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|Author||Sir Walter Scott|
|Preceded by||Rob Roy|
|This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (October 2014)|
|Author||Sir Walter Scott|
|Preceded by||Rob Roy|
Ivanhoe is a historical novel by Sir Walter Scott published in 1820 and set in 12th-century England. Ivanhoe is sometimes credited for increasing interest in romance and medievalism; John Henry Newman claimed Scott "had first turned men's minds in the direction of the Middle Ages", while Carlyle and Ruskin made similar assertions of Scott's overwhelming influence over the revival based primarily on the publication of this novel.
Ivanhoe is the story of one of the remaining Saxon noble families at a time when the nobility in England was overwhelmingly Norman. It follows the Saxon protagonist, Wilfred of Ivanhoe, who is out of favour with his father for his allegiance to the Norman king, Richard I. The story is set in 1194, after the failure of the Third Crusade, when many of the Crusaders were still returning to their homes in Europe. King Richard, who had been captured by Leopold of Austria on his return journey to England, was believed to be still in captivity.
The legendary Robin Hood, initially under the name of Locksley, is also a character in the story, as are his "merry men". The character that Scott gave to Robin Hood in Ivanhoe helped shape the modern notion of this figure as a cheery noble outlaw.
Other major characters include Ivanhoe's intractable father, Cedric, one of the few remaining Saxon lords; various Knights Templar, most notable of which is Brian de Bois-Guilbert, Ivanhoe's main rival; a number of clergymen; the loyal serfs Gurth the swineherd and the jester Wamba, whose observations punctuate much of the action; and the Jewish moneylender, Isaac of York, who is equally passionate about his people and his beautiful (Jewish) daughter, Rebecca. The book was written and published during a period of increasing struggle for the emancipation of the Jews in England, and there are frequent references to injustices against them.
Wilfred of Ivanhoe is disinherited by his father Cedric of Rotherwood for supporting the Norman King Richard and for falling in love with the Lady Rowena, Cedric's ward and a descendant of the Saxon Kings of England. Cedric had planned to marry her to the powerful Lord Aethelstane, pretender to the Crown of England through his descent from the last Saxon King, Harold Godwinson, thus cementing a Saxon political alliance between two rivals for the same claim. Ivanhoe accompanies King Richard on the Crusades, where he is said to have played a notable role in the Siege of Acre by enduring with great fortitude the privations of life in the city and Christian camp after their containment by Saladin; Ivanhoe also tends to Louis of Thuringia who suffers from malaria.
The book opens with a scene of Norman knights and prelates seeking the hospitality of Cedric. They are guided there by a palmer, who has recently returned from the Holy Land. The same night, seeking refuge from inclement weather and bandits, Isaac of York, a Jewish moneylender, arrives at Rotherwood. Following the night's meal, the palmer observes one of the Normans, the Templar Brian de Bois-Guilbert, issue orders to his Saracen soldiers to follow Isaac of York after he leaves Rotherwood in the morning and take him captive to a noble's castle.
The palmer then warns the moneylender of his peril and assists in his escape from Rotherwood. The swineherd Gurth refuses to open the gates until the palmer whispers a few words in his ear, which turns Gurth as helpful as he was recalcitrant earlier. This is but one of the many mysterious incidents that occur throughout the book.
Isaac of York offers to repay his debt to the palmer by offering him a suit of armour and a war horse to participate in the tournament at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, where he was bound. He makes the offer on his inference that the palmer was in reality a knight, having observed his knight's chain and spurs (a fact that he mentions to the palmer). The palmer is taken by surprise but accepts the offer.
The story then moves to the scene of the tournament, which is presided over by Prince John, King Richard's younger brother. Other characters in attendance are Cedric, Aethelstane, Lady Rowena, Isaac of York, his daughter Rebecca, Robin of Locksley and his men, Prince John's advisor Waldemar Fitzurse, and numerous Norman knights.
On the first day of the tournament, a bout of individual jousting, a mysterious masked knight, identifying himself only as "Desdichado" (which is described in the book as Spanish for the "Disinherited One", though actually meaning "Unfortunate"), makes his appearance and manages to defeat some of the best Norman lances, including Bois-Guilbert, Maurice de Bracy, a leader of a group of "Free Companions" (mercenary knights), and the baron Reginald Front-de-Boeuf. The masked knight declines to reveal himself despite Prince John's request, but is nevertheless declared the champion of the day and is permitted to choose the Queen of the Tournament. He bestows this honour upon the Lady Rowena.
