Role in the film
After King Richard's departure for the Crusade and during Prince John's rule with his new Sheriff of Nottingham at his side, taxes are being levied throughout the countryside and only a group of outlaws known as Merrie Men led by Robin Hood including his cousin, Will Scarlet are more than willing to fight back against this injustice.
When Robin Hood learns that two men are to suffer a cruel punishment and torture from the Sheriff at Nottingham Square: Scathelock, who refused to reveal Robin Hood's whereabouts after the Sheriff stole his cattle since he had no more taxes to pay and Will Stutely, who was caught poaching a King's deer since the Sheriff starved him, Robin Hood and his Merrie Men storm in to fight off the Sheriff and his men, save the two prisoners, and take them back to Sherwood Forest where they are made new members of his Merrie Men; leaving the Sheriff and his men to be thrown food at them by the people's revolt.
The next morning, Robin and the men are warned by a whistle arrow about a man approaching Sherwood Forest. The Merrie Men stay behind while Robin Hood sees to this stranger. After Robin loses a duel to the man named John Little, Robin, knowing John means to join him, calls for his men with his hunting horn. After the Merrie Men are introduced to John Little, they help Will Scarlet christen him "Little John" by throwing him in the river.
Later, after Robin meets and duels Friar Tuck, since he wishes they had a priest to join them, look after the wounded, and care for the poor, Robin and Friar Tuck are ambushed and outnumbered by the Sheriff and his men. Luckily, Robin Hood calls for his men with his horn again and they come in just in time to join in the fight, kill some of the Sheriff's men, and take the Sheriff himself prisoner.
The Sheriff (blindfolded momentarily) is taken back to Robin's lair by Robin, his men, and the Friar where they force him to eat and drink to the good health of their King Richard, pay the taxes for all the troubles he caused (including the ones he inflicted on his two former prisoners), and later, send him off blindfolded again while riding his horse the other way around back to Nottingham Castle in order to give courage to the poor the Sheriff has persecuted.
Two years have passed, King Richard's Crusade has ended in failure, and the King finds himself imprisoned in Austria to be held for a ransom of 100,000 marks; much to the dismay of Queen Eleanor: King Richard and Prince John's mother, and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Maid Marian, Robin Hood's childhood playmate and love interest and the Queen's servant left in her care during her father's absence, leaves the castle, disguised as a page boy to find Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest to convince Queen Eleanor of Robin and his men's loyalty and honesty since Prince John has convinced his Queen mother and the Archbishop of Canterbury otherwise. During the journey, she is joined by Allan-a-Dale the minstrel and Midge the Miller. Once at Sherwood Forest, they encounter Robin Hood, Little John, and Will Scarlet. The outlaws make Midge pay some money and Allan-a-Dale sing a tune while Marian tries to stop them. Robin is delighted when he finds out that the page boy is none other than Maid Marian and decides to bring her and her friends back to their lair. Knowing of the Prince and the Sheriff's lies and treachery, Robin and his men generously and honorably donate as much money as they can to pay the ransom and ensure the King's safe return.
The next day, during the donation, Maid Marian presents everyone with Robin Hood and his men's donations; much to Prince John and the Sheriff's chagrin and the Queen and the Archbishop's joy. When the Sheriff tries to object on behalf of the Prince, Robin and his men (disguised as peasants) make him pay 1,000 marks; an act which provokes the crowd to ask for as well from him. To avoid embarrassment and suspicion, Prince John has the Sheriff donate as well (1,187 marks) while Robin and his men inconspicuously empty out the rest of the treasury (more than 10,000 marks) into one big chest and present it forth to the donation in front of everyone too, thus, the deliverance of their King is assured; much to the Prince and the Sheriff's shock. After Robin and his men mockingly thank and congratulate the Sheriff for his contribution, they throw him in the river when the Sheriff sees through their disguises and escape.
Refusing to give up all his tax money and to allow his brother to return home safely, Prince John plans to disguise his men as Robin Hood's outlaws to steal his money back tomorrow while the Queen and the Archbishop are conveying the ransom through Sherwood Forest. Knowing Maid Marian has been fraternizing with the outlaws and could see through their deception, thus, jeopardize their plan, Prince John and the Sheriff have her imprisoned in the dungeon and make his mother believe she is with Robin Hood.
However, in the morning, when the Sheriff's men are disguising themselves as Robin Hood's men as the Queen and the Archbishop are passing through Sherwood Forest, Stutely spots them and warns Robin and the others of the deception. They arrive just in time to stop the impostors from robbing the ransom money. They even convince the Queen and Archbishop of their loyalty and Prince John and the Sheriff's treachery when they show them their enemies' uniforms and have one of the impostors confess. Robin Hood later learns through Queen Eleanor that something has happened to Maid Marian when she mentions that she went off to see him again last night (or so Prince John wanted her to think since he actually imprisoned her in the dungeon when he knows she has been fraternizing with the outlaws and could see through his deception, thus, jeopardize his plan).
At night, while the Queen and Archbishop leave to pay the ransom, Robin Hood and his men return to Nottingham Castle, disguised as the Sheriff's men, and force Prince John and the Sheriff at knife point to take them to Maid Marian and free her. Then, Prince John is thrown in Maid Marian's place in the dungeon by Little John while Robin and the others handle the Sheriff.
As the others leave, Robin makes the Sheriff promise to pay their tax money and not to harm them. However, once Robin Hood makes his way out, the Sheriff goes back on his word and blows his cover, thus, a battle ensues; leaving Robin Hood to fight off the guards and the Sheriff. In the end, Robin Hood manages to kill the Sheriff by having him get crushed to death by the closing bridge and then escapes while jumping into the moat. Luckily, Robin's men return to fight off the rest of the Sheriff's archers as they try to hit Robin Hood in the water and rescue him from drowning after being wounded by an arrow.
A few days later, at Robin's lair, Robin Hood is wounded and sick, thus, forced to reluctantly stay in bed in a cave and eat broth and barley at Friar Tuck and Maid Marian's insistence while Allan-a-Dale and the Merrie Men join along to sing and dance about Robin's recovery, King Richard's safe return, and Prince John's upcoming mocking fate. Then, a mysterious black rider appears. The rider says he seeks Robin Hood, thus, making Robin Hood suspect he could be one of Prince John's men and then forcing the rider to take off his hood.
To avoid misunderstandings, the rider reveals himself to be in fact, King Richard, whose ransom has been paid and who has returned safely to England. Not wanting his apology for his rash behavior and indebted to his good deed and that of his men, King Richard knights and dubs Robin, the Earl of Locksley. When King Richard spots Maid Marian, wearing an outlaw's disguise, he tells her that her father awaits her at Huntingdon where the Queen vows to marry her to the Earl of Locksley. At first, Marian seems shocked since she remains oblivious to the fact that Robin Hood is in fact the Earl she is to marry until the King reveals him to her.
The Merrie Men watch Robin and Maid Marian share a kiss as they prepare to be married.