Character and Theme-focused Screenplay Analysis

If It Were Up To Me

My Adventures With Marian: Robin Hood, Part 4

Posted by Jennine Lanouette on Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

One thing I’ve discovered while blogging about current films is, while I love to analyze great films (because you can just keep going deeper and deeper into them), when it comes to lesser works, my usual process is not nearly as much fun. In fact, it can be quite dull and discouraging. A much more fun approach to problematic works, I’ve learned, is the here’s-how-I’d-rewrite-that-screenplay technique. So, I decided to use that technique on the “Nottingham” script.

However, I soon discovered I wasn’t getting any creative juices going on it. I opened the portals to my imagination but nothing came out. Dry as a bone. Then I had a radical thought: Maybe I should write my own action film. Just for fun. My own action-packed retelling of the Robin Hood story. It would have to begin from an entirely different premise. But what? Then it hit me – Maid Marian! Of course! The floodgates opened and the juices began to flow.

Sitting in my bean bag chair contemplating the magnetic whiteboard propped against my wall, at first I stared at a bunch of scribbles on a time line. Then I started making top to bottom rows of little slips of paper, Marian scenes in red, Robin Hood in blue, King John in black, held with magnets, adding more each day, until the scribbles had to be erased to fit all the paper slips taking over the entire board. Rejects spilling onto the carpet, along with scissors, blank paper, more magnets and the many colored markers.

Finally, I realized I was tinkering too much. Trying to get it perfect. Then I knew it was ready for posting. The point of this exercise was not to write a perfect story. It was to have some fun taking a wild shot at something way out of my normal scope. And, hopefully, I would illustrate some points of character and theme in the process.

So, if I were to retell the Robin Hood story, here’s how I would do it:

a treatment
c. Jennine Lanouette 2010

In a medieval chapel, Lady Marian, barely 17, kneels on the stone floor, praying. She is approached by Friar Tuck, who asks what troubles her.  She tells him she is praying for God’s help in winning the archery tournament in the upcoming May Day games. He assures her she has nothing to worry about. But she replies that she is nervous now that it has been announced King John will be in attendance.

On the day the games are to begin, Marian’s father, Sir Hugh Longchamps, a Norman lord, interrupts Marian’s practice to tell her she will not be participating. It is unseemly for a woman to compete. Marian protests that he promised she could if she taught her little brother, Thomas. He explains that now he can’t risk her winning over Thomas, which she surely will. In a fit of anger, she runs from the festivities and out the castle gate.

Sir Hugh starts to go after Marian, but is stopped by Sir Robert Locksley, a brutish, brawling Saxon noble just arrived at the festivities, who accuses Sir Hugh of encroaching on his business by building a new flour mill to compete with his. Sir Hugh tries to have Sir Robert thrown out, but Sir Robert decks the first approaching guard, setting off a wild fracas as all the young nobles rush to join in. Suddenly, a trumpet heralds King John’s arrival and the fighting immediately stops. Everyone scurries around, cleaning up the mess, as the king’s cortege approaches from the distance.

By this time, Marian, who has gone deep into the woods, is lost. Finding a shack, she is taken in by a peasant family and is shocked to see their privations. The father, Walter, gives her his chair and the eldest daughter, Mathilda, offers her food although they clearly have little to spare. The eldest son, Gregory, brings water. There is a toddler, Emeline, on the floor in front of the fire. In the corner, in a small bed, is a very sick little boy, Mathhew. Marian promises to give them medicinal herbs from the castle garden.

Back at the games, there is much fanfare as King John announces the launch of a campaign to recapture his lost territories in France. The crowd cheers as the young nobles prance around on their steeds. The games proceed with great fervor as everyone is eager to demonstrate their battle prowess.

Marian is escorted back to the castle by Walter and Gregory. As they enter the castle yard, the jousting is underway. She tells them to wait at the back entrance where she will bring the herbs. Cutting through the stables, she encounters Sir Robert suiting up for his match. He has not seen the daughter of Sir Hugh since she became a young woman and is immediately smitten. He postures on his steed as she distractedly takes her leave.

Her errand complete, she joins the festival bancquet. Her mother, Isabel, is relieved to find her and wants to know where she’s been. Marian tells her about the poverty she saw and asks why people would want to live that way. Isabel says they live that way to allow her to live the way she does and then tells her to go apologize to her father for missing the tournament. Marian approaches Sir Hugh but he is too elated with Thomas’ triumph in the archery competition to be concerned about Marian. He never even noticed her absence.