On the second day, which is a melee, Desdichado is chosen to be leader of one party. Most of the leading knights of the realm, however, flock to the opposite standard under which Desdichado's vanquished opponents fought. Desdichado's side is soon hard pressed and he himself beset by multiple foes, when a knight who had until then taken no part in the battle, thus earning the sobriquet Le Noir Faineant (or the Black Sluggard), rides to Desdichado's rescue. The rescuing knight, having evened the odds by his action, then slips away. Though Desdichado was instrumental in the victory, Prince John, being displeased with his behaviour of the previous day, wishes to bestow his accolades on the vanished Black Knight. Since the latter has departed, he is forced to declare Desdichado the champion. At this point, being forced to unmask himself to receive his coronet, Desdichado is revealed to be Wilfred of Ivanhoe himself, returned from the Crusades. This causes much consternation to Prince John and his court who now fear the imminent return of King Richard.
Because he is severely wounded in the competition and because Cedric refuses to have anything to do with him, Ivanhoe is taken into the care of Rebecca, the beautiful daughter of Isaac, who is a skilled healer. She convinces her father to take him with them to York, where he can be best treated. The story then goes over the conclusion of the tournament including feats of archery by Locksley.
Meanwhile, de Bracy finds himself infatuated with the Lady Rowena and, with his companions-in-arms, makes plans to abduct her. In the forests between Ashby and York, the Lady Rowena, Cedric and Aethelstane encounter Isaac, Rebecca and the wounded Ivanhoe, who had been abandoned by their servants for fear of bandits. The Lady Rowena, in response to the requests of Isaac and Rebecca, urges Cedric to take the group under his protection to York. Cedric, unaware that the wounded man is his son, agrees. En route, the party is captured by de Bracy and his companions and taken to Torquilstone, the castle of Front-de-Boeuf. However, the swineherd Gurth, who had run away from Rotherwood to serve Ivanhoe as squire at the tournament and who was recaptured by Cedric when Ivanhoe was identified, manages to escape.
The Black Knight, having taken refuge for the night in the hut of a local friar, the Holy Clerk of Copmanhurst, volunteers his assistance on learning about the captives from Robin of Locksley, who had come to rouse the friar for an attempt to free them. They then besiege the Castle of Torquilstone with Robin's own men, including the friar and assorted Saxon yeomen whom they had managed to raise due to their hatred of Front-de-Boeuf and his neighbour, Philip de Malvoisin.
At Torquilstone, de Bracy expresses his love for the Lady Rowena, but is refused. In the meantime, Brian de Bois-Guilbert, who had accompanied de Bracy on the raid, takes Rebecca for his captive, and tries to force his attentions on her, which are rebuffed. Front-de-Boeuf, in the meantime, tries to wring a hefty ransom, by torture over a fire, from Isaac of York. However, Isaac refuses to pay a farthing unless his daughter is freed from her Templar captor.
When the besiegers deliver a note to yield up the captives, their Norman captors retort with a message for a priest to administer the Final Sacrament to the captives. It is then that Cedric's jester Wamba slips in disguised as a priest, and takes the place of Cedric, who then escapes and brings important information to the besiegers on the strength of the garrison and its layout.
Then follows an account of the storming of the castle. Front-de-Boeuf is killed while de Bracy surrenders to the Black Knight, who identifies himself as King Richard. Showing mercy, he releases de Bracy. Bois-Guilbert escapes with Rebecca while Isaac is released from his underground dungeon by the Clerk of Copmanhurst. The Lady Rowena is saved by Cedric, while the still-wounded Ivanhoe is rescued from the burning castle by King Richard. In the fighting, Aethelstane is wounded and believed by all to be killed while attempting to rescue Rebecca, whom he mistakes for Rowena.
Following the battle, Locksley plays host to King Richard. Word is also conveyed by de Bracy to Prince John of the King's return and the fall of Torquilstone. In the meantime, Bois-Guilbert rushes with his captive to the nearest Templar Preceptory, which is under his friend Albert de Malvoisin, expecting to be able to flee the country. However, Lucas de Beaumanoir, the Grand-Master of the Templars is unexpectedly present there. He takes umbrage at Bois-Guilbert's sinful passion, which is in violation of his Templar vows; and decides to subject Rebecca, who he thinks has cast a spell on Bois-Guilbert, to a trial for witchcraft. She is found guilty through a flawed trial, but claims the right to trial by combat. Bois-Guilbert, who had hoped to fight as her champion incognito, is devastated when the Grand-Master orders him to fight against Rebecca's champion. Rebecca then writes to her father to procure a champion for her.
Meanwhile Cedric organises Aethelstane's funeral at Coningsburgh, in the midst of which the Black Knight arrives with a companion. Cedric, who had not been present at Locksley's carousal, is ill-disposed towards the knight upon learning his true identity. However, King Richard calms Cedric and reconciles him with his son, convincing him to agree to the marriage of Ivanhoe and Rowena. During this conversation, Aethelstane emerges – not dead, but having been laid in his coffin alive by avaricious monks desirous of the funeral money. Over Cedric's renewed protests, Aethelstane pledges his homage to the Norman King Richard and urges Cedric to marry Rowena to Ivanhoe; to which Cedric finally agrees.
