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Study Guide Compiled by Michael J. Cummings..© 2004
Revised and Enlarged in 2010
Type of Work and Year of Publication
.......Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe is a historical romance novel. Romance here refers as much to derring-do and intrigue as to courtship and love. Archibald Constable and Company of Edinburgh printed the novel in December 1819 but indicated 1820 as the year of publication. The Edinburgh Review and Edinburgh's Literary Gazette hailed the novel as a
.......The action takes place in
England in the summer of 1194, when the nation's illustrious warrior king, Richard I, returns to his homeland from the Third Crusade in the Holy Land. Scott describes the specific locale (in northern England, east of present-day Manchester) in the opening paragraph.
.......In that pleasant district of merry England which is watered by the river Don, there extended in ancient times a large forest, covering the greater part of the beautiful hills and valleys which lie between Sheffield and the pleasant town of Doncaster. The remains of this extensive wood are still to be seen
at the noble seats of Wentworth, of Warncliffe Park, and around Rotherham. Here haunted of yore the fabulous Dragon of Wantley; here were fought many of the most desperate battles during the Civil Wars of the Roses; and here also flourished in ancient times those bands of gallant outlaws, whose deeds have been rendered so popular in English song.
.......Scott sets action in historical towns, such as Sheffield and Ashby, and in fictional towns, such as Templestowe and Rotherwood.
.......Such [is] our chief scene.
.......The novel centers on the (1) general conflict the Norman rulers of England and the native Saxons and (2) specific conflicts between individuals, notably the conflict between Ivanhoe and his father. The narrator reports the status of relations between Normans and Saxons in Chapter 1:
Four generations had not sufficed to blend the hostile blood of the Normans and Anglo-Saxons, or to unite, by common language and mutual interests, two hostile races, one of which still felt the elation of triumph, while the other groaned under all the consequences of defeat. The power had been completely placed in the hands of the Norman
nobility, by the event of the battle of Hastings, and it had been used, as our histories assure us, with no moderate hand.Thus, according to Scott, the animosity between the Saxons and French noblemen remained intense in 1194, although most historians maintain that the Saxon-French rivalry had died down by that time. 1194.
Point of View
.......Scott tells the story in third-person point of view. However, he occasionally assumes the persona of a storyteller and historian, using the first-person pronoun I, as in the following passage in Chapter 1:
This state of things I have thought it necessary to premise for the information of the general reader, who might be apt to forget, that, although no great historical events, such as war or insurrection, mark the existence of the Anglo-Saxons as a separate people subsequent to the reign of William the Second; yet the great national
distinctions betwixt them and their conquerors, the recollection of what they had formerly been, and to what they were now reduced, continued down to the reign of Edward the Third, to keep open the wounds which the Conquest had inflicted, and to maintain a line of separation betwixt the descendants of the victor Normans and the vanquished Saxons.Characters
Wilfred of Ivanhoe Heroic Saxon knight who had fought in Crusades in the
Holy Land. He is the novel's protagonist. He vanquishes villainous Norman enemies while also supporting the upright Norman king of England, Richard I. His deeds bolster Saxon pride, restore peace between Saxons and Normans, and reconcile him with his father, who had disinherited him when he decided to fight alongside the Normans in the Holy Land.
Palmer: Ivanhoe disguised as a pilgrim, or palmer, after his return to England. A palmer was a person who made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He carried a palm leaf (or displayed an emblem of a palm leaf) to indicate that he had completed the pilgrimage. King Richard I: Rightful King of England and a bold and skillful warrior who fought in the Crusades in the Holy Land and returns to England in 1194. Though French blood runs in his veins, he proves himself a just and worthy king.
Desdichado: Ivanhoe. In disguise, he fights under this Spanish name (meaning Disinherited Knight) against Normans in a tournament at Ashby-de-la-Zouche in Leicestershire.
Black Knight: King Richard. He disguises himself, assuming the identity of the "Black Knight," after returning to England. Prince John: Richard’s evil brother, who plots to seize the throne of England.
Richard Coeur de Lion: King Richard's French name, meaning Richard the
Cedric of Rotherwood: Ivanhoe’s father. Cedric is gruff and full of loathing for the Normans. He disinherits Ivanhoe after the young man joins the hated
Normans in their Crusades in the Holy Land.
Rowena: Ivanhoe’s beautiful and compassionate beloved. She is Cedric's ward and a descendant of the Saxon king Alfred the Great.
Athelstane of Congingsburgh: Courageous but mediocre Saxon lord engaged to Rowena.
Edith: Mother of Athelstane.
Isaac of York: Jew who helps Ivanhoe. Bigoted
Christians treat him badly throughout the novel.
Rebecca: Isaac’s beautiful and selfless daughter. For her nobility and strength of character, she is perhaps the most admirable character in the novel.
Brian de Bois-Guilbert: Villainous Knight Templar who opposes Ivanhoe and Richard. He falls in love with Rebecca and takes her captive.
Reginald Front-de-Boeuf: Gigantic warrior, ally of John, and enemy of Ivanhoe. King Richard mortally wounds
him in the battle at Front-de-Boeuf's castle, and he dies when the castle burns.
Waldemar Fitzurse: Advisor of Prince John and a treacherous enemy of King Richard.
Maurice de Bracy: Mercenary knight in the service of Prince John.
Albert de Malvoisin: Evil Knight Templar and preceptor (overseer) of Templestowe, the knights' castle.
Philip de Malvoisin: Knight Templar and brother of Albert de Malvoisin. He shares his brother's malevolence.
Locksley: Robin Hood, leader of a band of forest outlaws who help Richard and Ivanhoe. He wins an archery tournament by shooting an
arrow that splits the arrow of his opponent, Hubert, and by shooting another that splits a willow rod.
