Sir Walter Scott : Overview of one of his works

ivanhoeHIS WORKS

A Legend of Montrose
Guy Mannering
Old Mortality
Peveril of the Peak
Quentin Durward
Rob Roy
St. Ronan’s Well
The Abbot
The Antiquary – Volume I
The Antiquary – Volume II
The Betrothed
The Black Dwarf
The Bride of Lammermoor
The Chronicles of the Canongate
The Fair Maid of Perth
The Fortunes of Nigel
The Heart of Mid-Lothian
The Monastery
The Surgeon’s Daughter
The Talisman
Letters On Demonology And Witchcraft
The Journal of Sir Walter Scott
Poetry Books
Short Stories
The Tapestried Chamber
My Aunt Margaret’s Mirror
Pibroch of Dunald Dhu
Romance of Dunois
The Dance of Death
The Field of Waterloo
The Lady of the Lake
The Troubadour
The Vision of Don Roderick


Sir Walter Scott was born in 1771 in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was born into a middle-class family, and soon took sick at the age of two. To help cure what is thought to have been infantile paralysis, Scott and his family moved into the country. In the picturesque countryside of his forefathers, Scott learned Scottish legends, ballads, and stories from his grandfather. These glimpses of the past would be a tool for Scott’s fiction later in life.

An avid reader, Scott loved Pope, Dryden, Swift, Johnson, Spenser, and Cervantes. He was infected by stories of knights and castles, even venturing to explore the ruins of ancient castles himself. While flexing his interest in stories of the past, Scott also studied to become a lawyer. But he would soon be a published writer, and that would occupy nearly the rest of his life.

Scott’s first published work was a translation of a German poet in 1796. Three years later he made a translation of Goethe, but it was The Lay of the Last Minstrel in 1805 which was his first original book of poems. The year it was published he became a secret partner in the Border Press, which would allow him to keep more of the profit from his books. And huge profits piled in with the publication of Waverly in 1814. The anonymous publication was an immediate success, and Scott decided to keep his identity as author secret, both to secure his reputation as a poet, and to delight his mysterious side. His following novels were credited to “the author of Waverly” and became known as “the Waverly novels.” This included Ivanhoe, published in 1820. Scott kept mostly to Scotland for inspiration, but with Ivanhoe he shifted his focus to thirteenth-century England, and a possible conflict between the ruling and ruled classes there.

Scott’s good fortune was to end in 1825, with the bankruptcy of the Border Press. Unwilling to sell off his home to help pay the debt, Scott decided instead to write. He wrote to help pay off the debt, writing thirty pages a day and spending nearly all the rest of his life in labor. By 1831, the debt was nearly all paid. Scott died on September 21, 1832.

In addition to Scott’s distinction and innovation in the novel form, he also experimented and excelled in other genres. A true “man of letters,” Scott was a poet, critic, historian, biographer, and editor. Incredibly prolific, Scott wrote well into his old age in an effort to help pay off the debts of his bankrupt publishing house.
His wildly successful Waverly novels secured for Scott not only a place in literary history, but also in the hearts of his countrymen. Popular and well-loved, Scott’s death in 1832 was widely mourned. Known as “the father of the historical novel,” Scott’s contemporaries and those who followed acknowledge his influence over the scope of fiction. He “made possible serious presentation of regional characteristics and of characters from social levels below the aristocracy and the upper-middle class” (Kunitz 151). And in light of what some critics argue to be a lessened interest or staying power in Scott’s works, Chesterton contends: “It is said that Scott is neglected by modern readers; if so, the matter could be more appropriately described by saying that modern readers are neglected by Providence” (British Authors 547).

Plot Summary

Ivanhoe takes place about a hundred years after the Battle of Hastings, which gave the Normans rule over the Saxons in England. The brave and respected King Richard of England became prisoner while fighting the Crusades abroad. In his absence, the nobles made their weaker neighbors tenants, and Richard’s brother John oversaw it all in his attempt to take the throne.

