Sir Walter Scott became worldwide famous with his historic novel “Waverly” written in 1814 after which he proceeded to write about the history of Scotland. His novel “Ivanhoe” is different from his other works because the plot is settled in England, at the end of the 12th century when the Saxons lost their power to the Normans in the battle of Hastings. The novel follows the events of a Saxon knight who is serving to the Norman king Richard I. and his return from the Third Crusade whose goal was to free Jerusalem.
Returning from the war, the Austrian duke Leopold captured Richard I. and let him go when he was paid a great ransom. In the meantime, Richard’s brother Ivan, who tried to do everything to keep Richard captive as long as possible, took over the throne but Richard came back and took the crown back in 1194. The plot begins after Richard returns to England. He traveled hiding and trying to find allies to help him get his throne back from Ivan while everyone thought he was still held captive. The emphasize of the novel is the confrontation between the Saxons and the Normans and its adventurist aspect.
Despite Ivanhoe being the main hero and the novel carrying its name, he isn’t the main carrier of the plot. His first big event in the novel is winning a tournament and he won it under a pseudonym. After that, we find out he was hurt and he appears in the end of the fight in the castle Torquilstone. He ended up captured with Isaac and Rebecca that took care of him the whole time. The plot focuses on all of the characters, the good and the bad, and not only on the main character. Richard can be called the real hero of this story because of his heroic actions under the disguise of The Black Knight. Ivanhoe kept his importance because he is the symbol of the main confrontation in the novel, the one between the Saxons and the Normans and he was a Saxon who went over to Richard’s side who was the Norman king. He betrayed his father who left his without his inheritance and disowned him.
The novel can be divided into three main parts and every part has one central event. The main event is the tournament in which Ivanhoe took place under a false name. The plot of the second part culminates with the battle in the castle after which the captured Saxons Isaac and Rebecca were liberated. The plot of the third part focuses on Rebecca being kidnapped and taken to the seat of the templar knights where she was waiting for a trial. She was accused of being a witch and using her powers to seduce templar de Bois-Guilbert and making him fall in love with her.
Time: 12th century
The plot begins with the introduction of the main confrontation in the novel, the one between the Saxons and the Normans. Four generations after the battle of Hastings the ruling Normans and defeated Saxons still held a grudge. The Normans were the ruling nobility and the Saxons became serfs. Even though a mutual language existed, both sides refused to use it. the Normans spoke French and the Saxons medieval English.
All these information are introduced during a conversation between two Saxons, Gurth and Wambe. Gurth was a swineherd and Wambe was a jester whose son had gone to the war on the side of Richard I. and because of that Wambe left him without his inheritance.
Their conversation is interrupted with ten horseback riders coming their way. They were being guided by Brian de Bois-Guilbert, a templar, and abbot Aymer. They were looking for Cedric’s home but due to their superior stance and their origins, Wumba gives them the wrong directions. They kept going discussing Rowena, Cedric’s ward, whose beauty was well-known in the land. On the crossroads, they’ve met a pilgrim covered in palm leaves which were a sign that he was coming from the Holy Land. It was actually Ivanhoe who knew the land and took them to Cedric’s estate.
Cedric suppressed his hatred for them and welcomed them in. His real feelings were revealed in his conversation with them and his insulting nicknames for William the Conqueror. He says he will speak to them in his own language if they agree. When Rowena came to the feast Brian de Bois-Guilbert couldn’t take his eyes off of her. Cedric had a problem with his behavior. A servant interrupts the feast saying there is a stranger at the door and Cedric says he will welcome him in.
The servant says that the stranger presented himself as Isaac of York and he was a Jew. Cedric welcomed him in even thought his guest weren’t pleased with it since they didn’t like the Jews because of their usury. During the meal, they discuss the Crusade and Brian say that the Saracens are stronger that the English army but the peregrine doesn’t agree with him. He claims that there are brave and strong people in the army and he started mentioning some of them, including Ivanhoe and Richard I. Brian de Bois-Guilbert didn’t take his words seriously and he thought that he could defeat Ivanhoe even if he were unarmed. The peregrine tells him that he will have a chance to do it if Ivanhoe comes back to England. Rowena agreed with him, defending the knight’s honor. Rowena called the peregrine to her chambers in order to find out something more about Ivanhoe and she finds out that he is probably traveling to England.