Diccon Bend-the-Bow: Another name for Robin Hood.Friar Tuck: Member of Locksley’s band. He is also known as the Hermit or as the Clerk of Copmanhurst.
Hubert: Archer and forester in the service of Malvoisin. At the tournament, he loses the archery contest to Locksley
Prior Aymer: Monk of the strict Cistercian order who serves as head of the St. Mary's of Jorvaulx. Against the vows he took to become a priest, he indulges in pleasures of the flesh. Cedric receives Aymer at Rotherwood before the tournament at Ashby-de-la-Zouche.
Gurth: Swineherd in the service of Cedric.
Wamba: Cedric’s jester.
Hundibert: Servant of Cedric. Hundibert is described as a major domo (chief steward).
Oswald: Cedric's cupbearer in the dining hall at Rotherwood.
Beaumanoir: Stern Grand Master of the Knights Templars (or Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon) and strict enforcer of the austere rules of the order. After sojourning in Paris to seek aid to battle the Muslim leader Saladin in the Holy Land, he visits Templestowe to chastise the Knights Templars there for their worldly ways. Although he believes himself moral and upright, he
is a thoroughgoing Anti-Semite.
Conrade de Montfichet: Templar Knight at Templestowe and confidant of Beaumanoir.
Nathan Ben Israel: Jewish rabbi and physician. He
ministers to Isaac of York, who had become ill on his way to Templestowe to rescue his daughter.
Torquil Wolfganger: Deceased friend of Cedric's father. The Normans murdered him and enslaved his daughter, Ulrica, to their lust.
Ulrica: Daughter of Torquil Wolfganger, a friend of Cedric's father. The Normans
Herman of Goodalricke: Knight Templar preceptor who questions Brian de Bois-Guilbert at the trial
Higg: Benefactor of Rebecca's kindness. He testifies on her behalf at her trial.
Elgitha: Rowena's handmaiden.
Hereward of Rotherwood: Deceased father of Cedric.
Damian: Squire of the Knights Templars. He informs Beaumanoir of the arrival of a Jew (Isaac of York) at
Giles: Jailer at Torquilstone.
Hugh Bardon: Spy for Prince John.
Ambrose: Friar who attends Prior Aymer of Jorvaulx.
Jocelyn: Squire of Front-de-Boeuf.
Allan-a-Dale: Comrade of Robin of Locksley
and singer of songs.
Hugh de Grantmesnil: Nobleman who participates in the jousting tournament. Ivanhoe defeats him.
Ralph de Vipont: Knight of St. John of Jerusalem who
participates in the jousting tournament. Ivanhoe defeats him.
Richard de Malvoisin: Participant in the jousting tournament.
Engelred: One of Front-de-Boeuf's
Gilbert: Member of Robin's band.
Wibbald: Member of Robin's band.
Warder of Torquilstone Castle: He admits Wamba in the disguise of a priest.
Squires, pages, attendants, servantsPlot Summary
By Michael J. Cummings...© 2004
Revised and Enlarged in 2010
.......The year is 1194. The place is northern England. There, Saxon natives bitterly resent the policies of their haughty Norman overlords, the descendants of French nobles who settled England with William the Conqueror. (William, Duke of Normandy , sailed across the English Channel from France in 1066, defeated the
English king in the Battle of Hastings, and seized the English throne.)
.......The enmity William’s takeover engendered between the Saxons and Normans continues to fester after Richard I, the sixth King of England in the French line, assumes the throne in
.......After Richard (known popularly in history by his English name, Richard the Lion-Hearted, and French name, Richard Coeur de Lion) becomes king, his main interest lies in joining the Crusades to win back the Holy Land from the
Muslims. Well suited to military life, he is bold, crafty, and highly skilled in swordsmanship. Shortly after his coronation, he gallops off to the Third Crusade to battle the Muslim leader, Saladin, for control of sacred territory. After seizing Cyprus, Richard confers with other Crusade leaders at the conquered city of Acre, not far from Jerusalem. When he quarrels with them over policy,
Richard insults Leopold V, Duke of Austria, and rips down one of his banners.
.......In 1192, after forging a truce with the Muslims, Richard sails for England but puts in at Venice during a storm. Henchmen of Leopold, still smarting from Richard’s
offensive behavior at Acre, capture him and imprison him in a castle on the Danube. Later, Leopold turns him over to Henry VI, a German king of the Hohenstaufen dynasty and ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. A ransom frees Richard in 1194.
.......While Richard makes his way to England, his ambitious and unscrupulous brother, John, controls the country as prince regent and plots to seize the throne. He and his fellow Normans have expropriated Saxon lands, bound many Saxons to feudal servitude, and denied Saxons the rights that Normans regularly enjoy. To
John, the Saxons are pustules on the royal corpus; they must be squeezed and excised. .
.......In the forest district of the River Don, Normans on horseback approach a swineherd, Gurth, and a jester, Wamba, and ask directions to the hall of Cedric of Rotherwood, a
Saxon lord. The Normans hope to gain overnight lodging there before setting out the next day for a spectacular tournament at Ashby-de-la-Zouche in Leicestershire. There, knights in full battle armor will ride their horses to ring metal and draw blood.
.......Gurth and Wamba, Saxons in the service of Cedric, give the Normans the wrong directions. Among these Normans are fierce warrior priests, members of a religious order called Knights Templars, who wielded mighty swords in the Crusades. One is the formidable Brian de Bois-Guilbert, who will take part in the tournament. Had it not been for a pilgrim newly returned from the
Holy Land, the Normans would never have found Cedric’s hall. They encountered this pilgrim, called a “palmer” because of a palm leaf he carries as a symbol of a visit to the Holy Land, while attempting to follow the directions of Gurth and Wamba. The palmer leads them to the hall, where a feast progresses.