The Saxon noble Cedric, the father of Ivanhoe, is a strong supporter of Saxon heritage and rights. He threw out his son when he fell in love with Cedric’s ward, the Lady Rowena. Cedric hoped to marry her to Athelstane, thus forming a powerful Saxon alliance. Ivanhoe goes to fight with King Richard, and is next seen as the masked victor at a tournament. He is wounded during the tournament, but the Jewess Rebecca and her father Isaac take him in. Rebecca is a practicing healer, and she takes good care of him. She also falls in love with him, but resists her urges.
Among Prince John’s men are Maurice De Bracy, Front-de-Boeuf, and Brian de Bois-Guilbert. De Bracy likes Lady Rowena, so he and his men take her and her family prisoner. Bois-Guilbert likes Rebecca, and so he aids De Bracy in this evil endeavor. They take the women, their families, and the wounded Ivanhoe to Front-de-Boeuf’s castle.

King Richard also makes an appearance at the tournament, dressed in disguise. He meets up with Friar Tuck and Robin Hood’s men, and he aids them in their plan to take the castle and free the prisoners. They win the castle, which an old enemy of Front-de-Boeuf’s burns to the ground. Front-de-Boeuf dies, De Bracy is taken prisoner, and Bois-Guilbert escapes with Rebecca. During a scuffle over Rebecca (whom he mistakes for Rowena), Athelstane is killed.

Bois-Guilbert is a member of the religious order of Templars, and he takes Rebecca to their headquarters. Unfortunately, the group’s Grand Master returns, and is very angry about the Templar’s sinful behavior. He accuses Rebecca of sorcery, and sentences her to death. Her only hope is that a knight will challenge the Templars and Bois-Guilbert, who has agreed to testify and fight opposite her cause. Rebecca gets a message out to Ivanhoe, who is attending Athelstane’s funeral. King Richard patches things up with Ivanhoe and his father Cedric, and just after Cedric agrees Ivanhoe and Rowena may marry, Athelstane appears. He was not dead, but nearly buried alive by priests greedy for the funeral money. Fortunately for Ivanhoe, Athelstane does not fight for Rowena; he wishes the couple nothing but the best. Shortly after, Ivanhoe leaves to save Rebecca.

At the Templars’ headquarters, Ivanhoe fights Bois-Guilbert. The Templar dies, not from battle, but from his own wild passions. Rebecca is free, and Ivanhoe and Rowena marry. Rebecca expresses her gratitude to the happy Lady Ivanhoe before leaving with her father for Grenada. Ivanhoe lives a happy life with his wife, and goes on to do more of the King’s work. Richard arrests many of Prince John’s men, and has some put to death. He does nothing to his brother, who eventually comes into power when King Richard dies in battle.

Major Characters

King Richard I: The strong and willful King of England. More interested in adventure than in governing, Richard, and Ivanhoe’s leader, went to fight in the Crusades. He was taken prisoner by the Duke of Austria, and after his escape returned to England in disguise. He spent his time fighting in tournaments and aiding in rescues while his allies gained the strength to force his brother John out of power. Not behaving like a King, he spends time with Friar Tuck, and dines with Locksley’s men. He is a fair ruler, and wants to lessen the harsh forest laws and reconcile with the Saxons. Unfortunately, he does not live long enough to enact all of his reforms.

Normans: The group of Norman-French who conquered England and the Saxons in 1066. Oppressive rulers, they enacted strict laws that pushed the Saxons into the lower classes. They used language, chivalry, and dress–among other things–to elevate themselves above the conquered Saxons.

Saxons: The former rulers of England who were conquered by the Normans in 1066. Despising the Norman rule, they tried to keep their heritage strong in the forms of dress, language, and custom. Unfortunately, many Saxon sons were charmed by the code of chivalry, and left their family homes in order to fight in the Crusades. This caused a great rift in many Saxon families.

