Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott
Ivanhoe Sir Walter Scott
The following entry presents criticism of Scott's novel Ivanhoe (1820). See also Sir Walter Scott Poetry Criticism and Sir Walter Scott Short Story Criticism.
Ivanhoe stands as one of Sir Walter Scott's most popular novels, and has had a major influence on the genre of historical fiction. The work is notable not only for its vivid depiction of characters and its adventurous narrative but also for the fact that it is the first of Scott's novels to be set outside the borders of Scotland and in the distant past. The complex narrative intertwines British legend with the Anglo-Saxon-Norman conflict in medieval England. Although Ivanhoe has long been valued for its fascinating and entertaining plot, more recent readers have studied the complexity of its treatment of chivalric culture. Ivanhoe combines historical realism with vibrant artistry, and reflects Scott's narrative skill and historical focus.
When Ivanhoe (1820) arrived on the literary scene, Scott (born in 1771) was at the height of his career. He had gained popular acclaim with a romantic ballad entitled The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), which followed the less successful The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802). Scott's scholarly knowledge of British history and mythology pervaded several successful novels that followed: Waverley (1814), Guy Mannering (1815), Rob Roy (1818), The Heart of Mid-Lothian (1818), and The Bride of Lammermoor (1819). The novel Ivanhoe itself had a major impact on the genre that came to be known as historical fiction. After Ivanhoe, Scott published the novels Kenilworth (1821) and Redgauntlet (1824). Although Scott did not acknowledge his authorship of Waverley and the other novels until 1827, the public was well aware of his authorship by 1815. In this period, the critical and popular success of Scott's novels made it possible for him to rely on his publications for income (rather than on his training in the legal profession), and led to Scott's acceptance of a baronetcy in 1820. Scott was increasingly interested in establishing a national identity for Scotland (he was largely responsible for recovering the Scottish regalia in 1818), and this theme underlies the question of English national identity in the medieval period in the plot of Ivanhoe. Scott carefully constructed a life of the Scottish gentry, centering on the estate of Abbotsford. Scott's good fortune suffered a catastrophic decline in 1826 with the failure of the Ballantyne printing firm in which Scott was a silent partner. From this point until his death at the age of sixty-one in 1832, Scott was forced to use his literary income to pay off his debt, and he produced works that failed to match the splendor and elegant style of the earlier novels.
Plot and Major Characters
Ivanhoe, Scott's first departure from the Scottish countryside of the recent past, is set in Yorkshire, England, in the time of the Crusades. The plot of Ivanhoe begins humbly enough, with a conversation in a forest between a swineherd and a fool in the employ of Cedric, a Saxon noble who is the father of Ivanhoe. The swineherd and the fool encounter a cavalcade on its way to a tournament held at Ashby by Prince John, the Norman who has taken over the rule of the country while King Richard struggles to liberate the Holy Land from the Muslims. Wilfred of Ivanhoe (i.e., the hero Ivanhoe), disguised as a palmer, has previously joined the cavalcade. He has returned from the Crusades but cannot return to his home because his father Cedric has disinherited him for his love of Rowena (who is a ward of Cedric and a Saxon noblewoman engaged for political reasons to Athelstane, a Saxon noble). The cavalcade also includes Isaac, a wealthy Jewish moneylender, and his beautiful daughter Rebecca. This entire party stays the night at Cedric's manor, where the templar Brian de Bois-Guilbert covets Rebecca and plots to steal Isaac's wealth. Ivanhoe's observations of Bois-Guilbert alert him to these dangers, and he warns Isaac and Rebecca; all three escape to Ashby. At the tournament, Rowena and Prince John preside over the proceedings. Ivanhoe, still disguised, triumphs over several opponents until he almost loses his life, at which point a mysterious knight (later revealed to be King Richard) intervenes. Rebecca falls in love with Ivanhoe, and she and her father nurse Ivanhoe back to health. As Isaac, Rebecca, and Ivanhoe return with Cedric through the forest to York, they are abducted by outlaws in the employ of Bois-Guilbert and are taken to a castle owned by the corrupt Norman baron Front-de-Boeuf. King Richard, the Saxon peasantry, and the legendary figure of Robin Hood unite to release this group from their imprisonment. They lay siege to the castle and engage in a fierce battle. Bois-Guilbert escapes from King Richard in this encounter, and then convinces the Church authorities that Rebecca is a sorceress. Her trial is decided by a duel between Bois-Guilbert and Ivanhoe, who steps forward to defend Rebecca's honor. Bois-Guilbert is killed through his excessive zealousness. King Richard arrives at the scene, having survived an ambush on the way with the help of Robin Hood. King Richard restores Ivanhoe to his rightful place and gives him permission to marry Rowena. The novel closes with a curious scene in which Rebecca bids farewell to Rowena (after the marriage ceremony between Rowena and Ivanhoe)—which illustrates one animating theme of the novel: the simultaneous diversity and amity of the foreign and the familiar.