The peregrine heard the templar’s servants talking about robbing Isaac on the tournament Ashby-de-la-Zouche and he told Isaac all about it. He suggested to him to run away the same night and offers to help him. Isaac, who recognized that the peregrine was actually a knight, gave him a horse and an armor so that he could participate in the tournament.
England was going through a rough state. Richard was held captive by the Austrian leader Leopold and Richard’s brother took over the throne and did everything in his power to keep Richard captive as long as possible. He also gave a hard time to the people in his country. The tournament was about to start. Isaac came with his daughter Rebecca. He, to the discontent of all, sat amongst the reputable people because he thought that, due to king Ivan’s loan from the Jews in which he took part in, he had nothing to worry about. Cedric, determined in his intentions to prevent Isaac from sitting there, went to attack him but Wamba stopped him. In the end, king Ivan made Isaac and his daughter sit amongst the commoners and he took away all of his gold.
On the first day of the tournament the peregrine stood out the most and he was fighting under a pseudonym. He defeated everyone, including Brian de Bois-Guilbert. As a reward, he had the right to choose the Queen of Love and Beauty for the next day of the tournament and to everyone’s surprise, he chose Rowena and declined to come to king Ivan to celebrate his victory. The king tried to reveal his true identity but he didn’t do it because the peregrine declined to reveal it.
As the victor of five battles on the tournament, he had the right to take ransom in form of money, armors, and horses from all five losers. He accepted the ransom of four of them but he declined Brian’s by saying he wasn’t finished with him just yet. He used the money to send Gurth to Isaac to give him back for the horse and the armor he so generously has him for the tournament. Isaac, who only cared about the money, extorted a lot of it from Gurth but later on Rebecca, without her father knowing about it, gave some of it back.
While Gurth was coming back from Isaac he encountered a gang of robbers who were Robin Hood’s people. After telling them he was coming back from Isaac’s after giving him money for the armor and horse he gave to a knight, the robbers gave him a chance to fight one of them and earn his peaceful way forward. Gurth fought with Miller and won so the robbers let him go without taking his money.
On the second day the peregrine had an advantage because he won the last day but the other contestants, including Brian de Bois-Guilbert and Athelstan, attacked him all at once. Even though he was strong The Black Knight, who was actually King Richard, had to help him. He managed to win the tournament and the Queen of Love was supposed to put the crown on his head. During the coronation, Rowena took his mask off and revealed Ivanhoe’s face to everyone. Cedric, stunned after seeing his son, ran to separate him from Rowena but Ivanhoe faints due to a severe injury he acquired in the battle.
Ivan and all of his consultants discuss Ivanhoe’s return and conclude that they will have to give him back the estates the king gave to Reginal Front-de-Boeuf, one of his allies. He also ordered to everyone to take care of Ivanhoe’s health even though he was on the opposite side and his brother’s ally. Ivanhoe was already being taken care of by a friend. Maurice de Bracy wanted to marry Rowena to get her estates and soon after he will lose his patience and come up with a plan to kidnap her but the king’s consultant will talk him out of it De Bracy admitted that he wasn’t alone in that plan and that Bois-Guilbert helped him. Their conversation gets interrupted by a servant telling them to be on the look out because the devil has gotten off of his chain. They interpret it as a sign of Richard being free and coming back to England so they had to gather the allies. Fear ruled amongst the people because they thought that Richard was coming back to get his revenge.
The Black Knight, who helped Ivanhoe win the tournament, disappeared and wandered the forest. He stumbled upon some man’s cottage and he presented himself as a monk from and asked him for directions. He gave him shelter and they spent the day drinking and singing.