.......It is an old Saxon custom to provide lodging to travelers, even despised Normans. Cedric—a proud and quick-tempered master but a fair man nonetheless—welcomes them to dine in his hall and lodge in his rooms. With the Normans are Muslim captives brought to England as slaves. Not one of the Saxons or Normans recognizes the
palmer, though the palmer well recognizes them. For he is Wilfred of Ivanhoe, the son of Cedric—in disguise because his father had disinherited and ostracized him. Why? First, he fell in love with Lady Rowena, Cedric’s beautiful Saxon ward and a descendant of Alfred the Great. Cedric had pledged her to Lord Athelstane of Coningsburgh, in whose veins runs the blood of another early Saxon king.
Cedric believes the marriage will unite Saxon splinter groups into a unit that could restore Saxon hegemony in England. Second, Ivanhoe, a knight of uncommon skill and bravery, joined the hated Normans in the Crusades to win back the Holy Land.
Lady Rowena enters the hall, her beauty dazzles the Normans. Feeling the heat of their gazes, she draws a veil across her face. After Brian de Bois-Guilbert drinks a toast to her, she inquires about developments in the Holy Land. The knight says he has little to report except the truce effected with Saladin.
.......During the feast, a Jew, Isaac of York, begs entry to the hall to sup at a table, and Cedric directs him to the lower end of a table. But no one makes room for him, out of loathing for his race and religion. Saxons and Normans alike ridicule him, and even the Muslim slaves shun him. However, the palmer yields his seat to Isaac,
places food before him, and goes to the other side of the hall while Isaac—famished from traveling—heartily consumes the food.
.......Normans and Saxons debate the merits of their languages. Those fluent in Norman French and Saxon English understand everything.
Others converse in pidgin, stringing together motley phrases, or rely on translators. When the subject turns to the valor of the knights in the Holy Land, Brian de Bois-Guilbert extols the prowess of the Normans compared with the English. Rowena asks whether any English knights distinguished themselves. De Bois-Guilbert concedes that certain English knights fought with spirit, but declares they
were second to the Norman knights.
.......“Second to none,” the palmer rejoins. He describes a tournament in the Holy Land in which English knights defeated Normans. He says that if one of those English knights, Wilfred of Ivanhoe, were present, he would
challenge de Bois-Guilbert in the lists. The palmer offers an ivory box containing a fragment of the cross of Christ as surety against such a match, and de Bois-Guilbert flings a gold chain onto the table as his pledge.
.......After the banquet, Rowena
questions the palmer about Ivanhoe—whether he will encounter problems returning home, whether he enjoys good health. The palmer tells her Ivanhoe well knows the customs in foreign lands, enabling him to travel safely. As to his health, the palmer says Ivanhoe is darker and thinner than when he arrived in Cyprus and that “care seemed to sit heavy on his brow.”
.......The next morning, the palmer enters Isaac’s room and advises him to leave immediately and travel hastily. When Isaac asks why, the palmer says he overheard de Bois-Guilbert instructing his Muslims to rob Isaac on the road. The palmer then quietly departs with Isaac, who
plans to conduct business in the region and attend the tournament. The palmer guides him through secret passes in the forest to the home of friends in Sheffield. Grateful, Isaac says he will get the palmer what he most wants: a horse and armor for the tournament. Isaac explains that he knows the palmer is really a knight because of the words he spoke the previous evening. Like “sparks from flint
[they] showed the metal within,” Isaac says. Moreover, Isaac says, when the palmer bent over, his cloak opened to reveal a knight’s chain and spurs of gold. Isaac then obtains from a fellow Jew everything Ivanhoe needs to compete.
.......So it is that Ivanhoe is able to enter the tournament and
joust against the best of the field before a crowd of Saxons and Normans, including Prince John.
.......In the first event of the tournament, Brian de Bois-Guilbert and other Normans gain the upper hand—to the dismay of Cedric and his supporters—by unhorsing one
Saxon after another. It appears that no one can stand up to them. Then, at the sound of a trumpet, Ivanhoe takes the field disguised as Desdichado, Spanish for Disinherited Knight.
.......Ivanhoe first rides against de Bois-Guilbert. The Norman’s lance
strikes Ivanhoe’s shield squarely, nearly knocking Ivanhoe out of his saddle. At the same time, Ivanhoe’s lance strikes Norman’s helmet, and “saddle, horse, and man rolled on the ground in a cloud of dust.” The victorious Ivanhoe drinks from a bowl of wine, saying: “To all true English hearts, and to the confusion of foreign tyrants.” Next, he defeats a ruthless, battle-scarred giant, Reginald
Front-de-Boeuf, then completes the rout by dispatching three more horsemen: Sir Philip Malvoisin, Hugh de Grantmesnil, and Ralph de Vipont. Amazed spectators wonder, “Who is this Disinherited Knight?”
.......As the victor, the Disinherited Knight has the
right to designate the Queen of Beauty and Love. Riding up to the royal seating area, he uses his lance to take up the crown and place it at the feet of Lady Rowena, conferring upon her complete royal authority in the realm for the following day. Prince John confirms the Disinherited knight’s victory, reluctantly, and Rowena receives the crown.
.......Isaac and his daughter, Rebecca, who are lodging at an Israelite’s house near Ashby, receive a visitor, Gurth, who has come on Ivanhoe’s behalf to repay Isaac eighty zecchins for the armor. Later, however, when Rebecca is alone with Gurth, she gives back the money and
tells Gurth to return it to Ivanhoe.