Ivanhoe elaborates the contradictory elements of the chivalric code: its heroism and compassion on the one hand, and its glorification of selfishness and chaotic recklessness on the other. The novel is dominated by a "disarray of conflicting passions," according to an early review in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. Although the plot of Ivanhoe is framed by two homecomings (Ivanhoe's return to Britain and his reunion with Rowena and Cedric), multiple conflicts transform the familiar, and complicate the old order: the Saxons struggle to maintain power in a Norman world; and the presence of Jews in the novel emphasizes the cultural and ethnic diversity of medieval Britain. The ideal of national unity through the synthesis of contrasting traditions is reflected in the increased value put on shifting from chivalric adventure and parochial superstition to the more stable order of cosmopolitanism and rational faith. Still, the novel clearly expresses the value of a certain chivalric code: the idea of nobility pervades the characterizations of Ivanhoe. At crucial junctures, nobility is associated with selflessness in turn associated with a certain passivity. For example, at the siege of Front-de-Boeuf s castle, Ivanhoe lies off to one side, injured and unable to fight. Thus chivalry must not be merely supplanted by a more rationally and economically-minded culture without regard for such values as nobility. Revealing Scott's ambivalent valuation of a romantic tradition, Ivanhoe presents a complex picture of the transition between an age of heroism and an age of reason.
Despite its popular success, Ivanhoe was for a long time considered to be an adventure story suited primarily for young children rather than for serious readers of literature. However, certain nineteenth- and twentieth-century critics, exploring the complexity and subtlety of the themes and characterizations of the novel, agree that Rebecca is the most fascinating of the characters (among the one hundred and fifty three separately drawn figures), and that the relationship between her and Ivanhoe is much more interesting than the conventional match between Ivanhoe and Rowena. In addition, some modern critics have criticized the stereotypical characterizations of Rebecca and Isaac. The plot has also been criticized for glorifying chivalry and romantic adventure instead of expressing historical realism. Some recent critics have suggested that the realism of Ivanhoe lies not in historical accuracy but in the moral realm, in depicting the sorts of choices that Ivanhoe, among others, must make between noble (self-denying) and selfish actions. Because readers hear nothing of the inner thoughts of characters, this complex dialectic of cultural and moral values must be carried out through the action of the plot. Although some commentators praise Ivanhoe for the romantic spirit that guides the action as well as for Scott's richness and liveliness of description, others point to this romantic spirit as an inappropriate popularizing of history for the purpose of entertainment rather than moral education. Most critics agree that several anticlimaxes mar the fluid development of the plot: for example, the Saxon Athelstane dies but is brought back to life later in the novel. Despite these problems, Ivanhoe remains a testament to Scott's ability to bring history to life and to his foundational influence on the genre of historical fiction.
SOURCE: "Ivanhoe" in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Vol. VI, No. 33, December, 1819, pp. 262-72.
[ In the following excerpt, an early reviewer describes the plot and characters of Ivanhoe, and praises the complexity and originality of the work.]