Gurth: Cedric’s swineherd, and Wamba’s friend. He is devoted to his master Ivanhoe, and sneaks away to help him. He is later caught, but escapes before Cedric is taken prisoner. He is a strong part of the effort to save his master, and for this he wins his freedom.

Wamba: Cedric’s very loyal Jester, who befriends the Black Knight. He takes up arms for his friends, and exhibits unusual bravery. He has no end of witty remarks, and enjoys pretending to be a priest so he can save his master.

Master Cedric: A noble Saxon who wishes for a return to Saxon rule in England. He is the father of Ivanhoe and Rowena’s guardian. Cedric tries to force an alliance between Rowena and Athelstane, but he is rebuffed. Strong-willed and stubborn, he throws his own son out of the house when he falls in love with Rowena, threatening Cedric’s plans. Cedric constantly complains about the Norman rule, and thinks back to his noble Saxon heritage. His firmly-rooted Saxon ways leave him open to much ridicule. When his Saxon alliance falls apart, he is able to be happy for Ivanhoe and Rowena, and the good King.

Reginald Front-de-Boeuf: A cruel and terrible noble, guilty of killing his own father. While the other Knights are catching ladies, Front-de-Boeuf is threatening to torture Isaac in his dungeon. The most terrifying of the Knights because he seems to have no human connections and no morals. He dies in his burning castle, abandoned by all but Urfried, who caused his death. Evil to the end, he yells out insults as he dies.

Philip de Malvoisin: Brother of Albert. He is a Norman noble allied with Prince John.
His terrifying and unyielding presence looms large over the weaker characters.
Prior Aymer of Jorvaulx: Another example of a corrupt religious leader. Neglecting his vows of chastity and poverty, he is a womanizer and a lover of fine things. He dresses very well, but is insulted when Tuck calls him a hypocrite.

Brian De Bois-Guilbert: A Templar who does not obey the rules of his order. He kidnaps Rebecca, and tries to make her love him. Her refusals make him angry, but he still respects her courage and steadfastness. Unfortunately, his love puts her in danger, and the Grand Master charges her with witchcraft. Bois-Guilbert is forced, against his better judgment, to testify against her and fight against her champion. He lets his ambition rise above his love for her and his knowledge of what’s right. But in the fight against Ivanhoe, his strong passions kill him.

Rowena: Cedric acts as the guardian to this strong-willed maiden. She is allowed to act as head of the family, making important decisions. This is partly why the marriage to Athelstane Cedric desires is so repulsive to her. But the biggest reason is because she loves Ivanhoe, and wishes to marry him when he returns. Beautiful and strong, Rowena finds herself the unwilling object of De Bracy’s affections, but she ably wards him off. She is rewarded with Ivanhoe, who becomes her husband.

The hermit, also Clerk of Copmanhurst, also Friar Tuck: The fat, jolly, lawbreaking hermit whom the Black Knight meets on his travels. The hermit turns out to be Friar Tuck, one of Locksley’s outlaws. Though Tuck is a priest, he prefers hunting to hymns, and loves to drink, eat, and fight. He is still a good man, just not one to follow the monastic rules. For this the Prior chastises him, but Tuck doesn’t care much for censure from another fallen priest.

Ivanhoe: Cedric’s renegade son, he left his Saxon roots in order to follow King Richard into the Crusades. A brave knight, Ivanhoe fights in the first tournament and is injured. But the Jewess Rebecca heals him, and he repays her by saving her from a fiery death. Ivanhoe is in love with Rowena, and wishes to marry her. But he also shows some softness for Rebecca, though it is unknown if he has any feelings for the Jewess, or if he is merely acting out of chivalric honor. Ivanhoe also loves his father, and despite disobeying him, he is very happy to be forgiven and taken back. He goes on to marry Lady Rowena, and to serve further under Richard.

