access to foreign culture, literature and history. We are convinced that such interactive language teaching methods should be widely applied, because they enrich the methodological bank of our teachers meeting the demand of modern students for newer ways of learning a foreign language. They also provide immediate practical access to foreign culture, literature and various historic events.