As this exquisite romance belongs to a class generically different from any of the former tales of the same author, it is possible that many readers, finding it does not tally with any preconceptions they had formed, but requires to be read with a quite new, and much greater effort of imagination, may experience, when it is put into their hands, a feeling not unlike disappointment.1 In all his former novels the characters, both prominent and subordinate, were such as might have been found in actual existence at no far back period; but the era to which Ivanhoe relates is so remote, that the manners are, of course, unlike any thing either the author or the readers of the present times could have had any opportunity of knowing by personal observation. Hence the writer has found it necessary to set them forth with much minuteness and elaboration; so that in the opening the narrative appears like a curious antiquarian exhibition—not having many traits that are calculated to take hold of the reader's ordinary sympathies,—although the unexampled beauty of language and of fancy, in which the whole picture is embodied, cannot fail to...
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SOURCE: A review of Ivanhoe; A Romance, in The Eclectic Review, Vol. XIII, June, 1820, pp. 526-40.
[In the excerpt that follows, the anonymous reviewer criticizes Scott's attempt to combine historical exposition with narrative fiction, and classifies Ivanhoe not as a romantic novel but as " that mongrel sort of production, a historical novel."]
There are several good reasons for our not saying much about the present production of the Author of Waverley. In the first place, it belongs to a class of works which has but doubtful claims upon our notice; in the next place, we have recently delivered our sentiments pretty much at large upon some preceding publications of the same Author; and we shall only add, though we have twenty reasons quite as strong in reserve, that most of our readers have before this time made up their own opinion about the merits of Ivanhoe, and will therefore care less about ours. It is almost impossible to keep pace with the pen of this prolific Writer. Before the novel in question could have completed the circulation of the reading societies, or half the subscribers to the libraries could have been satisfied, a new series of volumes is in the hands of the public, and more are understood to be behind. We might regret this rapidity of composition in a writer of so much talent, were there not reason to believe, that he is one who can...
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SOURCE: Introduction to Ivanhoe; A Romance, by Sir Walter Scott, A. & C. Black, Ltd., 1929, pp. ix-xviii.
[ In the following introduction to Ivanhoe, written ten years after the original publication of the novel, Scott both explains his decision to set the action of Ivanhoe outside of Scotland and in the medieval period, and responds to common criticisms of the novel]
The Author of the Waverley Novels had hitherto proceeded in an unabated course of popularity, and might, in his peculiar district of literature, have been termed l'enfant gâté of success. It was plain, however, that frequent publication must finally wear out the public favour, unless some mode could be devised to give an appearance of novelty to subsequent productions. Scottish manners, Scottish dialect, and Scottish characters of note, being those with which the Author was most intimately and familiarly acquainted, were the groundwork upon which he had hitherto relied for giving effect to his narrative. It was, however, obvious that this kind of interest must in the end occasion a degree of sameness and repetition, if exclusively resorted to, and that the reader was likely at length to adopt the language of Edwin, in Parnell's Tale:—
'Reverse the spell,' he cries,
'And let it fairly now suffice,
The gambol has been shown.'
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SOURCE: "Ivanhoe and Its Literary Consequences," in Essays in Memory of Barrett Wendell, by His Assistants, Harvard University Press, 1926, pp. 221-33.
[ In the essay that follows, Maynadier contends that the strength of the dramatic moments in Ivanhoe makes it more a work of romantic fiction than of historical narrative, although Ivanhoe deeply influenced the historical novel and the nineteenth-century attempt to popularize history.]
A little more than six years ago there was a literary anniversary which, it has seemed to me, passed without due notice—the centennial of Ivanhoe. Despite the date of 1820 on the title-page, it was in the year 1819, on the eighteenth of December, that this famous romance was put on sale, and in all Scott's literary career, no event had more significance. It not only brought Scott to the climax of his popularity, which had been growing steadily ever since The Lay of the Last Minstrel appeared in 1805; but likewise for European literature as a whole, it has been important. With the series of Scott's romances which begins with Ivanhoe, comes the full flowering of the historical novel. The seeds scattered by the breezes of its popularity fell not alone on the soil of fiction, to produce in continual succession and in many lands rich crops to the present day. In history likewise they germinated, and a crop of great...
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SOURCE: "The Broken Years, 1817-1819," in Sir Walter Scott, Cassell and Company Ltd., 1932, pp. 167-201.
[ In the following excerpt, Buchan criticizes Ivanhoe 's pageantry and artificiality, as well as its concern with ornament, rather than with a more serious representation of medieval England.]