Late that night, Marian and her two trusted servants, Will and Little John, sneak into the grain stores to steal her father’s precious barley. She instructs them to steal enough so he will notice that. They take the sacks into the woods and leave them on the peasant family’s door step. The next day, Sir Hugh is livid at his loss and posts a proclamation with a reward. The family sees the notice and is terrified to be caught, so they return the goods to the castle in the middle of the night. Sir Hugh takes it as a threatening message from Sir Robert.

Holding court in Sir Hugh’s Great Hall, King John boasts of the fleet of ships he will build to defeat France and then agrees to hear grievances from his subjects. Much the miller’s son is brought in, who was arrested for poaching deer. Sir Robert, as Much’s employer, comes to his defense. Sir Hugh, in turn, portrays Sir Robert’s action as a Saxon’s subversive defense of poaching. Other nobles chime in. Sir Robert protests that Saxon peasants are forced to endure undue burdens. Marian listens intently. But the King has no interest in the petty squabbles of local nobles. He dismissively sentences Much to “punishment” and leaves the hall. As the door closes behind him, Sir Robert loses his temper at Sir Hugh and starts another brawl.

The next day, Sir Hugh appoints the Sheriff of Nottingham to investigate who stole his seed. He wants to prove it was Sir Robert. Marian asks Nottingham if she can come along as he interviews the peasants. In the village, Marian sees Mathilda and takes her aside to ask why they returned the seed. Mathilda says had they been caught they would have been tortured. Marian is incredulous. Nobles steal from nobles all the time. King John is about to go steal land from King Phillip of France. Mathilda says it’s not the same for peasants. They are left to starve, and when they try to feed themselves, they’re tortured.

King John leads a hunting party in Sherwood Forest with Sir Hugh, Thomas, Marian and other local nobles. Marian shoots a deer. King John congratulates her on her beginner’s luck. He tells her it is hers and then asks what she will do with it. “I think I’ll send it to the peasant village,” she says. There is a collective gasp and Sir Hugh intervenes. “My daughter is a joker, Your Highness. Of course, we give it to you as a symbol of our gratitude.” King John accepts the gift.

Sir Hugh confines Marian to her chamber as punishment for offending the king and sends in Friar Tuck to hear her confession. Friar Tuck is sympathetic to her desire to help the peasants. But tells her the best way she can help is get her father to make a mobile hospital. Later, Marian tells her father she will give up archery if he gives her wagons and supplies for a mobile hospital and lets her run it. He agrees it is a much more suitable pursuit for her, but insists she take Will and Little John with her to guard against bandits.

Marian and Friar Tuck make their rounds in the mobile hospital. As they tend to the sick in peasant villages, they also distribute food. They are summoned to a shack where they find Much the miller’s son gravely wounded from torture.

Sir Robert sees unfamiliar wagons on his land and follows them. He confronts Little John on a foot bridge and takes him on in a cudgel fight until Marian breaks them up. Surprised to see her, Sir Robert asks why the daughter of a Norman is interested in the welfare of Saxon peasants. She responds she is only interested in alleviating suffering. He then offers to escort her on his land.

Marian’s mobile hospital is ambushed by bandits. While Sir Robert, Will and Little John fight them, hand to hand, Marian climbs a hill to a high perch and shoots each bandit in the arm or leg, disabling them one by one. She hides the bow and sneaks away as Sir Robert dashes up the hill in pursuit of the shooter. All he finds is Marian. Back at the wagons, Marian whispers to Will where he can find his bow and quiver. Marian tells the bandits she will tend to their wounds if they agree not to ambush her hospital again. Anytime they need food or medicine, they can just ask for it. They agree and she and Friar Tuck clean and bind their wounds in the wagons as they continue on their way.

Sheriff Nottingham announces new taxes to support King John’s campaign. The peasants speak of fighting back, but Marian urges them not to. Sir Hugh hosts a banquet for the King, but is mortified when Marian makes a plea on the peasants’ behalf. The King lectures her on the natural order of things. Then he announces to the gathered nobles that he will need more help for the French campaign. They pledge support but privately express outrage. The king orders the music to start and Sir Robert asks Marian to dance. Marian glances at her father, watching from across the room, and rejects him flatly. Sir Hugh observes with satisfaction.

Just then, the peasants march into the castle yard, demanding repeal of the taxes. The King’s men take on the peasants with relish, clearly enjoying the brawl. The nobles, including Sir Robert, come out to the castle steps to watch, laughing at the fray. Nottingham makes a slur against Saxons and Sir Robert reacts. A macho melee begins among the nobles above while the peasants fight for their lives below. Marian takes her leave.