Soon after this reconciliation, Ivanhoe receives word from Isaac beseeching him to fight on Rebecca's behalf. Upon arriving at the scene of the witch-burning, Ivanhoe engages Brian de Bois-Guilbert in single combat and goes down along with his mount, but the Templar reels in the saddle and falls from his horse. Ivanhoe recovers to put his foot on Bois-Guilbert's chest but does not kill him. The Templar has suffered a seizure and died "a victim to the violence of his own contending passions", which is pronounced by the Grand Master as the judgement of God and proof of Rebecca's innocence. King Richard, who had left Kyningestun soon after Ivanhoe's departure, arrives at the Templar Preceptory, banishes the Templars and declares that the Malvoisins' lives are forfeit for having aided in the plots against him.
Fearing further persecution, Rebecca and her father leave England for Granada. Before leaving, Rebecca comes to bid Rowena a fond farewell. Finally, Ivanhoe and Rowena marry and live a long and happy life together, though the final paragraphs of the book note that Ivanhoe's long service ended with the death of King Richard.
Wilfred of Ivanhoe, the titular character, is a knight and son of Cedric the Saxon. Ivanhoe, though of a more noble lineage than some of the other characters, represents a middling individual in the medieval class system who is not exceptionally outstanding in his abilities, as is expected of other quasi-historical fictional characters, such as the Greek heroes. Critic Georg Lukács points to middling main characters like Ivanhoe in Sir Walter Scott's other novels as one of the primary reasons Scott's historical novels depart from previous historical works and better explore social and cultural history.
Critics of the novel have treated it as a romance intended mainly to entertain boys. Ivanhoe maintains many of the elements of the Romance genre, including the quest, a chivalric setting, and the overthrowing of a corrupt social order in order to bring on a time of happiness. Other critics assert that the novel creates a realistic and vibrant story, idealising neither the past nor its main character.
Scott treats themes similar to those of some of his earlier novels, like Rob Roy and The Heart of Midlothian, examining the conflict between heroic ideals and modern society. In the latter novels, industrial society becomes the centre of this conflict as the backward Scottish nationalists and the "advanced" English have to arise from chaos to create unity. Similarly, the Normans in Ivanhoe, who represent a more sophisticated culture, and the Saxons, who are poor, disenfranchised, and resentful of Norman rule, band together and begin to mould themselves into one people. The conflict between the Saxons and Normans focuses on the losses both groups must experience before they can be reconciled and thus forge a united England. The particular loss is in the extremes of their own cultural values, which must be disavowed in order for the society to function. For the Saxons, this value is the final admission of the hopelessness of the Saxon cause. The Normans must learn to overcome the materialism and violence in their own codes of chivalry. Ivanhoe and Richard represent the hope of reconciliation for a unified future.
The location of the novel is centred upon South Yorkshire and North Nottinghamshire in England. Castles mentioned within the story include Ashby de la Zouch Castle (now a ruin in the care of English Heritage), York (though the mention of Clifford's Tower, likewise an extant English Heritage property, is anachronistic, it not having been called that until later after various rebuilds) and 'Coningsburgh', which is based upon Conisbrough Castle, in the ancient town of Conisbrough near Doncaster (the castle also being a popular English Heritage site). Reference is made within the story to the York Minster, where the climactic wedding takes place, and to the Bishop of Sheffield, although the Diocese of Sheffield was not founded until 1914. Such references suggest that Robin Hood lived or travelled in the region.
Conisbrough is so dedicated to the story of Ivanhoe that many of its streets, schools, and public buildings are named after characters from the book.
Our modern conception of Robin Hood as a cheerful, decent, patriotic rebel owes much to Ivanhoe.
"Locksley" becomes Robin Hood's title in the Scott novel, and it has been used ever since to refer to the fictional outlaw. Scott appears to have taken the name from an anonymous manuscript – written in 1600 – that employs "Locksley" as an epithet for Robin Hood. Owing to Scott's decision to make use of the manuscript, Robin Hood from Locksley has been transformed for all time into "Robin of Locksley", alias Robin Hood. (There is, incidentally, a village called Loxley in Yorkshire.)