.......On the second day of the tournament, fifty Norman warriors and fifty Saxon warriors assemble for a battle royal. Athelstane, angry that the Disinherited Knight chose his fiancée as the Queen of Beauty and Love,
fights on the Norman side. During the bloody free-for-all, de Bois-Guilbert, Front-le-Boeuf, and Athelstane close in on Ivanhoe. Then a mysterious Black Knight rides into the lists and evens the odds by defeating Athelstane and Front-le-Boeuf. Ivanhoe, heartened, again unhorses de Bois-Guilbert.
.......In the end, four men lie dead, thirty others nurse wounds, and Ivanhoe again emerges victorious, earning the right to receive the Chaplet of Honor from Lady Rowena. When Rowena reaches down to place the chaplet on the knight’s helmet, marshals declare that the knight must receive the chaplet on his bare head. Removing his
helmet, they reveal the pale, blood-streaked face of Ivanhoe. He kisses Rowena’s hand, then collapses at her feet. Removal of his armor reveals a lance wound in his side.
.......Before the Disinherited Knight’s fate is known, word spreads through the crowd that
he is none other than the valiant Wilfred of Ivanhoe, Cedric’s son, returned from the Holy Land.
.......Rumor has it that King Richard, too, is on his way back to England after his detention in central Europe. This news prompts Prince John and his
unscrupulous adviser, Waldemar Fitzurse, to further their plans to overthrow Richard, using a mercenary warrior, Maurice de Bracy, along with Brian de Bois-Guilbert and Reginald Front-de-Boeuf.
.......Richard is in fact in England. He was the mysterious knight
who helped Ivanhoe in the lists. After the tournament, he galloped off, lodged for the night at a wayside inn, then rode into the forest. In the remains of an old chapel, a monk, Friar Tuck, gives him food and drink and they sing songs.
is under the care of Isaac of York’s beautiful daughter, Rebecca, who is skilled in the healing arts. She is much taken with the Christian knight, and he is not averse to her attentions. After the tournament, Isaac and Rebecca take Ivanhoe with them on a horse litter and enter the forest.
.......Later, Cedric, Athelstane, Rowena, and a company of men also enter the forest on their return to Rotherwood. Along the way, they encounter Isaac and Rebecca. Isaac tells Cedric the bodyguard that he hired to accompany him ran away after learning there were outlaws in the forest. While fleeing, these men took with them mules that Isaac rented to haul a sick
old man (the wounded Ivanhoe, in disguise) on a litter. When Isaac asks to travel under Cedric’s protection, Athelstane calls him a dog and tries to turn him away. However, Cedric decides to leave Isaac two men and two horses, a decision that Rowena praises. Rebecca kneels and kisses Rowena’s dress in a gesture of thanks, then renews the plea to travel under Cedric’s protection for the sake of
the sick person on the litter. After Rowena importunes Cedric on Rebecca’s behalf, Cedric accedes to Isaac’s wishes.
.......Unfortunately, de Bois-Guilbert, the mercenary Maurice de Bracy, and Reginald Front-de-Boeuf lead their men in an ambush against the
Saxon travelers, capturing all of them except Wamba, who escapes after briefly fighting the enemy. Wamba stumbles upon Gurth in the forest, and together they come upon Robin of Locksley (Robin Hood). When they inform Robin of the presence of the Normans nearby, he goes off to reconnoiter them and learns where they are taking their Saxon captives, Front-de-Boeuf's castle, Torquilstone. After
returning, Robin alerts the Black Knight and Friar Tuck of the Saxons' plight. They and the rest of Robin's men then prepare to attack the castle rescue the captives.
.......Meanwhile, when the Normans reach Torquilstone, they imprison their captives, including
Ivanhoe. Rebecca is with him, tending his wounds. The Normans' intentions soon become clear. De Bracy wants Rowena, de Bois-Guilbert wants Rebecca, and Front-de-Boeuf wants a thousand pieces of silver from Isaac, threatening to torture him if he does not produce the money.
.......Before the Normans can act on their plans, Robin and the Black Knight arrive at the castle with two hundred men. After the Normans discuss their options, they send the Saxons a message asking for a priest to hear the confessions of the captives, who are to be executed. The Normans plan to question the priest about the army outside and to use him to send for reinforcements.
After the Saxons receive the message, Wamba volunteers to be the priest, dons the robes of Friar Tuck, and goes to the castle. He is instructed to reconnoiter the castle and, at the same time, inform the Normans that if they execute their captives the Saxon army will make them pay for their actions with their lives.
.......Once in the castle, Wamba tells Front-de-Boeuf that he is a Franciscan priest who, wandering through the forest, happened upon the Saxons massed outside the castle. When Front-de-Boeuf questions Wamba about them, the jester puts their number at five hundred. De Bois-Guilbert tells Front-de-Boeuf aside that after the priest
hears confessions, they will give him a message to carry to Philip de Malvoisin, calling upon him to bring Norman soldiers to Torquilstone to fight the Saxon army. A servant then escorts Wamba to the room where Cedric and Athelstane are held so that he may hear their confessions. There, Wamba changes clothes with Cedric, enabling him to walk about in the guise of the monk.
.......Cedric encounters an old hag named Ulrica. Once she was young and beautiful, she tells Cedric, but she aged prematurely after she became a slave to the lust of the occupants of the castle. Now that she is ugly and decrepit, she is an object of scorn. Her father was
Torquil Wolfganger--a friend and comrade-in-arms of Cedric's father, Hereward. Torquil was murdered by the father of Reginald Front-de-Boeuf. Over time, a rivalry developed between Reginald and the elder Front-de-Boeuf, and Ulrica used her wiles to further inflame them against each other until the day came when Reginald killed his father. Ulrica has since lived for the day when she can gain
revenge against those who corrupted her.