From her chamber window, Marian watches the fight. Blood flows as wounded are dragged out. Arrows come from above. Marian looks for their source. With bow and quiver, she proceeds down a long hall to another chamber window and shoots the shooter in the arm. She shoots another shooter, and another and another, disabling them all. She stows her weapon and returns to her chamber, needlework in her lap. Guards burst in, then apologize for disturbing her.The next day, Marian and Tuck tend to the wounded rebel peasants. Sir Robert brings bread for Marian’s rounds, but she won’t speak to him. She saw him brawling. So primitive. So unrefined. Sir Robert asks how can he get his message across without brawling? Marian says she wants to meet the man who shoots people in the arm. Back at his castle, Sir Robert practices his archery.

Nottingham announces tax collection two weeks hence. Failure to pay will mean imprisonment. Marian has a plan to help the peasants.  Late at night, she and the bandits creep into her father’s seed stores and pull off a heist. Sir Hugh discovers his loss and assumes it was Sir Robert. He invades Sir Robert’s castle and steals an equal amount of grain.  Meanwhile, Marian sells her father’s seed to a French monk, a contact of Friar Tuck’s, for a large sum of money. As an afterthought, she asks if he can get her arrowheads.

Tax collectors arrive and Nottingham oversees their collection. The peasants have the money to pay and order is restored. Wearing hoods, Marian, Will, Little John and Friar Tuck, then ambush the tax men. Marian shoots them in the arm. Will and Little John tie them up and take their money. Friar Tuck binds their wounds with medicinal herbs. Later, at the local inn, the tax men tell tales of the formidable bandits that overtook them. They make them sound bigger and scarier than they are, while noting that the leader was silent the whole time.

Sir Hugh tells King John that Sir Robert had to sell land to pay his taxes. He is likely behind the ambush. King John sends his men to seize Sir Robert’s flour mill and give it to Sir Hugh. When Sir Robert finds he has been falsely blamed again, he threatens to kill whoever is stealing.

Marian learns of Sir Robert’s mill being taken and feels bad. She tells Sir Hugh it couldn’t have been Sir Robert because everyone knows the thief is an expert archer and Sir Robert, being a Saxon, is likely a terrible archer. She suggests he challenge Sir Robert to a match. Sir Robert learns of the match and practices harder to impress Marian. At the match, Sir Hugh boasts he will beat Sir Robert handily, but Sir Robert wins. Sir Hugh is again furious at Marian for humiliating him, and his suspicions of Sir Robert are re-inflamed. Marian, on the other hand, has a change of heart about Sir Robert.

Friar Tuck tells Sir Robert he knows who is smearing his name. Sir Robert demands to meet this man for a duel. The meeting is arranged and Sir Robert arrives at the appointed place and time ready for a confrontation. He demands his foe show himself. From behind a thicket of bushes, steps Marian, unarmed, an angelic apparition if ever there was one. Sir Robert thinks they are playing a joke on him. Marian takes a bow from Will and quickly demonstrates her ability. Sir Robert is shocked, but it all makes sense. He tries to convince her to stop stealing, saying that stealing is cheating. “You have to win your reward,” he says. “That’s the honorable thing to do. Fight and win.” “Fighting to win is just stealing by killing,” she responds, “which is a sin against God. I steal without killing.” He tries every argument to get her to agree to stop stealing with no success. Finally, he proposes to her. “Be my wife and stop stealing for my sake.” She is caught by surprise, revealing her feelings for him. “Tell me I have not won your heart!” he exclaims. “Yes, you have won my heart,” Marian admits, “but not my body and soul.” “Then let’s have a contest,” he proposes, “so I can win all of you.” “You think you can win a shooting contest against me?” she asks with a laugh. “Yes,” he says, “I do.” “Then let’s find out.”

They shoot at targets around the forest – a tree trunk,  a tuft of grass, a bird’s nest – the targets getting smaller and farther away. Finally, Robert says, “How bout the tiny bird on that distant tree branch?” “Will you eat that tiny bird?” asks Marian. “No,” says Robert. “Then it is not a fit target,” she insists. “So, then, that knot, about the size of a tiny bird, on the trunk of that distant tree,” suggests Robert. “As you wish,” says Marian. Sir Robert draws back his arrow, studies his target, and lets go. The arrow hits the middle of the knot. “Ha!” he says. “Tell me I have not won you now!” A flash of anger crosses Marian’s face. In one fluid movement, she pulls an arrow from her quiver, draws it back in her bow, lowers her sites to her target and releases. The arrow sails through the forest and hits in the exact same spot, splitting his arrow in two. She turns to him. “This is not a game, my friend,” she says. “As long as there are people starving, I cannot promise to stop stealing. Come, Tuck.” Marian turns and strides away. Tuck follows. Sir Robert watches helplessly as she goes. He looks to Will, who gives a “that’s Marian” shrug.

