The Black Arrow

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In fifteenth-century England, when his father's murderer is revealed to be his guardian, seventeen-year-old Richard Shelton joins the fellowship of the Black Arrow in avenging the death, rescuing the woman he loves, and participating in the struggle between the Yorks and Lancasters in the War of the Roses. (From
Curriculet Details
84 Questions
88 Annotations
3 Quizzes

This free digital curriculum for sixth grade students contains interactive videos exploring plot and character, as well as annotations describing point of view, figurative language, and character development. Students will explore the themes of loyalty, honor, and justice. The Common Core aligned questions, answers and quizzes in this free online unit will increase student engagement in the book while supporting reading comprehension.

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Robert Louis Stevenson published “The Black Arrow” in 1888. Although the book is less than a century and a half old, the writing style seems much older since Stevenson tried to imitate the Medieval language of the 1400s. “The Black Arrow” was published in serial, which means it was published chapter by chapter in a children's magazine. Fans would wait to read each new chapter like people wait for the next episode of a TV show today.  
King Henry VI was an English king who reigned during a time of great conflict over the throne. He was king from 1422 to 1461 and again briefly from 1470 to 1471.  (This annotation contains an image)
In 15th century England, power rested first in the king and then in his nobles. Nobles were people born into land-owning families of wealth and power. The common people had to work for and serve whoever owned the land they lived on. In return, their lord (local noble) was supposed to protect them. Sir Daniel Brackley is the lord of Tunstall hamlet. Brackley has left Sir Oliver in charge while he is away. 
From 1455 to 1485, two families fought for the throne of England: the Lancasters and the Yorks. King Henry VI was a Lancaster. This struggle for control of the English monarchy is referred to as The War of the Roses. The Yorks were represented by a white rose and the Lancasters by a red one.  (This annotation contains an image)
How do the commoners of Tunstall seem to feel about Sir Richard? 
The plan is for some men to join Sir Daniel in battle, while a few stay behind to defend Sir Daniel's Moat House. Who is going where? 
Have you noticed the old-fashioned language the characters speak? Ay = yes, nay = no, an = if, and sooth = truth. In addition to these outdated words, the speakers also use outdated pronouns, like "ye". To learn more about these pronouns, visit the page below and pay particular attention to the second person pronouns listed in the chart.  (This annotation contains a link)
You is the most common second person pronoun in modern English. In the 1400's, however, speakers had more pronouns to choose from. Which 15th century word below does NOT mean you? 
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Make sure you know the meaning of the words "heir" and "chattel" before moving on to the next question.  
What does Bennet Hatch want to do with Appleyard's wooden chest? 
Sir Oliver is referred to as a parson. He is a Catholic priest who also holds considerable power as Sir Daniel's right-hand man. He may have looked a little like another Medieval parson from literature: Friar Tuck from "The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood" (pictured below). (This annotation contains an image)
According to Bennet, what have Sir Daniel and Sir Oliver done to earn the hatred of many men? 
Sir Oliver admits that he is a "sluggard priest" because he is "too deep in men's affairs." What does this mean? 
Dick is a nickname for Richard. The author, Stevenson, likes to vary the names by which he calls his characters. Richard may be called Dick, Dickie, Richard, Shelton, or some combination of these.  
What is the goal of Jon Amend-All and his fellowship of men? 
Note that Bennet Hatch tells Dick not to trust Sir Daniel or Sir Oliver (the jack-priest). Do you think this is good advice? 
Describe two conflicts that have been established in the exposition of the prologue. 
The prologue of "The Black Arrow" establishes the book's exposition, the first step in the plot diagram. The exposition sets out the main characters, the setting, and the opening conflict(s). Watch the video below for an overview of the plot diagram.  (This annotation contains a video)

Homework #6

Sir Daniel has taken over the village of Kettley and will use his power to extract money from the poor peasants who live there. 
The Knight of Tunstall refers to Sir Daniel, the owner of the Tunstall Moat House. 
Sir Daniel's retainer, or servant, is named Selden. Selden brings a poor, cringing man named Condall before Sir Daniel. 
What does Sir Daniel force Condall to do? What character quality does Sir Daniel display through this incident? 
This is a bizarre line! Why does Sir Daniel say this boy will become Mrs. Shelton? Keep this strange comment in mind as you continue to read. 
What seems to be the relationship between Sir Daniel Brackley and the lad called Master John? 
As Sir Daniel's ward, Dick is under Sir Daniel's protection. A ward was an orphan whom another adult claimed responsibility for. This adult would take possession of his ward's inheritance (such as family lands, castles, and money) in order to keep it safe until the child became an adult. A dishonest person, however, might steal his ward's inheritance and use it to his own benefit. 
What part of the Jon Amend-All letter causes Sir Daniel to become suspicious of Dick? 
Recall that Dick is "not yet eighteen" and that young John looks older than thirteen but has a face "as smooth as a young child's." 
Who are Sir Daniel and his men going to join in battle? 
What is Sir Daniel saying about the boy called Master John? 
To recap: Dick has left Kettley and is heading back to the Moat House in Tunstall. John (really Joanna) has left Kettley and is heading to Holywood. Selden has left Kettley in order to find John/Joanna and bring her to the Moat House. 