.......Later, when the Normans speak with Cedric (still in the guise of a priest), they give him a scroll bearing the message for Philip de Malvoisin. Front-de-Boeuf escorts him out of the
castle, past the moat, and gives him a gold coin for his trouble. After walking into the field before the castle, Cedric turns and hurls the coin back to Front-de-Boeuf, shouting, "False Norman, thy money perish with thee!" Front-de-Boeuf then checks the room where Cedric and Athelstane were being held. There, he strikes off the pulled-down cap of a prisoner wearing Cedric's clothes and finds
Wamba beneath it. De Bracy comes in and says Cedric "must have escaped in the monk's garments!"
.......Realizing that their plan to send for help has gone awry, they hastily prepare for battle. When the Black Knight, Locksley, and
their forces attack, Front-de-Boeuf suffers a mortal wound. As he lies dying on a bed, Ulrica comes in, stands over him, and reminds him of his sins. She tells him he will never again know peace, for "even in death
shalt thou think on thy murders--on the groans
which this castle has echoed--on the blood that is engrained in its floors!" She sets fire to the castle, sealing the doom of Front-le-Boeuf--and herself. After striking what appears to be a mortal blow to the head of Athelstane, de Bois-Guilbert escapes with Rebecca and several of his men. He takes her Templestowe, the abode of the Knights Templar.
.......At dawn the next day, the Saxon victors meet at Robin Hood's forest encampment to divide the loot they carried off. Cedric, who refuses any booty for himself, says his men are standing by to transport the body of the fallen Athelstane to his final
resting place and to accompany Rowena back to Rotherwood. He thanks Wamba for his heroic deeds, and he rewards Gurth, a serf, with his freedom and a parcel of his land. The Black Knight accepts his share of the spoils and then, as a goodwill gesture, frees one of the captives, the mercenary Maurice de Bracy, with a stern warning: "beware of the future, lest a worse thing befall
.......Friar Tuck, also called the Clerk of Copmanhurst, enters the camp with Isaac of York. Shortly thereafter, another captive--Prior Aymer of Jorvaulx--enters complaining of maltreatment at the hands of one of Robin's
men, Allan-a-Dale. When Isaac learns that de Bois-Guilbert took his daughter to Templestowe, Robin devises a plan in which Isaac will pay the prior a generous sum to write a letter to de Bois-Guilbert in order to gain entry to Templestowe and secure the release of Rebecca with a ransom. The prior writes the letter and gives it to Isaac, and he sets out for Templestowe with his own men and two
foresters as guides.
.......While Isaac is on his mission, de Bracy arrives at the Castle of York and informs Prince John of the fall of Torquilstone, the death of Front-de-Boeuf, and de Bois-Guilbert's escape to Templestowe.
This is disturbing news for John, who was counting on these men to assist him in his plan to become ruler of England. Even worse, de Bracy says, Richard I is in England. He himself spoke with him, he says. He recognized him in his disguise, he says, although the outlaws with him were ignorant of his identity. De Bracy then announces that he is leaving for Flanders to seek new work as a
.......Prince John then plots to take Richard prisoner. De Bracy refuses to participate in the scheme, having promised Richard not to engage in mischief. Waldemar Fitzurse, John's advisor, takes on the task and begins
assembling the needed men.
.......Meanwhile, Isaac delivers the letter from Prior Aymer into the hands of Lucas de Beaumanoir, the grand master of the Templar order, who recently arrived at Templestowe to discipline his
knights after hearing of their worldly behavior. Although it is addressed to Brian de Bois-Guilbert, de Beaumanoir reads it. The letter urges de Bois-Guilbert to surrender the "Jewish sorceress, whose black eyes have bewitched thee," to Isaac, who is prepared to pay an enormous sum to ransom her. The grand master is shocked to learn that one of his knights has violated his priestly vows and
fallen in love with a Jewess. He is also angry that the preceptor of Templestowe, Albert de Malvoisin, permitted de Bois-Guilbert to bring a Jewish woman into the castle. However, he shifts all blame for the situation to Rebecca by accusing her of witchcraft. Her skill in the healing arts is actually a form of sorcery, he maintains. He then angrily dismisses Isaac and later holds a mock trial in
which Rebecca is found guilty of practicing witchcraft.
.......At the urging of de Bois-Guilbert, Rebecca invokes her right to trial by combat. A champion must come forth to fight for her. The grand master reluctantly approves her solution and designates de
Bois-Guilbert to fight Rebecca's champion. If the champion fails to appear, Rebecca will die. The grand master allows Rebecca to write a message to her father, asking him to find a champion. Higg, a Saxon joiner who testified at the trial that Rebecca had healed him of palsy, delivers her message.
.......Meanwhile, the Black Knight visits Ivanhoe at the Priory of St. Botolph, not far from Robin's forest camp. Ivanhoe has been recuperating at the priory from his wounds. Richard tells him that he will meet him at Coningsburgh for the funeral of Athelstane and attempt to reunite him with his father. After Richard rides away,
Fitzurse and his men ambush Richard, but Robin and his band immediately come to his aid and kill or wound Fitzurse's men. Richard, now acting as king, banishes Fitzhurse from England and then reveals his true identity to Robin.
.......At Coningsburgh Castle,
where mourners are gathered for Athelstane's funeral, Richard brings Ivanhoe and Cedric together after revealing his identity to the latter. Ivanhoe and Cedric reconcile. But there is no funeral, for Athelstane has risen from his open coffin. The blow he suffered had knocked him unconscious, into a deathlike trance. After his "resurrection," he vows allegiance to Richard and yields Rowena to
.......At the trial by combat in the lists near Templestowe, Rebecca awaits a champion as she sits in a black chair near a stake hung with fetters and surrounded by bundles of firewood. But no one appears. De Bois-Guilbert tries to persuade her to
escape with him, but she refuses. Then, when it appears that she is doomed to burn at the stake, the champion rides in. It is Ivanhoe. De Bois-Guilbert is in a no-win situation. If he defeats Ivanhoe, Rebecca dies. If Ivanhoe is the victor, de Bois-Guilbert dies.
