Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Perth. County in the center of Scotland that embraces both highland and lowland regions. It is described by Scott’s notional narrator, Chrystal Croftangry, as the most varied, picturesque, and beautiful of all Scottish counties; in the novel it becomes a microcosm of medieval Scotland. The early chapters of the novel are set within the town of Perth, which is two miles south of the ancient Scottish capital of Scone, and was itself regarded as the capital at the time in which the novel is set.

The most important settings within the town of Perth are Simon Glover’s house in Couvrefew, or Curfew Street, and the Dominican monastery—which had been founded in 1231—at the junction of Blackfriars Wynd and Couvrefew. The architecture of the monastery is Gothic, including secret passages and a council-room, where the political conspiracies underlying the plot are hatched. Glover’s daughter Catherine, the novel’s claimant to the eponymous title, becomes caught up in these convoluted machinations after attending the monastery’s church on Saint Valentine’s Eve, where the rivalry between her two lovers—the armorer Henry Gow, whose smithy is in Mill Wynd on the western side of the town, and Conachar, heir to the chieftainship of Clan Quhele—first flares up. A sharp contrast is drawn between the gloomy monastery and the hill of Kinnoul outside the town, where Catherine takes instruction from a Carthusian white friar. There she observes an oak tree whose precarious situation—in the cleft of a...

(The entire section is 628 words.)