Homework #7

Stevenson spends three paragraphs describing the setting of Chapter 2, so it must be important. Look up the meaning of "fen" if you don't know what it means and watch the video below for some important information about setting.  (This annotation contains a video)
What is the setting of Chapter 2? Be sure to specify the time period and place (including the country).  
Verb forms as well as pronouns were a bit different in the 15th century. After some pronouns, Medieval speakers added an "-est" or an "-eth." "Thou criest" means "You cry." If you need to, revisit this link for a reminder of these archaic (old-fashioned) verb endings.  (This annotation contains a link)
Which line below best translates the highlighted line into modern English? 
An abbot is the head of a monastery. The village of Holywood includes a monastery, which is a walled settlement where Catholic monks or priests (like Sir Oliver) live. Monasteries often offered protection to the poor and weak. The picture below shows Leiston Abbey, the real abbey on which the fictional Holywood Abbey was based. (This annotation contains an image)
Joan Sedley, Joanna, and John Matcham are one and the same person. Matcham is blushing because she ran away to avoid a forced marriage with Dick Shelton - and now Dick is standing right in front of her! They have quite an interesting conversation since Dick thinks he is speaking to a boy... 

Homework #8

The point of view in these chapters is critical to our understanding of Dick's relationship with Matcham. Watch the video below for an overview of point of view.  (This annotation contains a video)
What is the point of view of "The Black Arrow"? 
"A murrain" means "a plague" and is an interjection expressing distaste or anger, a little like the modern expression "darn it." 
What does Dick mean by the highlighted simile? 
Jack is a nickname for John - yet another name for this character alternately known as John, Matcham, Joan, Joanna, and Sedley. 
How does Dick's relationship with John change after the swimming incident? Why does it change? 

Homework #9

The author has clearly established that Matcham is a girl. Why does he continue to refer to her as a "him" and a "lad"? 
Walking in the woods during the War of the Roses could be a real danger. There was no police force to turn to for help in the 1400's. If a person fell into the hands of the enemy, they could be wounded or even killed with little consequence. Merely supporting two different families (the Lancasters or the Yorks) could make two people enemies. 
Murrey (a dark purplish-red color) and blue are the colors that Sir Daniel's men wear to demonstrate their allegiance to him. 
What group of men are Dick and John spying on? 
Contrast two of the characters in the film with their portrayal in the book. How are these two characters portrayed differently in the video than they are in the text? 
Stop to watch a few minutes of the animated adaptation of "The Black Arrow." Like any adaptation, this video makes some changes from the original story. Pay attention to similarities and differences as you watch from 4:00 to 9:00.  (This annotation contains a video)

Homework #10

The characters' differing ideas about honor help develop an important theme in the book. Watch the video below for an explanation of theme.  (This annotation contains a video)
Dick believes that going to support Sir Daniel's men is the honorable thing to do. Do you agree? Support your answer with a reference to the story. 
Explain how two of Macham's actions in this chapter are signs of her hidden identity.  
Pay attention to the mood created in this upcoming fight scene. The video below will give you an explanation of mood and tone. (This annotation contains a video)
What mood is created as Sir Daniel's men are attacked and beaten by the men of the Black Arrow? 
Note the way Stevenson makes us feel sympathy for Selden, even though we might be unsure whether he is good or bad.  

Homework #11

Dick just killed a man! And all he says afterward is "on!" What does this reveal about Dick's character? Is he ruthless and violent? Easily frightened? Brave and practical? 
What two character traits would you use to describe Matcham's character? Support each trait with examples from the text. 
Dick and Matcham part ways twice and then return to each other. What does this suggest about the pair? 

Homework #12

Although leprosy is treatable today, it was a deadly disease in the 15th century. It was also highly contagious, and lepers were cast out of society in order to protect others from catching the disease.  
Was this leper incident told from a third person omniscient or third person limited point of view? How can you tell?Rewatch the video at the link below if you need a reminder about these terms. 
Foreshadowing is when an author gives hints about future events in the story. What do you think might be foreshadowed in the highlighted passage? 