.......During the fight both men are unhorsed. Ivanhoe, sword in hand, gains the superior position and demands that his rival surrender. But de Bois-Guilbert is already dead, perhaps of a heart attack. After the grand master frees Rebecca, Richard arrives with a company of soldiers and several knights in armor. One of the knights--Henry Bohun, Earl of Essex and high constable of
England--comes forward and arrests Albert Malvoisin for high treason.
......."Thou diest with thy brother Philip, ere the world be a week older," Richard tells Albert.
.......The flag of England now flies over Templestone, and the Templar grand master gathers his knights, squires, and other followers and moves on. Essex tells Ivanhoe that Richard sent his brother to their mother. Ivanhoe and Rowena marry in the Minster of York, with King Richard attending the ceremony. On the second day after
the wedding, Rebecca visits Rowena and tells her that she and her father are moving to Moslem Spain.
Division and Reconciliation
.......From the beginning of Ivanhoe to the end, the novel centers on efforts to maintain or eliminate rancorous divisions. These divisions include the rifts separating Ivanhoe from his father, Normans from Saxons, and Christians from Jews. Ivanhoe and his father eventually reconcile, enabling Ivanhoe to marry
Rowena, and the Saxons accept Norman rule under the righteous Norman king, Richard I. However, although Rebecca tries mightily to heal divisions between Christians and Jews, most of the Christians at the end of the novel refuse to regard Jews as their equals. Consequently, Rebecca and her father leave England for Spain.
Triumph of Good Over Evil
.......Ivanhoe, King Richard, Robin of Locksley, and other virtuous and upright characters in the novel prevail. Rebecca gains exoneration from the charge of witchcraft and goes free, thanks to the intervention of Ivanhoe. However, the villainous characters die, suffer physical injury or humiliation, or fail to achieve
.......After the Normans conquer England, they and their descendants–drunk with power–succumb to their baser instincts, unjustly taking Saxon lands and humiliating the Saxons with unfair treatment. Norman aristocrats even limit Saxons to inferior seats at jousting tournaments.The abuse of Ulrica at Torquilstone
symbolizes the plight of the downtrodden Saxons. Meanwhile, most Normans and Saxons unjustly treat the Jews among them.
.......Normans and Saxons alike scorn Isaac the Jew and attempt to profit at his expense. Moreover, the Norman Templar Brian de Bois-Guilbert attempts to exploit Isaac's beautiful daughter, Rebecca. Only Ivanhoe, Rowena, and Richard treat Isaac and Rebecca with a measure of compassion and respect. The author appears to
support fair treatment of the Jews, but his descriptions of Isaac contain many negative stereotypes of Jews that render his position ambiguous. Among passages that insult Jews are the following:
"[T]he swineherd will be a fit usher to the Jew"—Chapter 5.
Development of the English Language
"Dog of an unbeliever," said an old man, whose threadbare tunic bore witness to his poverty, as his sword, and dagger, and golden chain intimated his pretensions to rank,—"whelp of a she-wolf! darest thou press upon a Christian, and a Norman gentleman of the blood of Montdidier?" (Chapter 7)
[A] stout well-set yeoman . . . advised the Jew to remember that all the wealth he had acquired by sucking the blood of his miserable victims had but swelled him like a bloated spider. . . . (Chapter 7)
"Have mercy on me, noble knight!" exclaimed Isaac; "I am old, and poor, and helpless. It were unworthy to triumph over me—It is a poor deed to crush a worm."
"Old thou mayst be," replied the knight; "more shame to their folly who have suffered
thee to grow grey in usury and knavery—Feeble thou mayst be, for when had a Jew either heart or hand—But rich it is well known thou art." (Chapter 22)
When Saxons and Normans communicate, they sometimes speak a hybrid language composed of French and Anglo-Saxon. The narrator notes that this practice promoted the development of the English language, as the follow passage indicates.
At court, and in the castles of the great nobles, where the pomp and state of a court was emulated, Norman-French was the only language employed; in courts of law, the pleadings and judgments were delivered in the same tongue. In short, French was the language of honour, of chivalry, and even of justice, while the far more manly and
expressive Anglo-Saxon was abandoned to the use of rustics and hinds, who knew no other. Still, however, the necessary intercourse between the lords of the soil, and those oppressed inferior beings by whom that soil was cultivated, occasioned the gradual formation of a dialect, compounded betwixt the French and the Anglo-Saxon, in which they could render themselves mutually intelligible to
each other; and from this necessity arose by degrees the structure of our present English language, in which the speech of the victors and the vanquished have been so happily blended together; and which has since been so richly improved by importations from the classical languages, and from those spoken by the southern nations of Europe. (Chapter 1).Climax
.......The climax of a novel or another literary work, such as a short story or a play, can be defined as (1) the turning point at which the conflict begins to resolve itself for better or worse, or as (2) the final and most exciting event in a series of events. The climax of Ivanhoe occurs,
according to the first definition, when the Saxon army, with the help of King Richard (in disguise as the Black Knight), defeat the Normans at Torquilstone. According to the second definition, the climax occurs when Ivanhoe fights and defeats Brian de Bois-Guilbert in the trial by combat.