Athelstane the Unready: The lumbering Saxon noble. Though he is of great descent, he is slow-witted and gluttonous. His number one concern is with his growling stomach. Therefore, he is not very interested in alliances or destiny, and he gives up Rowena to Ivanhoe without batting an eye. Athelstane is not cowardly, merely lazy. He has other concerns than fighting and chivalry. During one of his few aggressive acts, in defense of a woman whom he believes to be Rowena, Athelstane is hit and believed dead. But the ‘deceased’ shows up at his own funeral, alive! He was nearly buried alive by priests greedy for the funeral money, and his ordeal gave him a new perspective. He becomes even less interested in power and rule than before, much to Cedric’s dismay.

Sir Isaac of York: Rebecca’s father. A good, kind man, Isaac places too much importance on his money. He loves his daughter, but is unsure how much money he should use to save her. After his daughter is kidnapped, he is almost tortured and killed. Lamenting the state of his people, he thinks it is unfair for Gentiles to hate Jews as money-lenders, when money-lenders are all they are allowed to be.

Prince John: The power-hungry, arrogant and cowardly brother of King Richard.
Prince John plans, in his brother’s absence, to usurp the throne and have himself crowned King. But his advisors and supporters all think him a joke, and follow him only in hopes of gaining money and power. He nearly faints at news of his brother, and is constantly worried that his men will desert him. This is for good reason, because he does lose out in the end. But his brother lets him off without punishment, and Prince John does attain the throne after his brother’s death.

Rebecca: The beautiful, courageous, virtuous daughter of Sir Isaac of York. She is a devout Jew and a practicing healer. Despite knowing better, she falls in love with Ivanhoe, who can think of her as little more than a Jew. She regrets her people’s troubles, but does not complain. Rebecca, like Rowena, finds herself the unwilling object of a Knight’s advances. Bois-Guilbert imprisons her and proclaims his love, but she constantly refuses him. She prefers death to his advances. Her refusals are strong, and once she threatens to throw herself out the window. Rebecca finds herself accused of sorcery. She never considers escaping with Bois-Guilbert or renouncing her faith. She requests a duel, and Ivanhoe comes to her rescue. Afraid of betraying her love for him, she speaks a few words to Rowena before leaving for Grenada. She plans to become a servant to the poor and needy.

Maurice De Bracy: A brave Knight who falls for Rowena. He hatches a plot to take her prisoner, then pretends to be her savior. He is angry at being rebuffed by her, but never turns to violence. He stands by his friends in their defense of Torquilstone, but rides off when defeat is certain. He travels to France to work for Philip.

The yeoman, also Locksley, also Robin Hood: Brave and smart yeoman who presides over a band of outlaws. He is able to reign in the outlaws when necessary, as when spoils are being split. He offers assistance to the Black Knight, and lends his men to the offense of Torquilstone. He is a skilled archer, and an ardent opponent of the harsh laws that hurt the weak and poor.

Disinherited Knight, also Ivanhoe: The Knight who appears at the tournament and wins the day. He names Rowena as the Queen of the tournament, before fainting and being unmasked as Ivanhoe.

Black Knight, also King Richard: The Black Knight retains his secret identity for much longer than the Disinherited Knight. He first meets up with Friar Tuck, with whom he dines and sings. He later joins up with Locksley’s men, helping them to take Torquilstone and free the prisoners. He is mysterious, and only Ivanhoe knows his identity until the near end of the book.

Minor Characters

Fangs: Wamba’s faithful dog. His claws are cut off in accordance with the Norman laws forbidding hunting.

lay brother: A member of the Prior’s traveling group, he rode a beautiful horse.
monk’s attendants: The Prior’s black slaves. Probably from the Far East, their strange and exotic appearance and tongue opened them up to much criticism and prejudice.

Elgitha, Rowena’s maid: The faithful maid of Lady Rowena.

Wilfred: An ancestor of Cedric’s whose rash actions cost him his power. Cedric invokes his name when thinking of the injustices of the Normans.

Order of Templars: The men belonging to the Templars have strayed from their vows during their Master’s absence. They are supposed to be religious and pious, but have fallen into sinful ways. They are hostile to King Richard and allied with his enemy in France.