Homework #14

This refers to the Yorkist victories on the battlefield. Now that the Yorks have become powerful, Sir Daniel and his men have lost their authority. As men who fought for Lancaster, they are now considered traitors. 
What does Sir Daniel's letter indicate? 
Based on the context, with does the word unshriven most likely mean? 
What was its about Matcham that Dick liked so much? The two quarreled quite a bit. Why does Dick smile to think of him? 
Quiz 1 

Homework #15

Sir Daniel values deeds more than words. Do you think this makes sense? 
Who does Dick compare to a dog obeying its master? 
What does Sir Oliver's silence suggest to Dick? 
Sir Daniel has been very clear about his intentions here, yet Dick is unaware of them. Is the point of view here third person limited or omniscient? How has it changed from earlier in the novel? 
Sir Oliver begins to develop a new theme in the novel: Can good be achieved through evil deeds? 
There has been a good deal of foreshadowing in this chapter, hinting at the danger Dick is in. Watch the video below for an explanation of foreshadowing. (This annotation contains a video)
What purpose does the foreshadowing serve in this chapter? 

Homework #16

Why is Throgmorton being sent outside the Moat House wall? 
Since the drawbridge is closed, there is no way to escape the Moat House except by climbing down the walls.  
"Wot" means "know." 
Do you think Dick's inability to recognize that Matcham is a woman suggests that he is unintelligent? Support your answer with a reference to the text. 
Although the two quarreled in the past, they do make a good team. Each contributes his or her talents to keep them safe. This is not simply a tale in which the gentleman saves the lady; the lady helps save the gentleman as well! 

Homework #17

Stevenson has been much praised for his precise use of language and vivid descriptions. To strengthen his descriptions, he often uses figurative language, particularly similes and metaphors. Review these terms in the video before moving on. (This annotation contains a video)
Stevenson's comparisons are particularly effective because they are historically appropriate. He uses many objects from the natural world in his comparisons because these are things that ordinary 15th century people might understand. What historically appropriate comparison is made in the highlighted passage? 
Describe the setting in which Dick and Joanna are trapped. How does this setting contribute to the sinister and nervous mood of this chapter? 
What character quality does Dick's decision to move the light show? 
Remember that Bennet warned Dick about Sir Daniel before Dick left the Moat House at the beginning of the book. If Bennet does not trust Sir Daniel, why does he continue to work with him? 

Homework #18

Dick just left Joanna behind in order to save himself. Dick is a round character, which means he has both flaws and virtues. Can you think of some of his flaws? What about his virtues? 
What is the meaning of the highlighted metaphor? 
This grisly setting is a reminder that death is constantly present in the dangerous world of the 15th century. 
By "if the world changes," Dick is referring to a power change between the Lancasters and the Yorks. 
Remember that Ellis is the leader of the fellowship of the Black Arrow. 
Each answer below is an actual definition for the word justice. Which definition best fits Dick's concept of justice as captured in his letter to Sir Daniel? 

Homework #20

Ellis Duckworth's men of the Black Arrow are largely a band of criminals. Even Lawless's name suggests that the law means nothing to these men. Was it wise of Dick to join up with this group? 
Why does Sir Daniel keep Joanna hidden and meet with this man in secret? 
The archaic meaning of "gossip" is "an old friend." 
Which word below is the best synonym for infamous? Use the dictionary feature to help you if you need to. 
Remember that Sir Daniel's men would be dressed in murrey and blue, not white and dark checks. This indicates that yet another group is interested in Joanna. 
What change in Dick's situation and character does the highlighted passage reflect? 

Homework #21

The protagonist in a story is the main character. The antagonist is anyone who is in conflict with the main character. Which character below is not an antagonist in the story at this point? 
The man below is wearing the type of leather jerkin a medieval soldier might have worn.  (This annotation contains an image)
According to his opponent, what character qualities does Dick reveal through his fighting? 
The two groups began attacking each other without realizing that they were not enemies! This incident certainly proves the hotheaded and violent nature of these characters. 

Homework #22

Remember that Lord Foxham was Joanna's rightful guardian until Sir Daniel kidnapped her in order to make money by selling her in marriage. 
Which description best captures the relationship between Dick and Lord Foxham at this point? 