.......Scott was an outstanding storyteller known for constructing exciting, action-driven plots rich with period atmosphere and colorful descriptions of heraldic and chivalric customs. When a character appears for the first time, Scott often presents a detailed description of his or her attire and physical
characteristics. Consider, for example, the following passage centering on Rowena when she enters Cedric's dining hall.
Formed in the best proportions of her sex, Rowena was tall in stature, yet not so much so as to attract observation on account of superior height. Her complexion was exquisitely fair, but the noble cast of her head and features prevented the insipidity which sometimes attaches to fair beauties. Her clear blue eye, which sat enshrined
beneath a graceful eyebrow of brown sufficiently marked to give expression to the forehead, seemed capable to kindle as well as melt, to command as well as to beseech. If mildness were the more natural expression of such a combination of features, it was plain, that in the present instance, the exercise of habitual superiority, and the reception of general homage, had given to the Saxon lady a
loftier character, which mingled with and qualified that bestowed by nature. Her profuse hair, of a colour betwixt brown and flaxen, was arranged in a fanciful and graceful manner in numerous ringlets, to form which art had probably aided nature. These locks were braided with gems, and, being worn at full length, intimated the noble birth and free-born condition of the maiden. A golden chain, to
which was attached a small reliquary of the same metal, hung round her neck. She wore bracelets on her arms, which were bare. Her dress was an under-gown and kirtle of pale sea-green silk, over which hung a long loose robe, which reached to the ground, having very wide sleeves, which came down, however, very little below the elbow. This robe was crimson, and manufactured out of the very finest
wool. A veil of silk, interwoven with gold, was attached to the upper part of it, which could be, at the wearer's pleasure, either drawn over the face and bosom after the Spanish fashion, or disposed as a sort of drapery round the shoulders. (Chapter 4)Here is another example, this one centering on Isaac of York.
.......Introduced with little ceremony, and advancing with fear and hesitation, and many a bow of deep humility, a tall thin old man, who, however, had lost by the habit of stooping much of his actual height, approached the lower end of the board. His features, keen and regular, with an aquiline nose, and
piercing black eyes; his high and wrinkled forehead, and long grey hair and beard, would have been considered as handsome, had they not been the marks of a physiognomy peculiar to a race, which, during those dark ages, was alike detested by the credulous and prejudiced vulgar, and persecuted by the greedy and rapacious nobility, and who, perhaps, owing to that very hatred and persecution, had
adopted a national character, in which there was much, to say the least, mean and unamiable. Epigraphs
.......The Jew's dress, which appeared to have suffered considerably from the storm, was a plain russet cloak of many folds, covering a dark purple tunic. He had large
boots lined with fur, and a belt around his waist, which sustained a small knife, together with a case for writing materials, but no weapon. He wore a high square yellow cap of a peculiar fashion, assigned to his nation to distinguish them from Christians, and which he doffed with great humility at the door of the hall. (Chapter 5)
.......An epigraph introduces each chapter. (An epigraph is a quotation at the beginning of a book, a book chapter, a poem, or a short story. It presents a theme or a topic on which the writer will focus). Many of the epigraphs in Ivanhoe quote writers who inspired Scott with their tales about historical,
legendary, or fictional characters. Among the quoted writers are Homer (The Iliad and The Odyssey), Chaucer (The Canterbury Tales), Shakespeare (The Merchant of Venice, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Henry V, Coriolanus, King John, Richard II, and Richard III), Christopher Marlowe (The Jew of Malta), Oliver Goldsmith (She Stoops to Conquer), and
Friedrich von Schiller (The Maid of Orleans). Scott also quotes less famous writers as well as anonymous writers.
.......An example of an epigraph is the following, at the beginning of Chapter 5, from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, spoken by
the Jewish moneylender Shylock in response to Christian insults.
Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, Chapter 5 of Ivanhoe then opens with the following passage when Isaac of York arrives at Cedric's hall.
senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with
the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the
same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
a Christian is? (3. 1.
.......Oswald, returning, whispered into the ear of his master, "It is a Jew, Character Development
who calls himself Isaac of York; is it fit I should marshall him into
......."Let Gurth do thine office, Oswald," said Wamba with his usual
effrontery; "the swineherd will be a fit usher to the Jew."
......."St Mary," said the Abbot, crossing himself, "an unbelieving Jew, and
admitted into this presence!"
......."A dog Jew," echoed the Templar, "to approach a defender of the Holy
......."By my faith," said Wamba, "it would seem the Templars love the Jews'
inheritance better than they do their company."
......."Peace, my worthy guests," said Cedric; "my hospitality must not be
bounded by your dislikes. If Heaven bore with the whole nation of
stiff-necked unbelievers for more years than a layman can number, we may
endure the presence of one Jew for a few hours. But I constrain no man
to converse or to feed with him.--Let him have a board and a morsel
apart,--unless," he said smiling, "these turban'd strangers will admit
.......In Ivanhoe, the characters tend to be either virtuous or villainous, with few streaks of gray in their souls. For example, the hero and heroine–Ivanhoe and Rowena–are thoroughgoing exemplars of chivalric ideals: They are faithful, compassionate, dignified, and morally incorruptible. That is not to say,
however, that all the characters are static and unchanging. Cedric, for example, undergoes a rending internal conflict. After disowning Ivanhoe and declaring him a persona non grata, his long-dormant feelings for his son come alive when Ivanhoe suffers a wound in the tournament. In that moment, love and hate war in him for dominance. Eventually, Cedric reconciles with Ivanhoe and swallows his
fierce Saxon pride to accept the rule of King Richard.
