Critical Evaluation

(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

Again mixing historical facts with fiction, Sir Walter Scott wrote a delightful novel originally called THE CAVALIER. He later changed the title to WOODSTOCK. There is enough historical fact to make the story plausible, but it is fact highly colored by Scott’s Romantic imagination in a plot dealing with a monarch in disguise, thwarted lovers, and a hateful villain. In turn, these characters are overshadowed by the gallant old gentleman who could die happily at the instant he saw the king return to glory.

WOODSTOCK covers a pivotal period in English history, the Great Rebellion, and ends with the Restoration. The opposing forces are represented by Markham Everard, a Puritan Colonel, and the fugitive King Charles II, disguised as a page. Everard, who combines idealism and pragmatism, must struggle for freedom and fight against absolutism. Charles II, who is also a paradoxical blend of different traits, signifies the Restoration but is finally obliged to come to terms with many of the demands and accomplishments of the rebels.

Despite these interesting portrayals of historical figures, there are serious flaws in the work. Scott remarked that he wrote WOODSTOCK so quickly that he was not sure how the tale would be ended when he was halfway through its composition; many of the novel’s weaknesses arise from this hastiness. Some critics have pointed to the prominent role of Charles II in the novel as another...

(The entire section is 415 words.)