In Ivanhoe Scott opened a new lode in the mine of his fancy, a vein of poorer but most marketable ore. He had read widely in the mediaeval chroniclers, and had in his head a mass of more or less accurate antiquarian knowledge, of arms, heraldry, monastic institutions, and the dress and habits of the Middle Ages. He chose the reign of Richard I as his period, and tumbled into it a collection of other things which had caught his fancy. To the forests of the English midlands he would fit the appropriate romance, and do for them what he had already done for the Highlands and the Border of his own land. He got the sounding name of Ivanhoe from an old Buckinghamshire rhyme, and Front-de-Bœuf from the Auchinleck MSS., and he had Chaucer and Froissart and the ballads and a wealth of legendary lore to draw upon. He was writing fiction, not history, so his conscience was elastic. Freeman1 and others have pointed out the historical errors of the book. The customs of three centuries have been confused; Robin Hood, if he ever lived, belonged to a century later; Cedric and Athelstane are...
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SOURCE: Introduction to Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott, Collins and W. W. Norton and Company, 1953, pp. 27-31.
[ In the essay that follows, Grierson claims that Ivanhoe is a central example of the historical novel and that Scott created that genre.]
In Ivanhoe Scott made his first venture outside the history of his own country; and in the Introduction of 1839 he gives the reason for the step. It was a bold step, because the nine novels (including The Black Dwarf) issued between Waverley in 1814 and The Legend of Montrose in 1819 had established their reputation as 'the Scotch novels' in the absence of any certain knowledge of the real name of 'The Author of Waverley'. 'We have seen', writes Keats in a letter to his brother and his sister-in-law in 1818, 'three literary Kings in our time—Scott—Byron—and then the Scotch novels.' Still, to escape from Scots dialogue must have been a relief for many English readers, and Ivanhoe marked the culmination of Scott's popularity as judged by the sale of the novels. For like cause Kenilworth (1821) and Quentin Durward (1823) were to prove the favourites in Germany and France respectively. But only in Redgauntlet (1824) was Scott again the Scott of the early 'Scotch novels'.
Scott was the creator of the Historical Novel, and it...
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SOURCE: "The Anti-Romantic in Ivanhoe" in Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Vol. 9, No. 4, March, 1955, pp. 293-300.
[ In the following essay, Duncan argues, against earlier critics, that Ivanhoe is "neither juvenile nor romantic" but is a serious examination of the transition between a period of heroic adventure and one of stable development.]
Is Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe essentially a romantic book of adventure—preferably for boys? A number of usually perceptive critics have treated it as such. Walter Bagehot declared that the novel expressed a great "romantic illusion" and that it was addressed "to that kind of boyish fancy which idolizes medieval society as the 'fighting time.'" Eighty years later Sir Herbert Grierson asserted that Ivanhoe was "mainly a good story of adventure for boys." Una Pope-Hennessy agreed that the novel was "first and last a boy's book" and explained that for Scott medieval England was "all a wonderful pageant-land" and that the novel's romance was "a revolt against the tyranny of facts." G. H. Maynadier wrote that the novel was not deservedly so famous on its historical side or its human side, but that "on its romantic side, one can hardly praise it too highly." Dorothy Margaret Stuart suggested that Ivanhoe was "little—if at all—more convincing than The Castle of Otranto."1 While the novel's juvenile...
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SOURCE: "The Historical Picturesque and the Survivals of Chivalry," in Scott's Novels: The Plotting of Historic Survival, University Press of Virginia, 1966, pp. 150-245.
[In the following excerpt, Hart claims that Scott combines chivalric and anti-chivalric attitudes in Ivanhoe, as seen in his attempt to mitigate the self-centered pursuit of glory with moral prudence, and that Ivanhoe does not represent Scott's departure from historical fiction.]
