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Ivanhoe | Study Guide

Sir Walter Scott

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Ivanhoe | Chapters 19–23 | Summary



Chapter 19

It's late when Cedric of Rotherwood, Athelstane of Coningsburgh, and their party enter the forest. They hear cries for help, ride in that direction, and find a young woman and old man, both dressed as Jews. They seem desperate. It is Isaac of York and Rebecca. They had been transporting a litter carrying a sick friend accompanied by six bodyguards who had deserted them when they heard there was a big band of outlaws nearby. Of course the Saxons don't realize the sick man is Ivanhoe; they assume he's another Jew. The mercenaries had run off taking the horses and the litter with them. They beg to travel with the larger company. This is agreed, but Cedric tells them to travel at the rear with Gurth and Wamba. Gurth must give up his horse and, once on foot, manages to escape.

They enter a narrow pass, where they come under attack by the Normans posing as outlaws and are all captured—except Wamba, who tries to save Cedric but can't. He escapes and wonders what to do with his sudden freedom. That's where Gurth and Gurth's dog, Fangs, find him. In tears Wamba tells Gurth what's happened. Gurth says they must rescue Cedric and the others. They are about to set off when someone commands them to stop. Wamba recognizes Locksley from the tournament. He has them stay put and sets off to scout the situation. When he returns, he says the men are "good men of war," and leads Wamba and Gurth away to gather "English hands to help [Cedric] in this extremity."

Chapter 20

Three hours later Locksley, Gurth, and Wamba reach a large oak, where Locksley's men are gathered. He asks after several, but they are off on various missions. When he hears the friar is in his cell, he says he'll go there and tells his men to meet him at daybreak. Two of them are sent to keep watch on the road leading to Reginald Front-de-Boeuf's castle of Torquilstone and watch for a "set of gallants, who have been masquerading" as outlaws. Locksley and his two companions go to the Chapel of Copmanhurst to find "the Friar." As they approach the hut, Wamba comments that they seem to be singing a black Mass inside. Locksley pounds on the door. Inside the hermit and the knight get ready for a fight.

When Locksley identifies himself, the hermit says, "All's safe ... he is a friend." The knight is not so ready to accept this. Locksley tells the hermit to "lay down the rosary and take up the quarter-staff" and join "our merry men." He recognizes the Black Knight from the tournament and accepts that he is "a friend to the weaker party." Locksley tells him what has happened to Cedric's group and invites him to join, which the knight agrees to immediately. As they leave, Locksley says they must "storm the Castle of Reginald Front-de-Boeuf." The knight is shocked that he has "turned thief and oppressor." Locksley replies de Boeuf was always an oppressor.

Chapter 21

Meanwhile, the kidnappers are delayed trying to get through the unfamiliar woods with their captives. In the morning they make better speed. Maurice de Bracy tells Brian de Bois-Guilbert that he has decided to continue with them to the castle and tell Rowena that he has done this out of "the vehemence of his passion" for her. The Templar hopes de Bracy's not changing his plans because he doesn't trust Sir Brian due to Waldemar Fitzurse's accusation. De Bracy needn't worry, the Templar says, because he is interested in "the lovely Jewess."

Cedric, still thinking his captors are English outlaws, is rebuking them for turning against their own kind, but they won't answer him. Soon they arrive at the strongly fortified moated castle of Torquilstone. As soon as he sees it, Cedric realizes who the men are. He thinks he is their target and pleads with them to let Rowena go. Inside the castle Rowena and Rebecca are separated from the rest and taken to separate rooms far from anyone else. Cedric and Athelstane are together, and Cedric talks of how King Harold treated his traitorous brother, but all Athelstane is interested in is food and drink. Lunch arrives. Cedric demands that Front-de-Boeuf name the amount of the ransom, and Athelstane issues a challenge to Front-de-Boeuf. While the men are still eating, they hear a horn sounded three times outside the gate. From their window they can't see who's there, but they hear "a considerable degree of bustle ... in the castle."