Homework #23

Richard Neville, the 16th Earl of Warwick, was a real historical figure who fought for the Yorkists and helped depose Henry VI from the throne.  (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following is not a precaution Sir Daniel has taken to fortify the house in Shoreby? 
Dick discovers that Joanna's house will be guarded extra heavily, so rather than giving up, he makes his task more difficult by trying to arrive by sea. This is another example of a character choosing something evil in order to do good. Do you think Dick makes a wise decision? 
Do you remember the archaic meaning of "gossip"? (It means "friend.") Lawless is pretending to be an old friend of Captain Arblaster's. He is hoping that Arblaster is drunk enough to believe his story. 
"Dickon" refers to Dick. 
"Without" means "outside." Dick is luring Arblaster outside by suggesting Arblaster will make some money by doing so. 
What is your definition of a hero? Does Dick fit this definition? Why or why not? 

Homework #24

Dick and Lord Foxham's attack on Sir Daniel's men can best be described as 
The painting below shows a ship similar to the Good Hope struggling to stay afloat during a storm. (This annotation contains an image)
How is Lawless depicted? 
What are three decisions or actions Dick takes in this expedition to rescue Joanna that show a lack of wisdom and forethought? 

Homework #25

Signet rings, owned by wealthy nobles like Lord Foxham, were methods of proving identity and authority. The ring could be used to stamp a letter or official document with the symbol representing its owner.  (This annotation contains an image)
The code of honor by which these men live emphasizes bravery, loyalty, and truth. Even though Foxham was technically Dick's enemy and prisoner, the two respect each other because of the bravery they each showed in battle.  
Summarize the task that Lord Foxham entrusts to Dick in the highlighted passage. 
What is the tone of the highlighted passage? 

Homework #27

The image below, depicting Lawless sniffing out his way, accompanied one of the early publications of "The Black Arrow." (This annotation contains an image)
Lawless does not literally mean that his shelter is a market or a wife. What kind of figurative language is he using here to emphasize the importance of his little shelter? 
What theme of The Black Arrow does the highlighted line relate to? 
Lawless is suggesting that monks have a particular way of speaking. He refers to a whine that may have resulting from speaking in a drawn-out chant-like voice since monks were often required to chant in prayer. 
What is the main purpose of this chapter? 

Homework #28

We haven't heard much about her, but Lady Brackley is Sir Daniel's wife.  
A layman is someone who is not a priest or monk. 
After going through all the trouble to disguise himself, Dick blurts out the truth to the first person he meets. Do you think this is a result of his foolhardy personality or his code of honor which places so much importance on honesty? Explain your reasons for your decision. 
The young lady is using hyperbole, or exaggeration, when she says Dick mauled her arm. Watch the video below for an explanation of hyperbole. There are more examples in this chapter. (This annotation contains a video)
Which line below contains hyperbole? 
A tapestry, or arras, is a cloth wall hanging into which an intricate picture has been embroidered with thread. Large, expensive tapestries lined the walls of medieval castles like wallpaper or paintings might decorate walls today. Some tapestries, like the one in the photo below, were so long, a person could hide behind them. (This annotation contains an image)
Quiz 2 

Homework #29

The letter reads, "My Lord of Shoreby, you who wrote the letter, do you know why your man is dead? Let me tell you: do not marry Joanna." Dick is living up to his code of honor by warning Lord Shoreby. 
How did Dick's decision to write the letter to Lord Shoreby complicate matters? 
The photo below shows a medieval church lit by candles at nighttime. The effect would be similar to the scene here in the Shoreby church.  (This annotation contains an image)
Dick keeps running into new difficulties at every turn. These complications serve to increase the tension of the scenes. As the plot grows more and more complicated, which stage of the plot diagram do the events fit into? Visit the link below for a visual of the plot diagram. 

Homework #30

Based on Dick's words, how should a brave man of honor approach death? 
As indicated on the previous page, Duckworth plans to infiltrate the church and try to stop the marriage. Ordinarily, this would be helpful. However, since Dick and Lawless are Sir Oliver's prisoners, they will not be able to run away after Duckworth attacks. If an attack is made, Dick and Lawless will be most likely be blamed and executed.  
What do the details of Lord Shoreby's gouty foot and bald head seem to suggest? 
Gout is a form of arthritis that results in painful, swollen redness. It was often developed in older men as a result of eating too much rich food and drinking too much alcohol.  
What does the highlighted simile emphasize? 
In whose hands does Dick's fate rest at this point? (In other words, who will decide whether Dick lives or dies?) 

Homework #31

Does Sir Risingham seem like an honorable man? Why or why not? 
This was the letter that Dick took off Throgmorton's body. Sir Daniel wrote the letter after the Lancaster supporters were defeated. He indicated that he was willing to switch to the Yorkist side. To prove this, he offered to attack Lord Risingham's property and turn it over to the Yorkists. However, the Lancastrians regained power within a few months, so Sir Daniel did not need to switch sides.  