Cedric can’t forgive his son’s betrayal but he still takes care of him because he was injured. He sent his servant Oswald to take care of him but he was unable to find Ivanhoe. Instead of him, he found Gurth, who ran away from Cedric and secretly served Ivanhoe, who was also looking for Ivanhoe. Oswald decided to take him to Cedric so that justice could be served but he ran away saying he will never be Cedric’s servant. Since Cedric disowned his son and had Rowena and Athelstan under his protection he decided to get them married. Rowena, who never allowed other people to run her life, said she would rather go to a convent than marry the man she hated. She loved Ivanhoe and Cedric thought she would forget him in his absence. Coming back from Ashby, in which the tournament held a place, they encountered Rebecca and Isaac in the forest and they were taking care of an ill man. They asked to travel under Cedric’s protection because they’ve heard that there might be robbers. Athelstan objected it but Rowena asked Cedric to allow it and he did. De Bracy and his men attacked and captured them and Wamby, trying to run away, met Locksley, a real robber. It was actually Robin Hood whose people tried to rob Gurth. He decided to help free the Saxons from Bracy. The Black Knight and the man he seeks refugee from joined him.
In the meantime, de Bracy took his hostages to Torquilstone, a castle belonging to Reginald Front-de-Boeuf. De Bracy was threatening Isaac that he will have to pay a lot if he doesn’t want to be tortured and Isaac begged him to let Rebecca go to York to get the money. He responded that Rebecca is now under the ownership of Brian de Bois-Guilbert. They were getting Isaac prepared for his torture. He surrendered voluntarily because if they did something to his daughter, he wouldn’t have a reason to live. The preparations were interrupted by voices calling for Front-de-Boeuf in front of the castle.
In the meantime, Rowena, also held captive, was being threatened by de Bracy. He told her he will kill Cedric and Ivanhoe if she doesn’t marry him. Rowena started crying because she didn’t know if Ivanhoe was being held captive in the castle. De Bracy felt uncomfortable because of her crying and surprised her by consoling her. His act of kindness was interrupted by voices and horn’s sound and he stormed out of the room.
In the other part of the castle, at the same time, Rebecca was held captive with an old lady named Ulrica. Bois-Guilbert let her know she was his ownership and she said she will throw herself from the castle if he approaches her. Surprised with her words, he begged her not to do it and promised not to harm her. Bois-Guilbert accepted to be her friend and decided she will be his only if she accepts to be. When he hears the sound of the horn he leaves the room.
The sound indicated the arrival of the letter written by Locksley and The Black Knight and signed by Wamba and Gurth. They announced that they were there to free the hostages in a peaceful way or through a battle. Boeuf told him that he will not be threatened by the likes of them and asked them to send a priest so that the hostages could confess their sins before being executed. Wamba, dressed as a priest, entered the castle and replaced his clothes with Cedric’s and the two of them switched places. Cedric sees Rebecca and Ulrica. Ulrica tells him about his life and how she stayed with the Normans after they took over Saxon’s castle. While she was young and beautiful everyone treated her well but now that she is old and ugly they threw her away. She recognized Cedric as one of her father’s friends.
Cedric met later with Front-de-Boeuf who sent him to his ally Phillip Malvoisin to convey a message and he gave him one golden coin. He didn’t accept it and left the castle. After the Norman’s realized what had happened, they started getting ready for their attack.
In this moment the plot moves to the moment in the forest before they ended up captive. The person Rebecca and Isaac were taking care of was actually Ivanhoe. He joined them after being injured at the tournament. Rebecca, and excellent healer took care of him so he ended up in captivity with the rest of them. She kept taking care of him even after they ended up captive and in the meantime, she fell in love with him.
When the battle started Rebecca was standing at the window describing the event to Ivanhoe. The two of them had opposite opinions about chivalry and battles. Rebecca judged it while Ivanhoe defended it as an act of moral and honor. In the battle, Front-de-Boeuf was injured to death and Ulrica set the castle on fire. The Black Knight managed to captivate De Bracy and liberate Ivanhoe from the burning castle while Bois-Guilbert kidnaps Rebecca and runs away with her. Athelstan tried to stop him but he ended up dead because of it. The Castle disappeared in flames alongside with Ulrica and Front de Boeuf.