Scott makes the 12th-century's Saxon-Norman conflict a major theme in his novel. Recent re-tellings of the story retain his emphasis. Scott also shunned the late 16th-century depiction of Robin as a dispossessed nobleman (the Earl of Huntingdon). This, however, has not prevented Scott from making an important contribution to the noble-hero strand of the legend, too, because some subsequent motion picture treatments of the Robin Hood's adventures give Robin traits that are characteristic of Ivanhoe as well. The most notable Robin Hood films are the lavish Douglas Fairbanks 1922 silent film, the 1938 triple Academy Award winning Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn as Robin (which contemporary reviewer Frank Nugent links specifically with Ivanhoe), and the 1991 box-office success Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves with Kevin Costner). There is also the Mel Brooks spoof, Robin Hood: Men in Tights. In most versions of Robin Hood, both Ivanhoe and Robin, for instance, are returning Crusaders. They have quarreled with their respective fathers, they are proud to be Saxons, they display a highly evolved sense of justice, they support the rightful king even though he is of Norman-French ancestry, they are adept with weapons, and they each fall in love with a "fair maid" (Rowena and Marian, respectively).
This particular time-frame was popularised by Scott. He borrowed it from the writings of the 16th-century chronicler John Mair or a 17th-century ballad presumably to make the plot of his novel more gripping. Medieval balladeers had generally placed Robin about two centuries later in the reign of Edward I, II or III.
Robin's familiar feat of splitting his competitor's arrow in an archery contest appears for the first time in Ivanhoe.
The general political events depicted in the novel are relatively accurate; the novel tells of the period just after King Richard's imprisonment in Austria following the Crusade and of his return to England after a ransom is paid. Yet the story is also heavily fictionalised. Scott himself acknowledged that he had taken liberties with history in his "Dedicatory Epistle" to Ivanhoe. Modern readers are cautioned to understand that Scott's aim was to create a compelling novel set in a historical period, not to provide a book of history.
There has been criticism of Scott's portrayal of the bitter extent of the "enmity of Saxon and Norman, represented as persisting in the days of Richard" as "unsupported by the evidence of contemporary records that forms the basis of the story." However, Scott may have intended to suggest parallels between the Norman conquest of England, about 130 years previously, and the prevailing situation in Scott's native Scotland (Scotland's union with England in 1707 – about the same length of time had elapsed before Scott's writing and the resurgence in his time of Scottish nationalism evidenced by the cult of Robert Burns, the famous poet who deliberately chose to work in Scots vernacular though he was an educated man and spoke modern English eloquently). Indeed, some experts suggest that Scott deliberately used Ivanhoe to illustrate his own combination of Scottish patriotism and pro-British Unionism.
The novel generated a new name in English – Cedric. The original Saxon name had been Cerdic but Sir Walter misspelled it – an example of metathesis. "It is not a name but a misspelling," said satirist H. H. Munro.
In 1194 England, it would have been unlikely for Rebecca to face the threat of being burned at the stake on charges of witchcraft. It is thought that it was shortly afterwards, from the 1250s, that the Church began to undertake the finding and punishment of witches and death did not become the usual penalty until the 15th century. Even then, the form of execution used for witches in England (unlike Scotland and Continental Europe) was hanging, burning being reserved for those also convicted of treason. There are various minor errors e.g. the description of the tournament at Ashby owes more to the 14th century, and most of the coins mentioned by Scott are exotic.
"For a [Scottish] writer whose early novels [all set in Scotland] were prized for their historical accuracy, Scott was remarkably loose with the facts when he wrote Ivanhoe... But it is crucial to remember that Ivanhoe, unlike the Waverly books, is entirely a romance. It is meant to please, not to instruct, and is more an act of imagination than one of research. Despite this fancifulness, however, Ivanhoe does make some prescient historical points. The novel is occasionally quite critical of King Richard, who seems to love adventure more than he loves the well-being of his subjects. This criticism did not match the typical idealised, romantic view of Richard the Lion-Hearted that was popular when Scott wrote the book, and yet it accurately echoes the way King Richard is often judged by historians today."
It has been conjectured that the character of Rebecca in the book was inspired by Rebecca Gratz, a Philadelphia teacher and philanthropist and the first Jewish female college student in America. Scott's attention had been drawn to Gratz's character by novelist Washington Irving, who was a close friend of the Gratz family. The assertion has been disputed, but it has been supported by "The Original of Rebecca in Ivanhoe", an article that appeared in The Century Magazine in 1882.
The novel has been the basis for several movies:
There have also been many television adaptations of the novel, including:
Victor Sieg's dramatic cantata Ivanhoé won the Prix de Rome in 1864 and premiered in Paris the same year. An operatic adaptation of the novel by Sir Arthur Sullivan (entitled Ivanhoe) ran for over 150 consecutive performances in 1891. Other operas based on the novel have been composed by Gioachino Rossini (Ivanhoé), Thomas Sari (Ivanhoé), Bartolomeo Pisani (Rebecca), A. Castagnier (Rébecca), Otto Nicolai (Il Templario), and Heinrich Marschner (Der Templer und die Jüdin). Rossini's opera is a pasticcio (an opera in which the music for a new text is chosen from pre-existent music by one or more composers). Scott attended a performance of it and recorded in his journal, "It was an opera, and, of course, the story sadly mangled and the dialogue, in part nonsense."