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Ivanhoe | Study Guide

Sir Walter Scott

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Ivanhoe | Chapters 14–18 | Summary



Chapter 14

Prince John hosts a huge and lavish feast at Ashby. Cedric of Rotherwood and Athelstane of Coningsburgh attend, dressed in long Saxon cloaks, which look odd to the Normans, who wear short cloaks. Rowena, Cedric tells the prince, is indisposed. During the feast John is distracted and often lost in thought, but rallies himself to offer a toast to Ivanhoe. Cedric, however, says he will not call that "disobedient youth" his son, explaining that Ivanhoe had joined Richard's court against Cedric's "wish and command." John says he believes Richard gave Wilfred of Ivanhoe some lands. Cedric says angrily that Ivanhoe's "fathers possessed [those lands] in free and independent right." John then says he will "confer" the lands on Sir Reginald Front-de-Boeuf so that Ivanhoe won't "incur his father's farther displeasure by entering upon that fief." A slanging match ensues between the Norman and Saxon lords, with the prince in to make fun of the Saxons' cloaks, manners, and—referring to their loss at Hastings—fighting abilities. Cedric says no Saxon would treat guests in this way and reminds Front-de-Boeuf and Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert that they have just been beaten by a Saxon. It is Firzurse who puts an end to the "raillery ... which must sound but harshly in the ear of a stranger." The prince offers another toast to Ivanhoe and one to Athelstane. Cedric is not appeased and, when called on to make a toast to a Norman, names "a Norman—the first in arms and in place—the best and the noblest of his race ... Richard the Lion-hearted!" Some of the Normans drink to Richard, some (including the prince) raise their goblets but don't drink, and two (Front-de-Boeuf and Bois-Guilbert) don't even touch their goblets. Then Cedric, Athelstane, and the other Saxons leave the banquet.

When Prior Aymer also says he must leave, John worries that he will lose the prior's support. Waldemar Fitzurse says he will make sure the prior joins them at York. As others leave, John becomes more despondent despite Fitzurse's reassurances.

Chapter 15

That very night Fitzurse contacts all of John's wavering supporters and convinces them to remain loyal. Their greatest concern is that Richard will return, but Fitzurse convinces them he will return a beaten and broken man with no supporters left, except for a few stragglers, like Wilfred of Ivanhoe, who are as poor and friendless as Richard himself. John, he tells them, has much more to offer the nobles in the way of money, land, and titles even if he doesn't have Richard's "personal qualifications." Most agree to attend the meeting at York, where they will make "arrangements for placing the crown upon the head of Prince John."

When he arrives back at the castle, Fitzurse meets Maurice de Bracy, who's dressed in green and carrying a longbow. He looks like a yeoman of the guard. He explains that he is dressed this way because he was working on getting himself a wife. He plans to kidnap Rowena in the guise of a forest outlaw, and then resume his true identity and rescue her. But he will hold her at Front-de-Boeuf's estate until she marries him. Fitzurse wonders whose idea this was, and de Bracy admits it was Bois-Guilbert's. Fitzurse suggests Bois-Guilbert wants Rowena for himself, but he knows better than to try to change de Bracy's mind.

Chapter 16

After leaving the tournament at Ashby, the Black Knight rides northward. Now he finds himself lost in the forests of Yorkshire. He decides to leave it up to his horse to find them accommodation for the night. Soon they reach a "rude hut" near the ruins of a small chapel. It is a hermit's dwelling, and hermits living in the woods have "a special duty ... to exercise hospitality towards benighted or bewildered passengers." Unfortunately, the hermit claims to have no food and an uncomfortable bed; he cannot offer any hospitality. The knight begs him at least to tell him how to find the road through the woods, but the directions he receives would mean he'd have to navigate "a broken path—a precipice—a ford, and a morass" at night. The knight reminds the hermit he has an obligation to provide shelter and threatens to beat down the door. He kicks the door, and the hermit opens it. He's "a large, strong-built man, in his sackcloth gown and hood, girt with a rope of rushes." He carries a torch in one hand and a huge club in the other. Beside him are two large dogs. But upon seeing the knight, the hermit invites him in—though grudgingly. He blames his lack of hospitality on fear of the forest outlaws.