They discussed the battle and the pray saved from the burning castle. Cedric decided to liberate Gurth because of his help in the battle. They started dividing up everything they acquired in the battle and as fair robbers, they offered Cedric half but he refused by saying he doesn’t want the wealth which once belonged to a Norman who captivated him. The Black Knight liberated De Bracy and warned him he will not be so merciful the next time.
When the friar, The Black Knight’s friend, appears with Isaac he finds out that Rebecca has been kidnapped and he was desperate. In order to secure his freedom Aymer, help captive by The Black Knight, accepted to write a letter to Bois-Guilbert advising him to liberate Rebecca. They were saying goodbye and Saxons went back to Cedric’s estate to return Athelstan’s body where it belongs.
De Bracy, liberated by The Black Knight, went to king Ivan and told him about everything that happened. He also told him that Boeuf died and that Rebecca was kidnapped. The most important news he conveyed to him was that Richard was back in England. Ivan was upset by that news because he wasn’t ready to give up the throne which he knew wasn’t his. He started to think about the ways he could tour Richard back to captivity.
In the meantime, Isaac went to the templar’s residence, carrying the letter written by Aymer in which he advised for Rebecca to be freed. The elderly started doubting Bois-Guilbert’s honor but in the same time, they’ve had their doubts about Rebecca. They thought she used spells to seduce him. In the end, they blamed everything on her and not the templar. In the meantime, Rebecca was still rejecting Guilbert and his courting. Malvoisin, the head of the order, warned Guilbert that the kidnap will reflect poorly on his position amongst the Templars and that Rebecca has to be punished for using spells on him but Guilbert didn’t pay attention to his words. Malvoisin didn’t really believe that Rebecca was a witch but he wanted to spare Guilbert a lot of embarrassment. He told him that he had no choice because Rebecca will be accused of being a witch. After that, they were looking for evidence to back up that statement.
When Rebecca goes to trial, a list of accusations against Guilbert was being read. They were discarded because Rebecca was held responsible for everything. Many witnesses backed it up and they were sent by Malvoisin to testify against Rebecca. They also accused Rebecca of having supernatural healing powers. Considering the evidence which would get Rebecca executed, Guilbert suggested to her to find a man who will resolve her case in a duel. She listened to him and claimed to not being guilty and asked to have a representative. Even though he suggested it, Guilbert doubted she will be able to find a man who will fight for her. The knight were Christians and she was a Jew, so he suggested that they should run away together. Malvoisin reproached him for it and told him that he had to think about his future.
King Ivan tried to make his plan about capturing king Richard again come true in the forest. The Black Knight and Wamba were traveling when they were attacked by Ivan’s allies and they were helped by Locksley’s robbers. It was discovered that the attack leader was Waldemar Fitzurse, Ivan’s main counsel. He called The Black Knight Richard and his true identity was revealed. He told everyone he was indeed king Richard and that he came back to England. Richard chased Fizursa from the land and decided that his brother shouldn’t be held responsible for the attack.
Ivanhoe and Gurth joined him. Richard told Ivanhoe he revealed his real identity. Ivanhoe didn’t approve of the king’s act, coming back to England and exposing himself to various adventures while his people were in need of him.the king justifies that he still wasn’t able to tell his people who he really was and that he needs to gather an army of strong allies to confront Ivan.
The second discovery in this part of the novel is Locksley’s. It was now well known he was Robin Hood. Everyone came to a meal in their residence and then went to Athelstan’s funeral. When they came there they were surprised that Athelstan was there. Bois-Guilbert’s hit didn’t kill him. He advised Cedric to allow Rowena and Ivanhoe to be together, saying he doesn’t deserve her but they soon find out that Ivanhoe and Richard had disappeared.
