At the close of the 12th century, King Richard the Lion-Hearted is kidnapped upon his return from the Crusades and held for ransom by the Holy Roman Emperor. When the stewardship of England passes to the Archbishop of Rouen, King Richard’s envious brother John, the Earl of Oxford, hatches a plot to secure the crown for himself.
Meanwhile, the authority to raise the king’s ransom is woefully abused, and the worst abuser is Sir Henry Falconberg, High Sheriff of Yorkshire and Nottingham. Earl John spies an ally in the corrupt sheriff and enlists him to collect a ransom contribution from the king of Scotland. In truth, Earl John plans to use that money to fund an invasion of England by Flemish mercenaries who will install him on the throne.
Unbeknownst to the earl, Falconberg has agreed to perform a minor service for the queen upon his return from Edinburgh: to meet the Lady Marian of York and escort her as far as Nottingham. While passing through South Yorkshire, Falconberg, Marian and her companion Sabina are waylaid by Robin Hood’s men and taken to their camp in Barnsdale Wood. Of course, Robin doesn’t know that the treasure he steals from the sheriff is the key to Earl John’s plan to usurp the throne. Robin also doesn’t know that he will soon be a victim of theft as well, for it isn’t long before his heart is stolen by the beautiful and high-spirited Lady Marian.
After his release by the outlaw band, Falconberg reports the theft of the Scottish gold to a furious Earl John. But Falconberg has a plan for revenge, one that promises death to Robin Hood, doom to King Richard, and a kingdom for Earl John. Falconberg will lure Robin into a trap by means of an archery contest, where the Golden Arrow of Albion will be awarded to the winner by Lady Marian. Once Robin is in his clutches, Falconberg will disguise himself as the famed outlaw and steal the king’s ransom from its keeper, the trusty Earl of Arundel. If the king’s kidnappers are true to their word, they will execute their hostage when they learn the ransom will not be paid. Afterwards, with earl John secure upon the throne, Falconberg will announce his capture of the notorious Robin Hood, who will then bear the full brunt of the citizen’s fury over the death of Richard.
Falconberg’s wicked plot nearly succeeds but for the bravery of Marian and the cunning of Little John. While the latter is busy rescuing Robin from the sheriff’s dungeon, Marian disguises herself in boy’s clothing and makes her way toward Barnsdale Wood. After a near-fatal encounter with the outlaw Will Scarlock, Marian and Sabina finally reach the secret camp. There she warns Friar Tuck and the others of the sheriff’s plan and—in a burst of rousing oratory—inspires them to take up arms and save the king’s ransom.
In the epic climax, the Flemish invasion is thwarted, King Richard is freed from his captors, and Robin Hood and Falconberg clash swords in a bloody battle to the death. The play comes to its joyful conclusion with the betrothal of Robin and Marian, and the blossoming of love all around.