Homework #32

Have you ever heard the expression "out of the frying pan and into the fire"? Read the short fable at the link below to learn the meaning of this idiom. (This annotation contains a link)
Explain how Dick's current situation is similar to the situation in "The Stag and the Lion." 
Dick tells the sailors that he must be wealthy since he was able to command and outfit a crew to sail on the Good Hope and go to battle. He then claims that he is still searching for treasure, and if a wealthy man is bothering to search for a particular treasure, it must be a very large treasure. 
Ali Baba is the story of a man who is able to open a hidden cave full of treasure using the phrase "open sesame." After telling the truth openly while at Shoreby mansion, why do you think Dick makes up such a dishonest story now? 
In his attempts to rescue Joanna, Dick was nearly killed multiple times, yet still failed to free Joanna. Has Dick and Joanna's situation improved in any way? 

Homework #34

Below is an early illustration of this sword fight.  (This annotation contains an image)
Why did Dick defend the nobleman even though he had never met him? 
Richard of Gloucester is one of the few real historical figures to appear in this book. Richard was one of the Yorkists who succeeded in defeating the Lancastrians and became king in 1483. Richard III has traditionally been depicted as a hunchback with a cruel, power-hungry, and war-like personality. He is suspected of killing his own nephews in order to become king. You can read about his recent reburial in the USA TODAY article on Curriculet titled 530 Years After Death, Richard III Gets Proper Burial. (This annotation contains an image)
Thus far, the battles Dick has fought have involved fewer than a hundred men. Sometimes the fighting has only involved a few dozen. Now, the Duke of Gloucester is talking about amassing a force of 2,300 men. What does this suggest about the events to come? 

Homework #35

List three things the Duke of Gloucester has said or done that portray his character in a negative light. 
This dramatic battle scene is the moment of highest tension. The fates of England and of our protagonist, Dick, hang in the balance. What part of the novel have we reached? 
The Duke of Gloucester has just made Dick a knight, which means that he will now be called Sir Richard. A noble like a duke held the power to make someone a knight by holding a sword over them and pronouncing their new title. A knight held the favor of his lord and could continue to rise in position and wealth.  (This annotation contains an image)

Homework #36

King Richard III was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field and the throne was passed to the house of Tudor when King Henry VII became king. If you are interested in some more recent news about King Richard, the link below discusses the recent discovery of his grave. Scientists have been able to verify that Richard was not a hunchback, but he did have scoliosis and a crooked spine.  (This annotation contains a link)

Homework #37

The more horrid part that Stevenson refers to is the plundering and pillaging that followed war. After conquering a town, soldiers often destroyed property and stole anything they pleased, without any concern for the innocent people who lived there. 
Why does Dick climb to the top of the church tower? 
What does Dick's cry reveal? 
This is an important moment for Dick. He has made many mistakes in the past several months. This is a sign that he is learning some lessons as a result of his mistakes.  
According to Catesby, what was the Duke of Gloucester's sudden support of Dick mainly based upon? 

Homework #38

How does the snowy setting affect the events of this scene? 
Do you agree with Alicia? Should Dick have shown more support to Lord Risingham after Risingham allowed Dick and Lawless to escape Sir Daniel? 
What causes Dick to groan? 
What flaw does Dick recognize in himself due to Alicia's chastisement? 
Dick honorably stays true to Joanna.  

Homework #39

Although they do not fight in battle, the females in this story are powerful in other ways. Both Alicia and Joanna have the power to help or hurt Dick emotionally. 
Explain how the highlighted scene reflects the novel's theme of the importance of honor. 
What is the tone of the highlighted passage? 

Homework #40

Which characters have proven to be dynamic over the course of "The Black Arrow"? The video below explains the difference between static and dynamic characters. (This annotation contains a video)
Based on the highlighted passage, why might we describe Dick as a dynamic character? 
Based on Sir Daniel's death, Dick's upcoming marriage, and Ellis's words, which part of the plot have we reached? 

Homework #41

If a woman was well dowered it meant she had a large dowry, or sum of money to contribute to her husband upon her marriage. 
What does Richard of Gloucester mean when he says, "For Sir Richard, let me tell you plainly, he will die Sir Richard"? 
Dick has certainly grown as a result of his experiences. Read the poem “If” at the link below. The poem describes what it takes to become a man. According to the standards of this poem, has the teenage Dick we met at the beginning of the story matured into a man? Make specific references to the poem to support your answer. 
List one major difference you noticed in the film and explain the effect this has on the characters or the plot. 
Watch the ending of the animated version of "The Black Arrow," beginning at 3:51.  (This annotation contains a video)
These pensions refer to monetary allowances provided by Dick. 
Quiz 3