The distance from The Heart of Midlothian (1818) to Ivanhoe (1819) seems huge. It is smaller, however, than critical orthodoxy recognizes. Ivanhoe's inferiority is not to be explained in the simple categories customarily imposed: Scots versus non-Scots, recent versus remote, "reality" versus "tushery" and "pasteboard." That most of the early novels came from "living memory" and most of the later ones from "bookwork" has been claimed, and the exaggeration implies a naive misrepresentation of the creative process. Even were it not exaggerated, the claim would be irrelevant. The "life" of fiction is not to be judged genetically, but pragmatically and rhetorically. The "life" of The Abbot, Durward, and The Fair Maid, while it may differ from that of The Anti-quary, Rob Roy, and Montrose, is less doubtful.
It would be pointless to attempt...
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SOURCE: "Chivalry, Church, and Crown," in Sir Walter Scott: The Great Unknown, Vol. I, The Macmillan Company, 1970, pp. 736-58.
[In the following excerpt, Johnson claims that the romanticism of Ivanhoe is supplemented by a critical attention to the "worldly manifestations of feudalism. "]
Ivanhoe plunges back in time to an age over four hundred years earlier than Scott has previously dealt with, and shifts his scene from Scotland into the heart of England almost two hundred miles south of the Border. Consciously his aim was novelty of time and setting; perhaps, Scott thought, readers were getting tired of Scottish scenes and characters. But his mind—whether or not of set purpose—was still dwelling upon the themes of A Legend of Montrose. The Highland clan system exemplified a feudal organization of society lingering on in a moribund state among Scotland's remote mountain glens. What of the feudal world at its height? What were the realities of feudalism during its flood in the England of the gallant and lion-hearted Richard I? Was Chivalry nobly splendid in its triumphant flower? Had its virtues been lost in the days of its dying struggles?
Scott's response is the central conception of Ivanhoe. It is not simple but complex, for although he was capable of errors and misinterpretations and even, as he cheerfully confessed, of fusing the...
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SOURCE: "Chivalry and Romance: Scott's Medieval Novels," in Studies in Romanticism, Vol. 14, Spring, 1975, pp. 185-200.
[In the essay that follows, Chandler argues that the romantic aspects of Ivanhoe, like Scott's other medieval novels, should be judged not by the standards of realism but of allegory.]
One of the recurrent elements in the Waverley Novels is the distinction Scott makes between the Highlands and the Lowlands. To enter the Highlands, as one critic has put it, is to cross a border "between what is and what might be, between reality and romance, between selfish causes and lost causes, the calculating present and the impulsive past."1 This analysis of the Scottish novels can also be applied to the medieval novels, except that in them there is no return at the end to ordinary life. While the medieval tales are far from the merely decorative pageantry that they have been popularly taken to be, most of the action does transpire on the far side of the border between the real and the unreal, in a world that sometimes verges on the mythic and allegorical. In the Scottish novels the protagonist eventually turns his back on the heroic archaism of the Highlands and returns to actuality with a deepened sense of himself. But in the world of Scott's medieval fiction, there is no such obvious recrossing, no such reintegration with life as it really is. For these books Wylie Sypher's...
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SOURCE: "The Function of Form: Ivanhoe as Romance," in Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol. XIX, No. 4, Autumn, 1979, pp. 645-60.
[In the essay that follows, Sroka argues that Ivanhoe combines elements of realism with more conventional romantic tropes, particularly in the characters who display both heroism and human limitations.]
Walter Scott's critical prose does not reveal any concern on Scott's part for organic form in fiction. However, Scott's own practice as a novelist belies what appears to be his cavalier attitude toward the relationship of a work's form to its content. Ivanhoe, for example, appears on first reading to be a straightforward chivalric romance exemplifying the conventions of that form. It utilizes the conventional progression of the romance plot: the conflict between ideal good and evil embodied in the heroes and villains, the perilous journey of the main character, his individual struggle and passage through ritual death, his rescue of the endangered maiden and marriage to her, and the promise of general future happiness in a newly established social order.1 However, closer readings reveal that Scott's fidelity to the conventional romance form is tempered by altered conventions and deflations of idealistic imaginative elements—variations which create a more realistic romance. Although the English nation is delivered finally from...
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SOURCE: "Coming Home: Waverly and Ivanhoe," in Secret Leaves: The Novels of Walter Scott, University of Chicago Press, 1985, pp. 18-48.