The horse is to be stabled in one corner of the room, so the knight brings him in and tends him carefully. This seems to move the hermit, who responds by spreading some rushes out for the knight to sleep on. They sit down to eat a meager meal of dried peas. The knight removes his armor. He has thick, curly blonde hair, blue eyes, a mustache, and a "bold, daring, and enterprising" expression. The hermit pushes back his hood to reveal a monk's tonsure, chubby pink cheeks, and a long black beard. He looks well fed. Upon asking for drink, the knight is provided well water. The hermit introduces himself as "the Clerk of Copmanhurst," saying that some add "holy" to that. The knight says he's called "the Black Knight," and that some add "Sluggard." The hermit then calls him "Sir Sluggard." The knight wrings from the hermit a confession that he has better food as well, and eventually he brings out a venison pasty, which the two men eat and then wash down with wine. After some threats of seeing which of them can best the other at weapons play, the knight says he would rather play the harp.

Chapter 17

Unfortunately, the harp is missing a string and seems to have been "misused." The hermit blames this on "the northern minstrel" Allan-a-Dale. Finally, the knight is ready to play and asks the hermit what sort of song he'd like to hear. The hermit wants an English ballad, so the knight sings one written by a Saxon minstrel he knew in the Holy Land. The hermit responds with a song called "The Barefooted Friar," which does not seem very holy at all. The two men continue drinking, singing, and joking around until someone knocks loudly at the door.

Chapter 18

After Ivanhoe collapses at Rowena's feet, Cedric immediately wants to have his people take care of him. But he can't bring himself to treat his son in a fatherly way after disinheriting him. Instead, he tells Oswald to see that he is taken care of. But it's too late; Ivanhoe has disappeared. While looking for him, Oswald sees Gurth dressed as a squire. Believing the swineherd has deserted his service to Cedric, he takes him to their master for judgment. All he has learned about Ivanhoe is that the knight has been carried off "in a litter belonging to a lady among the spectators." Knowing his son is safe allows Cedric to be angry with him again and this leads to a fight with Rowena, who believes Ivanhoe to be "wise in council and brave in execution ... boldest among the bold, and gentlest among the gentle." Cedric refuses to discuss it further and says he will go to the prince's banquet to show his courage and constancy in the face of his son's injury. Rowena says it might look like hard-heartedness and refuses to accompany him.

Cedric does not see Gurth till after he comes back from the banquet. He is in a foul mood and orders Gurth bound. The Saxons head homeward, staying the night on the way at an abbey run by a Saxon abbot. As they are leaving in the morning, they see an evil omen: a black dog waiting at the gate. It begins howling "piteously" as they pass, and then seems to want to accompany them. But Cedric says it is Gurth's dog, "a useless fugitive like its master," and throws his spear at Fangs, who is grazed and runs off. Gurth feels worse about this than about his own treatment and begins to cry. Wamba dries his eyes for him. Gurth wants Wamba to tell Cedric that Gurth "renounces his service." Wamba refuses, calling it a "fool's errand." Gurth says he won't forgive Cedric for leaving Ivanhoe "in his blood" and trying to kill "the only other living creature that ever showed me kindness." Wamba unsuccessfully tries to convince Gurth that Cedric meant to miss the dog.

At the front of the troop, Cedric and Athelstane are discussing "the state of the land." Cedric feels there must be a Saxon king, and Athelstane is the best choice despite not being the most intelligent fellow; at least he's a good fighter and seems likely to accept counsel. On the other hand there are those who would prefer to follow Rowena because of her descent from the Saxon king Alfred. Cedric might also have been a contender, but he wants to unite, not further fragment the Saxons, which is why he thinks Rowena should marry Athelstane. This is the original reason Cedric banished his son from the house. But Rowena has made it clear that if she cannot have Ivanhoe, she'd rather enter a convent than marry Athelstane. Athelstane himself has little interest in putting in the effort necessary to fight for Saxon independence. They stop for lunch and are so slow getting back on the road that they will probably have to travel all night before they reach Rotherwood. With this in mind they pick up their pace.