Ivanhoe appears last minute on Rebecca’s trial to take the part of her representative in the fight against Guilbert. He fought against his own will as the representative of the Knights Templar. The duel began and they ran one towards the other but Ivanhoe was so tired that he fell off of his horse. Even though he barely touched his opponent he too collapsed dead. He didn’t die because of the inflicted injuries but because he couldn’t handle the strength of passion inside of himself. Ivanhoe was declared the winner and Rebecca were freed of all charges. The plot was coming to an end with Ivanhoe and Rowena’s wedding and Rebecca’s farewell which announces that she will be leaving England with her father. Ivanhoe continued serving King Richard but his servitude was brought to an abrupt halt with king’s sudden death in the battle of Limoges.
Characters: Richard I., Ivanhoe, Cedric, Rowena, Rebecca, Isaac, Ivan, Brian de Bois-Guilbert, Locksley, Maurice de Bracy, Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, Aymer, Wamba, Gurth, Ulrica, Oswald, Athelstan
Ivanhoe is the main character of the novel, not so much for his adventures, but for the fact that he is the symbol of the battle between two opposite sides in England – the Saxons and the Normans. He had Saxon origins and he was part of the nobility, but his father Cedric disowned him after he joined the Norman King Richard in the Crusade. In the beginning of the novel, we meet him under a peregrine’s disguise and then at the tournament as a brave knight. His victory at the tournament was a breaking point of the novel because then his identity was revealed. He was injured in the tournament and he is absent during a big part of the novel. He mentioned again as one of the hostages in the castle Torquilstone when we find out Rebecca has been taking care of him. In the end of the novel, he frees Rebecca from false charges and a certain death by agreeing to fight in a duel as her representative. In the end, he marries the woman he was in love with, Rowena.
Richard I. was the rightful ruler of England who was held captive after coming back from the Crusade and his brother Ivan did everything in his power to come to the throne and prolong Richard’s captivity. He came back to England without anyone knowing about it. He loved adventure and he came back under the disguise of The Black Knight who helps Ivanhoe win the tournament and frees the hostages from the castle. He justifies his hiding saying he was waiting to gather an army of allies to face his brother and take back the throne. The author used Ivanhoe to criticize him.
Brian de Bois-Guilbert was the only character who went through a great change in character. In the beginning, he was described as a negative character from the Knights Templar and Ivanhoe’s main opponent. He was ready to do anything to keep Rebecca by his side but when she stood up to him and threatened to kill herself if he touches her he changes, falls in love with her, even though she rejected his love. When Rebecca was accused of using spells to seduce him, he suggested to her to find a representative who will fight for her in a duel in which he ends up losing his life.
Walter Scott Biography
Walter Scott is a famous Scottish poet and novel-writer. Because of his significant and wide literary work with historical novels, he came to be known as the father of the historical novel.
He was born in 1771 in Edinburgh. As a child, he went through child’s paralysis and as a consequence, he limped and it affected him later on work. To be able to cure his state he was sent to live with his grandparents in the village, where he started his education. He was schooled by his aunt and she implemented many historical stories, legends, and myths into his studies. Later on, he went to a private school and he went to high school in Edinburgh. He was never able to participate in school trips so he would spend his free time reading historical stories, poems…
He studied literature since he was 12. Since he was a child he was obsessed with folk literature so he started gathering poems and stories from the Scottish folk literature. He gathered Scottish ballads and in 1802 he published a book named “The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border”.
Poetry introduced him to the literary world. He wrote poems about Scotland and the medieval themes. He was a declared moralist so he was always prone to good conquering the bad, justice conquering the injustice and good guys conquering the bad guys.
Soon he started writing historical novels which had many characteristics from the Romanticism such as a dramatic plot, heroic main characters, description of chivalry and moral which it represents. His first novel was “Waverly”, published in 1814 and the most famous are “Rob Roy” from 1817 and “Ivanhoe” from 1820. He wrote over 20 novels including “The Black Dwarf” and “The Heart of Midlothian”.
He died in 1832.