Will Scarlet / Scathlock

Merry Robin Stops a Stranger in Scarlet

Will Scarlet / Scathlock

CharactersName Variants: Will ScathlockBackground Essay Author: Valerie B. Johnson


 …Robyn Hode hase many a wilde felow,
I tell you in certen...
-- Robin Hood and the Monk (179-80)

Will Scarlet, also known as Will Scathlock, has long been part of the Robin Hood tradition.  He appears in three of the four earliest surviving ballads that form the core of the tradition: Robin Hood and the Monk (c. 1450), Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne (c. 1475-1500), and A Gest of Robyn Hode (c. 1500).  Members of the outlaw band are sometimes named, and along with Little John and Much, Will Scarlet / Scathlock is a name that consistently appears in the lists of Robin Hood's "wild fellows."  However, Will rarely fills any significant narrative role, even in the early tradition: he is one of three outlaws who rescue Robin from the Nottingham jail in Monk; he stands with Robin (and John and Much) in the Gest; he runs away from the Sheriff's seven score men in Guy of Gisborne.
Though Will Scarlet continues to appear in Robin Hood ballads, plays, and early novels, there are few stories which develop the figure prior to the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.  Novels which focus on Will Scarlet, like What a Scoundrel Wants (2008) and Scarlet (2007), have begun to create inner depth for a character whose place in the filmed tradition also seems to be on the rise: Scarlet was played by Ray Winstone in the cult hit television series Robin of Sherwood


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