[In the following essay, Wilt examines the symbolism of homecoming as it relates to the identity of Wilfrid of Ivanhoe, the crusader who returns to an England torn by multiple conflicts.]
"Here is someone either asleep or lying dead at the foot of the cross," the irritated Normans remark as they ride, lost, through the Great Forest that dominates Ivanhoe: but it is not the last time they will be mistaken about him. The figure is neither dead nor asleep but thinking, and irritated in his turn: "it is discourteous in you to disturb my thoughts" (p. 20). Brian de Bois Guilbert and Prior Aymer de Mauleverer are foreigners and usurpers in the land; their dress and weapons and servants are Norman, Flemish, Turkish, Saracen, and the "sly voluptuary" is easily visible under the mein and garb of the first, as is the "storm of passion" under the eight-pointed cross of the second. They ride the forest arrogantly as owners, but they are easily misled and might die of the forest's traps except that the disturbed thinker, whose Pilgrim's hat hides his identity like his posture at the crossroads masked his character, knows how to guide them. He is even more emphatically a stranger than they, "but the stranger seemed to know, as if by instinct, the soundest...
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SOURCE: "Culture and Economy in Ivanhoe," in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Vol. 42, No. 1, June, 1987, pp. 46-72.
[In the following essay, Bossche claims that Ivanhoe, as a work of historical fiction, attempts to bridge the distance between past and present by mingling elements of an earlier culture with more familiar political and social issues.]
Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe dramatizes culture as a semiotic system that constitutes social relations. The novel's protagonists are not just Cedric, Wilfred, Bois-Guilbert, and Isaac of York, but the languages they speak: Saxon, the lingua franca, Norman, and Hebrew. The theme of language that permeates Ivanhoe is a metaphor for culture, and the novel represents many other semiotic systems, including the cultural codes of etiquette, costume, architecture, cuisine, and economy. The desire to return to cultural and economic stability, when conflicts between cultures undermine the stability of each system, motivates the conclusion of the novel, the resolution of these conflicts providing new insight into Scott's use of the past.
Like the structural anthropologist, Scott posits structures that underlie cultural institutions. Drawing upon the insights of linguistics, Lévi-Strauss argues that a culture is a semiotic system that operates like a language. Underlying the particular manifestations of cultural...
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SOURCE: "Novels of the Broken Years, 1817-1819," in Scott, Chaucer, and Medieval Romance: A Study in Sir Walter Scott's Indebtedness to the Literature of the Middle Ages, University Press of Kentucky, 1987, pp. 108-37.
[In the excerpt that follows, Mitchell discusses such narrative parallels between medieval literature and Ivanhoe as Ivanhoe's palmer disguise, the Jewish quest, and the witchcraft trial, among others.]
The background to Ivanhoe, Scott's most famous novel, has already been admirably discussed by Roland Abramczyk in one of the finest German dissertations from its period that I have ever examined.14 Abramczyk goes into the historical as well as the literary background, and in his hunt for literary sources he casts a wide net; in addition to parallels in Chaucer and medieval romance he is interested in the influence of ballads, especially the Robin Hood ballads, and of later writers such as Goethe, "Monk" Lewis, and Samuel Richardson. As elsewhere in my own study I am primarily concerned with Scott's indebtedness to Chaucer and medieval romance, and in concentrating on one aspect of the broad subject I have been able to find some interesting parallels not noticed by Abramczyk as well as to bring into sharper focus here and there what he already has said.
After a long absence, Ivanhoe, disguised as a palmer, appears at Rotherwood, the home of his...
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SOURCE: "Vainly Expected Messiahs: Christianity, Chivalry and Charity in Ivanhoe," in Studies in Scottish Literature, edited by G. Ross Roy, University of South Carolina, 1992, pp. 150-66.
[In the essay that follows, Lackey examines the role of medieval religion in Ivanhoe through the contrast between the corruption of official representatives of the Church and the faith and compassion of Ivanhoe and Rebecca.]
Ivanhoe, Scott's account of ethnic, political, and military conflict in England after the unsuccessful Third Crusade, is closer to being a religious novel than commentators have acknowledged. Its central struggle is between the forces of superstition, bigotry, and brutality and those of enlightened justice and mercy, with the varieties of religious experience in the novel serving as a medium to convey all these attitudes.