Marian tells her father she has decided to join a nunnery – the Order of the Virgin Mary in France. He is relieved she will no longer be around to embarrass him. While packing her trunks, there is a commotion in the castle yard. Nottingham reads a proclamation that all males over 14 will be conscripted into military service. An arrow comes in from nowhere, shoots the proclamation from Nottingham’s hand, and pins it to the wooden door behind him. Everyone looks around but they only see women in the nearby windows, Marian among them.

A few days later a procession of wagons, accompanied by Will and Little John, leaves to transport Marian to her nunnery in France. Sir Hugh waves ruefully as they disappear over a hill.

The King’s men come to conscript the young men for war. They are marched off in shackles. But the King’s men are ambushed and the conscripted peasants are freed by hooded bandits. Marian reveals herself to the freed conscripts and they pledge their loyalty to her. They are Mary’s Men. Tuck doesn’t want to tend the wounds of the King’s men. They are too dangerous. Marian tells him to think of what it will do to their mean disposition to feel someone being kind to them. Tuck approaches them as if they are lions ready to bite and claw. To his surprise, they are grateful for his help and pledge their loyalty to Marian.

Sir Robert gets word he is being blamed for freeing the conscripts and the King’s army is marching on his castle. “Damn that Marian!” he says. Meanwhile, Marian and her Mary’s Men are building an encampment in the forest. When she learns Sir Robert is under siege again for her transgressions, she rounds up the men to help him. Word spreads and men come from all directions – bandits, peasants and freed conscripts alike. Sir Robert sees a mighty, rag tag force coming his way with Marian at the lead, like Joan of Arc. They enter his castle and begin preparing and fortifying. “I cannot leave you to suffer for my actions,” Marian tells Sir Robert. They have a passionate embrace. Just then the king’s army is seen approaching. They take their places on the parapet and Sir Robert tells Marian this is the real thing now. This isn’t just picking at bandits from tree tops. This is for keeps. He asks if she’s ready for it. She says, Of course!

However, Marian soon discovers that shooting the invaders in the arm doesn’t stop them. They just keep coming. She goes for the shoulder, but they continue to advance. Sir Robert sees her hesitate and yells above the fracas. “You must shoot them in the heart, Marian! It’s the only way to stop them!” Shing! Shing! Shing! Arrows fly by their heads. Marian takes aim, then stops. “I can’t do it!” she exclaims. “Yes, you can!” says Sir Robert. “You have to!” Shing! Shing! “I do NOT have to!” she says. “We need you, Marian!” he calls out. Shing! “I know you can do it!” Shing! Shing! “No! I WON’T do it! I won’t shoot to kill!” Kablam! A battering ram hits the castle gate. “Marian!” he pleads. “They’re gaining on us! Stop this nonsense!” But Marian walks away. With arrows whizzing by, he runs after her. She turns to him. “I don’t know how you can do it,” she says, “and still live with yourself! They can have the castle if they want it so badly! I’ll go live in the woods. I’ll live on the deer and the fruits of my labor. But I will not kill another man!” Sir Robert stops her. “How will you get arrowheads and ploughshare blades?” he asks.  She breaks away from his grasp. “I’ll steal them!” She stomps out. Her men begin to go with her. More and more abandon their posts. The king’s men storm the parapet. Sir Robert sits heavily, head in hands. Finally, he resignedly grabs his bow and quiver and leaves the castle, as well.

Marian looks on as Will, Little John, Much the miller’s son and Mary’s Men put finishing touches on a woodland hospital. They organize a stealth operation to Sir Hugh’s castle for herbs and other supplies. Arriving incognito in the bustling castle yard, they hear the announcement of a bounty on the head of Sir Robert. As Nottingham holds up the proclamation to nail it to the castle door, an arrow shoots in and fixes it on the door for him. He looks around in alarm but doesn’t see Marian receding into the background. “Women do all the work. Men get all the credit,” she says to Little John with a sigh. Just then another arrow comes in and splits her arrow in two. She looks around and sees that it is Sir Robert’s.

Lady Marian and Sir Robert are married by Friar Tuck in a forest glen. A French monk arrives with a shipment of arrowheads. Marian stops everything to make a deal with him. The monk then joins in the festivities.


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