"Ivanhoe" by SIR WALTER SCOTT: The Twelfth Century Fascinating Struggle Between the Normans and the Saxons




The twelfth century fascinating struggle between the Normans and the Saxons is depicted in Scott’s Ivanhoe (Published 1819). It is one of the best of Scott’s Waverley novels. "This historical novels," says Carlyle, "has taught all men this truth, which looks like a truism, and yet was as good as unknown to writers of history and others till so taught: that the by-gone ages of the world were actually filled by living men, not protocols, state papers, controversies, and abstractions of men.” Here is history made alive and simply, Scott had changed people's very awareness of history.



The year of King Richard I's (also known as Richard the Lion-Hearted) return to England from the Third Crusade, precisely in 1194, this was undertaken to rescue the Holy Land from the Turkish sultan, Saladin. Certain historical elements make Ivanhoe very valuable for worth reading. These are the feudal system, as introduced into England by the Normans; national strife between Norman and Saxon in England, the picturesque Midlands and North country of England, specifically the counties of Leicestershire; Nottinghamshire; the Jew and his relation to society; Robin Hood and his outlaws; the mediaeval conception of chivalry, the Crusades; the typical English jester, as seen in Wamba. Scott claimed the right of handling his material to suit himself. History he made incidental; the essential part was the play of human nature and the drawing of historic background. He tried, as Palgrave says,” to make beautiful the unholy tales which deserved the curse rather than the blessing of humanity.” Scott cared little for well-constructed plot. He felt at liberty to change his plot as the story progressed. Scott's aim was not to glorify the past but to hold it up for the scrutiny of modern society. According to his own statements, he hoped to recreate scenes in which 'our ancestors thought deeply, acted fiercely, and died desperately...in ignorance of each other's prejudices.' Scott thus packed much of his informational material necessary to a real understanding of the situation in the opening chapters.




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*      Athelstane, betrothed to Rowena, is a good friend of Cedric's. His main character trait is his love of food and drink. Sure, when Athelstane gets caught up in a battle, he'll put up a good fight (as in the Battle at Torquilstone, where he fights against the Normans who have taken him captive along with Rowena and Cedric), but he's mostly lazy and greedy. He doesn't seem like the kind of guy you'd pick to lead a revolution against the Normans.
*      Rowena herself is something of a mystery. She is Ivanhoe's love interest, and Athelstane's temporary fiancée. She is fair and beautiful. She is a descendant of that great Anglo-Saxon king, Alfred the Great.

*     Wilfred of Ivanhoe, "the disinherited knight," son of Cedric, is the hero He's a knight from a Saxon family recently returned from the Crusades in the Middle East.

*      Wamba the jester
*       Gurth the swineherd
*       Ulrica; the Jews
*      Rebecca, who aided "the disinherited knight," by nursing him, is the daughter of Isaac of York. She is beautiful, "endowed with knowledge”, generous and religious.
*      Alan-a-dale, Friar Tuck, the Merrie Men
*       Locksley (Robin Hood), who saved the captives in Front-de-Bceuf's castle
*       the Normans
*       Prince John, who had usurped the throne, Richard, called" the Black Sluggard," De Bracy, in love with Rowena, the Templar,
*      Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert, in love with Rebecca, is actually kind of unusual as a villain in a popular novel but truly he is the main villain of Ivanhoe.
*      Front-de-Bceuf
*      Waldemar Fitzurse, the Grand Master of the Preceptory, who tried Rebecca for sorcery
*       Prior Aymer.


A series of crisis is well brought out by such scenes as:
The discussion of conditions by Gurth and Wamba---Dinner in Cedric's house, when Rowena champions Ivanhoe---The tournament-The unmasking of Ivanhoe---Cedric's toast to Richard at the castle of Ashby-Rebecca's repulse of the Templar---Rebecca's account of the siege to the wounded Ivanhoe---Death of Ulrica in the flames---The freeing of Gurth---The trial of Rebecca---The combat: the coming of Ivanhoe; and the death of the Templar---The reappearance of Athelstane.


  1. The conflict between the Normans and the Saxons
  2. The three major settings of the novel: Ashby, Torquilstone, and Templestowe.
  3. Historical King Richard and Prince John, in constructing Scott’s fictional work
  4. Contrast Ivanhoe with Brian de Bois-Guilbert
  5. Ivanhoe’s two heroines: Rowena and Rebecca
  6. The feudal system and the code of chivalry

Reference: 1.Wikipedia : Ivanhoe
                  2.Landmark of English literature- Henry J. Nicoll
                  3. A SHORT BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE
                   BY JOHN. W. COUSIN
                 4.OUTLINES OF ENGLISH AND AMERICAN LITERATURE-     WILLIAM J.LONG
                     5.Microsoft Student Encarta
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