Chapter 22

Isaac of York has been imprisoned in the dungeon. After sitting motionless for three hours, he is visited by Reginald Front-de-Boeuf and Bois-Guilbert's two Saracen slaves wearing rough clothing with their sleeves rolled up and carrying baskets. Isaac is so terrified he can't move. One of the Saracens produces a large scale and some weights, and Front-de-Boeuf tells Isaac to weigh him out 1,000 points of silver. When Isaac protests, the Norman says he's willing to take gold instead. Isaac tries to protest that he's poor, but Front-de-Boeuf isn't buying it. He says if Isaac doesn't pay, he will suffer "a long and lingering death." The Saracens now take charcoal, bellows, and oil out of their baskets and set a fire in a grate below a platform of iron bars. The Norman says they'll roast Isaac there if he doesn't pay. Isaac says he hasn't the means to pay, so the Saracens pick Isaac up and hold him between them.

Isaac relents and says that he will have to ask "the help of his brethren" in paying, but the Norman won't allow him to leave the dungeon until the ransom has been paid. Then Isaac asks that his companions be released at least, but the Norman says the ransom is for his freedom alone. He asks that his daughter be sent to collect the money, and the Norman says he thought the girl was Isaac's "concubine" and gave her to Bois-Guilbert. Isaac screams and throws himself at Front-de-Boeuf's feet, begging him to spare his daughter, the only remaining one of his six children, who is the image of his dead wife. The Norman seems to relent a little, but says it's too late to change things now. Further begging only angers the Norman. Finally, Isaac says he will pay nothing unless his daughter is released safely. "Do thy worst," he says. "My daughter is my flesh and blood, dearer to me a thousand times than those limbs which thy cruelty threatens ... Take my life if thou wilt, and say, the Jew, amidst his tortures, knew how to disappoint the Christian."

The Norman orders the old man chained to the bars, but before the Saracens can comply, a bugle is sounded twice outside the castle and there are calls for Front-de-Boeuf. And Isaac is left alone in the dungeon again.

Chapter 23

Rowena has been put in a dilapidated bedchamber that once belonged to Front-de-Boeuf's wife, who is long dead. At about noon, after meeting with his co-conspirators to decide how to deal with the captives, de Bracy comes to her in his finest and most fashionable clothing. He gestures for her to sit, but she won't until she "learns her doom" from her captor. He professes himself "her captive, not her jailor" and tries to woo her in "the jargon of a troubadour." She says she doesn't know him and that what he says now "forms no apology for the violence of a robber." As they speak, he gets angry and tells her, "Thou shalt never leave this castle, or thou shalt leave it as Maurice de Bracy's wife." He says he knows she would like to marry Ivanhoe, but that there's no hope of that. He says Ivanhoe is in his power because he is the only one who knows Ivanhoe is there in the castle. The young man was in Isaac's litter, and if Front-de-Boeuf finds out, he'll kill him to secure his claim on the estate. De Bracy promises that if she marries him, her new position will keep both Ivanhoe and Cedric safe.

Rowena is overcome by sorrow, and de Bracy is somewhat touched and even more embarrassed. Still, he is less sure of the course he has taken. He tries to comfort her, but is interrupted by the blast of the horn. Feeling relieved that he has an excuse to go, he leaves.

The Saxon Chronicles and other accounts of the actions of the Normans when they first conquered England describe actions like those described in these past few chapters and upcoming ones.


In light of characters' actions in Chapters 19 to 23, it is interesting to consider the code of chivalry and to what extent it guides those in Ivanhoe who profess to follow it. Chivalry is often referenced in Scott's novel though not usually followed. For instance the Knights Templar and the Hospitaller Knights were the earliest chivalric orders to be founded, yet the men who represent these orders in Ivanhoe seem to be among the least chivalric in their behavior. This also applies to most of the Norman nobles readers have encountered so far. The Templar knight Bois-Guilbert is happy to lend his Saracen slaves to Sir Reginald Front-de-Boeuf (a secular knight) to torture and kill Isaac, who, even if he is not poor, is certainly enfeebled by age. According to the code, he should be protected, not threatened. The code also says that women are to be defended and that knights should not be lecherous, yet Sir Maurice de Bracy and Bois-Guilbert capture Cedric's party explicitly in order to get ahold of Rowena and Rebecca. These three knights—Front-de-Boeuf, de Bracy, and Bois-Guilbert—are supposed to support and defend Christianity, yet, with the exception of Isaac and Rebecca, their victims are all Christian. They are also supposed to be loyal to their liege, who, in the case of Front-de-Boeuf, at least, is Richard, not John. (For Bois-Guilbert it is the pope, and for de Bracy, who is a mercenary leader, it is whoever is paying the most.) More subtly, all these knights are supposed to be loyal and honest with one another; de Bracy has withheld from the others the information that Ivanhoe was among the captives. Of course this is better for Ivanhoe, but that's not why he's doing it; he's doing it to coerce Rowena into marrying him in order to save the man she loves.