Palmer, also Ivanhoe: The Palmer is met by the Prior and his men along the road. He leads them to Cedric’s, where he gives up his seat to a Jew. He later helps the Jew, Isaac of York, escape from danger in the castle.

Edith: Athelstane’s beautiful mother.

Earl of Essex: An ally of King Richard’s who comes to his aid in the final chapter.
Philip of France: Richard’s enemy abroad. Treacherous Prince John has become allied with Philip during his brother’s absence.

Knights of Saint John: Another knightly order, which like the Templars is against King Richard. The order sided with Philip of France in the recent conflicts.

Waldemar Fitzurse: The chief advisor to Prince John. He does his best to clean up after the shallow and bumbling ruler, and is often sent to measure and strengthen the allegiance of John’s men. If he can help John take the throne, his prize will be the Chancellorship. But even with a futile last attempt at capturing Richard, Fitzurse does not succeed. His punishment is banishment.

Grantmesnil: One of the Knights who fights at the tournament along with De Bracy, Bois-Guilbert, Front-de-Boeuf and Malvoisin.

Disinherited Knight’s squire, also Gurth: The Disinherited Knight’s faithful helper, whom we soon learn is Gurth.

Oswald: Cedric’s faithful servant. Cedric sends him to look after injured Ivanhoe. When Oswald loses track of Ivanhoe, he brings Gurth back to his master.

Tosti: A treacherous brother, similar to Prince John. He allied himself with his brother, King Harold’s, enemy. Though his brother agreed to take him back, Tosti did not like the terms, which offered nothing to his allies (who were also the King’s enemies). So they all fought, with King Harold winning the day, and Tosti losing his life.

Harold: The King, and Tosti’s brother. He was a Saxon ruler, and Cedric reflects on his downfall with great sadness. Despite winning against his brother and his enemies, King Harold was soon to be defeated by the Normans. Athelstane is one of Harold’s descendants.

Ulrica, also Urfried: The old sibyl who is imprisoned in Torquilstone. Of noble Saxon birth, she watched Front-de-Boeuf’s father storm the castle and kill her father. For years she was forced to be his mistress. Cedric is shocked and disgusted to learn this; he believes she should have done the honorable thing and killed herself. Now, old and hateful, she pledges revenge against Front-de-Boeuf. She lights the castle on fire and ensures both will perish. In her last moments, she becomes crazed and terrifying.

Adelaide: The woman who broke Bois-Guilbert’s heart. While he was off fighting adventures for her, she married someone else. This new man had not performed any feats of bravery for her, so in disgust Bois-Guilbert renounced his independence and, with a hardened heart, became a Templar.

Torquil: The father of Urfried, and former master of Torquilstone. He was a powerful Saxon. Front-de-Boeuf’s father took his castle, killing Torquil and making Urfried his mistress and prisoner.

Brother Ambrose: The Brother who brings the particulars of the Prior’s kidnapping to De Bracy, Front-de-Boeuf, and Bois-Guilbert. He is shocked that these knights are more concerned with the castle’s defense than with the Prior’s message to them.

Miriam: The skilled Jewish healer who taught Rebecca. Unfortunately, Rebecca’s association with Miriam is later considered a sign of her sorcery.

Thomas-a-Becket: The former archbishop of Canterbury. Prince John’s father had him killed, and John wishes he had such loyal men.

Nathan ben Israel: Isaac’s kind and wise kinsman, who offers him a place to stay near Templestowe.

Lucas de Beaumanoir: The Templar’s stern Grand Master. With his return came a return to the order’s discipline and values. Shocked by Bois-Guilbert’s behavior with Rebecca, he orders her death and trial. He is a stubborn man who cannot be bribed, and he insists that only Rebecca’s death will save their fallen brother. He is susceptible to trickery, though, when he falls for Albert’s assertion of ignorance about the Jewess.

Conrade Mont-Fitchet: A fellow Templar to whom the Grand Master confides his disappointments. Trying to soften the Grand Master, he suggests the Order’s punishment be fair and cautious, but he cannot change the angry man’s mind.