Chapter 14 begins with a discussion of Prince John's bad character. One piece of evidence is John's flagrant takeover of the properties of Roger de Quincy, Earl of Winchester, including the castle of Ashby and the surrounding town. As evidence of John's inability to control himself, the narrator recounts the story that when John's father, Henry II, put John in charge of Ireland and sent him there, John pulled the Irish chieftains' beards. He doesn't mention that the prince was only 10 years old at the time. The narrator also says it's well known that John died as a result of "a surfeit upon peaches and new ale," but this is one of several apocryphal accounts of his death that were circulated. In fact he died of dysentery (an intestinal inflammation resulting from an infection that causes severe diarrhea and blood loss) while leading his troops in a war against the son of the French king Philip Augustus, who was trying to usurp his throne.

Waldemar Fitzurse was not a historical character, but there was a Fitzurse family. Its founder fought at Hastings for the Normans, receiving lands and title as his reward. Henry II, Richard and John's father, famously and inadvertently sent four men to kill Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1170; one of these was Reginald Fitz-Urse. The four men are believed to have died within a few years of the murder; certainly the Fitzurse family disappeared. It is likely the Fitzurse of the first half of Ivanhoe—Prince John's intelligent and reliable adviser—is based on the historical prince's supporter William Marshal, the Earl of Pembroke. Like Scott's Fitzurse, Marshall was a skilled diplomat and statesman who, after John's death, ensured the accession of John's son, Henry III, to the throne and acted as his regent until the nine-year-old came of age. Scott's Fitzurse is a good reader of people; he knows what each wants and how to convince everyone to remain loyal to the prince. In Chapter 15 readers learn some of Fitzurse's reasons for supporting Prince John despite the prince's unsuitability to rule: Fitzurse believes John will be more favorable to the nobility and that John will make him chancellor. Richard would tax the nobility and punish those who didn't join his Crusade and who supported John in his absence. In contrast John offers "rewards, immunities, privileges, wealth, and honours." Fitzurse believes he can manage John to secure his own position and power. Later, readers will discover that Waldemar Fitzurse has another, much more personal motivation for siding with the prince.

Chapter 16 introduces the Clerk of Copmanhurst. He is supposedly a holy hermit, but seems to be another mighty warrior in disguise and another mystery for readers to ponder. In addition to his burly looks and quick mind, the hermit has a stash of weapons in a hidden cupboard. Still, he and the Black Knight get on well despite the hermit's initial surliness. The relationship between the hermit and the Black Knight parallels Gurth's meeting with the robbers. It begins with suspicion on both sides and ends with a degree of fellow feeling. As their evening progresses in Chapter 17, the two men entertain and tease each other. Scott changes the subject in Chapter 18, though, leaving readers to wonder whether they will prove to be friends or enemies in the end. Certainly, although the knight is a Norman, he exhibits none of the haughtiness of Prince John's followers toward the Saxons.

Cedric's character is called into question by his actions in Chapter 18. He leaves his son in the hands of strangers, he is quick to judge Gurth a deserter, and he throws a spear at Gurth's dog—the very dog he was so ready to defend in Chapter 4. The Saxon is quick tempered, as has been seen before now, but his greater problem seems to be his concern with how others see him. When Ivanhoe falls, for instance, his immediate desire is to be at his son's side, but his concern over being seen showing fatherly feelings toward a disinherited son overcomes this impulse. His other major character flaw is that he is easily offended and then holds a grudge. These grudges of his may be personal or political. For example he is still angry with Ivanhoe for going off on Crusade with Richard against Cedric's will, and he is against all Normans on principle, even refusing to speak their language.

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