Oddly enough, with few exceptions—notably Ivanhoe and the Black Knight—the most chivalrous characters we have met so far are those with the least apparent power: Gurth, who is a serf; Wamba, a fool; Locksley, the leader of a robber band; and Rowena and Rebecca, who as women have no power of their own. Gurth and Wamba are loyal to Cedric not because he owns them, but because they care for him. Gurth's loyalty to Ivanhoe is also founded in honest emotion. Both men are happy to risk their lives for Cedric and his household after they have been taken by the supposed robbers. Locksley not only believes and releases Gurth in Chapter 11, but turns up now and saves him and Wamba by preventing them from attacking the Norman mercenaries-cum-outlaws. He is ready to risk his own men to rescue the captives. Part of the code of honor followed by knights was challenging one another to fight; this is also seen among the outlaws. Gurth fights (and wins) against the Miller in Chapter 11, and since it was a fair fight, the Miller is one of the men who makes sure he gets back to the pavilion safely. There are no hard feelings then or when they meet again in Chapter 20. This is in sharp contrast to the mortal feud between Ivanhoe and Bois-Guilbert, which seems to stem from their shared time in the Holy Land.

Readers have not had much exposure to Front-de-Boeuf before these chapters. He was present at the Ashby tournament but didn't figure large in the events there. Until now, therefore, most of the information about his character has come from what others have said about him. He seems to be hungry for land and energetic in defending what is his. This can be seen in the new defenses he has built at Torquilstone, which are discussed in Chapter 21. Front-de-Boeuf has also built a new hall (Cedric and Athelstane are confined in the old one in Chapter 21) in which to entertain his new liege lord, Prince John. Other than that, however, the private parts of the castle seem to have been neglected. Rowena is confined to what was once Sir Reginald's wife's bedchamber, and it is dirty and dilapidated. This indicates that the knight is more concerned with defending the castle than with maintaining it. It also suggests his marriage is not a memory he cares to preserve.

Cedric has already been seen to be a stubborn man in holding a grudge, but Chapters 19 and 21 show that he can cling stubbornly to a bad idea. At Ashby Athelstane allies himself with the Norman challengers on the second day. Then, in Chapter 19, when the Norman "robbers" attack, Athelstane proves to be a slow-witted and ineffective fighter. He can't manage to draw his sword before being taken prisoner, while in the same period, Cedric has killed one attacker and nearly a second. Then, in Chapter 21, Cedric's musings on their shared Saxon history matters much less to Athelstane than the question of when lunch will arrive. When it does, he is ready to chow down rather than discuss terms with their captors. His abiding love is food and drink, and he seldom expresses interest in anything else. But in spite of all this, Cedric continues to try to educate him, hoping that marrying Rowena will bring out his better nature. Readers might wonder, though, whether there's much to bring out.

It is interesting that each of the captives seen talking with the captors believes he or she is the reason for the kidnapping. Cedric assumes the ransom for him and Athelstane is the kidnappers' objective even though only servants come to speak with him. Isaac assumes he was the target because of Front-de-Boeuf's greed. But readers know that these extortions are incidental; Front-de-Boeuf is just availing himself of an opportunity. The ostensible reason was for de Bracy to convince Rowena to marry him, and she sees herself as the primary target. But even Rowena is not the underlying goal. The idea originated with Bois-Guilbert, and what he wants is Rebecca.

Any reader who has not realized yet that Locksley is a version of the centuries-old Robin Hood legend will have done so in Chapter 20. Of course the original Robin Hood was not a chivalrous Saxon hero loyal to a Norman king. He was an outlaw and a robber. It is Scott who created the noble Robin Hood familiar to today's readers. Scott is the source for the merry men gathered around their giant oak tree; the ribald, heavy-drinking, hard-fighting Friar Tuck; and, of course, Robin Hood himself, who splits his opponent's arrow in the archery contest and steals only from the rich to help the poor. What is different from later Robin Hoods, however, is that Robin is a yeoman and not a nobleman whose lands John has confiscated as punishment for loyalty to King Richard. That version of Robin Hood rolls some of Ivanhoe's traits into Robin. Moreover, after Ivanhoe, Robin and his merry men took on many of the ideal qualities of true medieval chivalry.

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