Albert Malvoisin: The president of the Templestowe chapter, and therefore the one responsible for all the disorder. But Albert is shrewd, and he shows a mix of repentance and ignorance which pleases the Grand Master. He insists he took in Rebecca to protect Bois-Guilbert, and that he knew nothing of her sorcery. He gets off with a small penance.


Higg: A man whom Rebecca healed, he appears as a witness against her at her trial. Feeling guilty about his part in her death, he agrees to be her messenger. Carrying her request for a champion beyond the castle walls, he finds her father and tells him the news.

Blue Knight, also Waldemar Fitzurse: This Knight and his men launch a forest attack on the Black Knight and Wamba. With Locksley’s help, the Knight is defeated, then revealed to be Fitzurse


forest, also Sherwood forest: Scene of much of the book’s action, this forest lies between Sheffield and Doncaster. It is full of yeoman and outlaws, most of whom have been oppressed by forest laws. These laws prohibit certain groups from hunting, greatly hurting the Saxon and other lower classes’ way of life.
Sheffield: A city in Northern England, it lies on one side of the forest.
Doncaster: A borough in Northern England which makes the other border of the forest.

vassals: A tenant of a noble, a vassal has vowed obedience the noble in exchange for protection. They are considered a lower class. Prince John allowed for the increase of vassals and vassalages in his brother’s absence. Rich and powerful nobles turned their weaker neighbors into vassals, greatly disrupting and disturbing the country.

franklins: A landowner who is of noble birth, but not free. Cedric is a franklin, indebted to the Prior.

Conquest by Duke William of Normandy: The 1066 defeat of the Saxons by the Normans. The Normans took over rule of England, making the Saxons their unwilling subjects.

Battle of Hastings: The battle which decisively won England for the Normans.
language: One of the strong clashes between Norman and Saxon is through language. The Normans considered the Saxon dialect unintelligent, and the Saxons understandably resented this. The Norman language was considered the height of intelligence and chivalry, and was used in the courts. Language formed a strong barrier between the two groups, with only some on each side willing to speak the dialect that mixed the two languages.

brass ring: The ring is worn around the neck of servants such as Wamba and Gurth. It signifies their class and status.

serf: A landless servant who works the soil for his master. Gurth is a serf.
Anglo-Saxon dialect: One group that will speak in this ‘lower’ dialect are servants such as Wamba and Gurth. Their use of this dialect signifies their low status.
St. Botolph: The home of the convent where the injured Ivanhoe was brought. Richard visits him there.

Templestowe: The home headquarters for the Templars. Isaac hurries there to try and save Rebecca, who is in Bois-Guilbert’s clutches.

Templar: A Knight of this religious and military order. They fought for Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulcher. In the absence of their leader, the members of the order strayed from all of their vows, including chastity and poverty. Bois-Guilbert is one of their members.

Rotherwood: Cedric’s rustic home.

Saxon dress: The dress worn by Cedric, Athelstane, and their kinsmen. It is rugged and simple, and considered ridiculous by the more fashion-conscious Normans.

Asby-de-la-Zouche: The site of the tournament at which Ivanhoe appears.

Palestine: Region in the Middle East where much of the religious fighting was occurring. Richard and Ivanhoe had both fought there.

usury: The lending of money, including the lending of money with excessive interest rates. Jews such as Isaac were accused of being usurers.

York: Ancient county of northern England, bordering the sea. It is the site of Prince John’s planning meetings, and later it is court to the returned King.

Torquilstone: Front-de-Boeuf’s castle. This is where Bois-Guilbert imprisoned Rebecca, and where the Saxon prisoners were brought. The outlaws, aided by an old sibyl, defeat the castle’s forces, and it burns to the ground.

Castle of York: The site where Prince John collects his followers near the end of the novel. It is there that he learns of Front-de-Boeuf’s death, and his brother’s return. Here he and Fitzurse hatch the plan to capture Richard, and possibly kill him.


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