No one claims that Scott was a theologian, his Religious Discourses by a Layman notwithstanding.1 Yet the truth may be not so much that his treatment of religion in Ivanhoe is superficial2 as that he sought to portray medieval religion (indeed he did the religion of more recent times) as itself superficial—at least in terms of the ends he thought religion should serve. Some of the characters of the novel mechanically repeat set phrases of their faith while others vaguely advert to its...
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SOURCE: "Writing Nationalist History: England, the Conversion of the Jews, and Ivanhoe," in ELH, Vol. 60, No. 1, Spring, 1993, pp. 181-215.
[In the following essay, Ragussis argues that Scott's depiction of the conflict between Jewish and Anglo-Saxon traditions suggests that history proceeds through the synthesis of cultures rather than the preservation of homogeneous racial identity.]
I: "The Crisis of All Nations"
While Scott was writing his first medieval novel in the summer and fall of 1819, the revival of medievalism in the German states was taking a particularly noxious form. The rise of German nationalism, crystallized by the expulsion of the French after the defeat of Napoleon, climaxed in the famous anti-Semitic persecutions known as the "Hep! Hep!" riots. The idea of Christian medievalism became realized in these persecutions when the rioters reiterated the cry of the Crusaders who massacred the Jews in 1096.1 The direct impact of these anti-Semitic persecutions on English politics and letters is not the subject of this essay—neither John Cam Hobhouse's speech in 1820 to the House of Commons on the naturalization of persecuted German Jews seeking asylum in England, nor George Eliot's decision to conclude Theophrastus Such with her celebrated essay "The Modern Hep! Hep! Hep!". Instead, I view these persecutions as the most palpable sign of a specific...
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SOURCE: "The Bride of Lammermoor to The Abbot (1818-1820)," in The Life of Walter Scott: A Critical Biography, Blackwell, 1995, pp. 220-39.
[In the following excerpt, Sutherland studies the conceptions of race and nationality in Ivanhoe, as seen both in the conflict between Normans and Saxons and in the ambivalent depiction of anti-Semitism.]
In 1819 Scotland's greatest novelist re-emerged as England's chronicler. Ivanhoe can be seen as tribute to Albion's growing cultural domination over its dependencies. Scott himself, rather unconvincingly, attributed the change in national subject matter to a fear that constant harping on Scottish themes would 'wear out the public favour'. One can explain the Englishing of Scott in other ways. He spent much of his out-of-court time in London over the period 1808-20 and knew the literary market well (as did Constable, who spent a season every year visiting Paternoster Row). More importantly, perhaps, Scott always liked to place his authorial tribute at the feet of some patron, or chief. The death of Buccleuch had left him without a Scottish chief, and he evidently transferred his allegiance (at least nominally) to the Prince Regent, the monarch who would dub him knight.
Without too much ingenuity the plot of Ivanhoe can be construed as an elegant compliment to the Regent. In the novel, the English...
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Atkinson, W. A. "The Scenes of Ivanhoe." The National Review 79, No. 470 (April 1922): 278-89.
Describes the physical settings of Ivanhoe.
Bitton, Livia E. "The Jewess as Fictional Sex Symbol." Bucknell Review 21, No. 1 (Spring 1973): 63-86.
Examines the character of Rebecca, as a stereotypical example of a Jewish woman.
The British Review and London Critical Journal. "Ivanhoe, and The Monastery." The British Review and London Critical Journal 15, No. 30 (June 1820): 393-454.
Gives an early review of Ivanhoe that focuses upon the unrealistic aspects of the novel.
Brown, Cedric C. "Sir Walter Scott, Robert Belt, and Ivanhoe." Scottish Literary Journal 8, No. 2 (December 1981): 38-43.
Presents the correspondence between Walter Scott and Robert Belt concerning the historical accuracy of the events described in Ivanhoe.
The Edinburgh Review. "Ivanhoe, A Romance." The Edinburgh Review 33, No. 65 (January 1820): 1-54.
Recounts the main elements of the novel's plot, and concludes that Scott's excursion into...
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