Anti-Semitism in England
.......Anti-Semitism dates to ancient times, resulting in part from Jewish refusal to acknowledge the pantheon of Greek and Roman gods and from their refusal to submit to Roman rule. In the fifth book of his History, the Roman historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus (56-120 AD) spurns Jewry
Whatever is held sacred by the Romans, with the Jews is profane: and what in other nations is unlawful and impure, with them is permitted. . . . They eat and lodge with one another only; and though a people of unbridled lust, they admit no intercourse with women from other nations. Among themselves no restraints are imposed. . . . The first
thing instilled in their proselytes is to despise the gods, to abjure their country, to set at naught parents, children, brothers. (321-322)........Blamed for the death of Christ, Jews suffered severe persecution over the centuries, including torture, loss of property, and forced conversion to Christianity. Because of fabricated charges of "blood libel," in which malicious Christians accused Jews of sacrificing Christian children at Passover, many Jews were
burned at the stake.
.......In England, prejudice against Jews increased around 1190 after non-Jews borrowed heavily from Jewish moneylenders, becoming deeply indebted to them. In York, about 150 Jews committed suicide to avoid being
captured by an angry mob.
.......King Richard I put a stop to Jewish persecution, but it returned in the following century during King Edward I's reign from 1272 to 1307. The government required Jews to wear strips of yellow
cloth as identification, taxed them heavily, and forbade them to mingle with Christians. Finally, in 1290 Edward banished them from England.
The Age of Castles and Kings
.......This age of kings and castles, or the Feudal Age, was born in Europe in the dawning shadows of the Dark Ages. After the Roman Empire collapsed in the late Fifth Century A.D., its former territories in central Europe had to fend for themselves. In time, without the might of the imperial Roman
sword to protect them, these territories fell prey to Viking invaders from the north and Muslim invaders from the south.
.......By the 730's, the Muslims had penetrated central Europe through Spain. However, Charles Martel, the
ruler of the kingdom of the Franks in northeastern Europe and southwestern Germany, repulsed the Muslims with soldiers granted land in return for military service as horsemen. (Horse soldiers, or cavalry, had the speed and maneuverability to quell the Muslim threat.) This arrangement–granting land in exchange for service–was the founding principle of feudalism.
.......The Franks continued to stand as a protective bulwark under Martel's successors, Pepin the Short and Charlemagne. But after Louis I the Pious assumed power in 813, the Franks commenced fighting among themselves over who should succeed to the
throne. This internal strife, along with Viking attacks, resulted in the eventual breakup of the Frankish kingdom. In 911, Viking marauders seeded themselves in western France, in present-day Normandy, and took root. By the late 900's, much of Europe (France, England, western Germany, northern Spain, and Sicily) had evolved into a land of local kingdoms in which rulers took refuge behind
the walls of castles and leased land to people willing to protect and maintain a kingdom against rival kingdoms or outside invaders. The feudal system of offering land in exchange for service then bloomed to full flower.
How Feudalism Worked
.......The king of a domain granted an expanse of land (fief) to selected men of high standing in return for a pledge of allegiance and military service. These men, who came to be known as great lords (or grands seigneurs) then awarded portions of their land to lesser lords, or
vassals, for a similar pledge of loyalty, or fealty, as well as dues and an agreement to fight the lord's enemies. In return, the great lord met the everyday needs of the vassals. Knights, highly trained mounted warriors, were the backbone of the great lord's army. Failure by a great lord or a vassal to live up to a commitment, or warranty, was a felony, a crime
punishable by loss of the offender's title, land, and other assets. In severe cases, the offender sometimes lost his life or a limb.
.....What a King or Great Lord Gave ---> Land
.....What a King or Great Lord Received ---> Protection (Military
The Land and Its Workers
.......The estate on which a lord lived was called a manor. Peasants, or serfs, were attached to the land as property. They paid rents and taxes, farmed the land, and performed many other servile duties. Sometimes freemen also worked the land. The lord exercised full political and social
control over his land.
What Was a Castle?
.......A castle was a walled fortress of a king or lord. The word castle is derived from the Latin castellum, meaning a fortified place. Generally, a castle was situated on an eminence (a piece of high ground) that had formed naturally or was constructed by laborers. High
ground constructed by laborers was called a motte (French for mound); the motte may have been 100 to 200 feet wide and 40 to 80 feet high. The area inside the castle wall was called the bailey. Some castles had several walls, with smaller circles within a larger circle or smaller squares within a larger square.
.......The outer wall of a castle was usually topped with a battlement, a protective barrier with spaced openings through which defenders could shoot arrows at attackers. This wall sometimes was surrounded by a water-filled ditch called a
moat, a defensive barrier to prevent the advance of soldiers, horses and war machines. At the main entrance was a drawbridge, which could be raised to prevent entry. Behind the drawbridge was a portcullis [port KUL is], or iron gate, which could be lowered to further secure the castle. Within the castle was a tower, or keep, to which castle residents could withdraw if
an enemy breached the portcullis and other defenses. Over the entrance of many castles was a projecting gallery with machicolations [muh CHIK uh LAY shuns], openings in the floor through which defenders could drop hot liquids or stones on attackers. In the living quarters of a castle, the king and his family dined in a great hall on an elevated platform called a dais [DAY is], and
they slept in a chamber called a solar.
.......The age of castles ended after the development of gunpowder and artillery fire enabled armies to breach thick castle walls instead of climbing over
Study Questions and Essay Topics
1. Which character do you most admire? Explain your answer.
2. Which character do you least admire? Explain your answer.
3. Does Brian de
Bois-Guilbert redeem himself at the end of the novel?
4. Does Ivanhoe exhibit any romantic feelings toward Rebecca?
5. Write an essay arguing that (1) Sir Walter Scott accurately
depicts the behavior of typical Knights Templars or (2) inaccurately depicts the behavior of typical Knights Templars.
6. Write an essay that discusses the influence of the French language on the English language.