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Ivanhoe | Study Guide

Sir Walter Scott

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Ivanhoe | Chapters 24–28 | Summary



Chapter 24

Rebecca is brought to a room in "a distant and sequestered turret," with an old Saxon woman called Urfried. Rebecca's captors tell the old woman to leave, but she refuses. She tells Rebecca how Reginald Front-de-Boeuf's father captured the castle from her family. Urfried's father and brothers were killed in the battle, and she was forced to become the lover of the elder Front-de-Boeuf. Rebecca cannot escape the same fate, the old woman says, and leaves, locking the door behind her. Because of the treatment she has received as a Jew, she finds her present situation less of a shock than it was to Rowena, and she keeps her wits about her. First she looks for a way to escape but finds none.

Soon one of the robbers who kidnapped them arrives. He keeps his face and body hidden. Rebecca offers him her jewelry to ransom herself and her father, but he refuses them, saying, "ever since I have taken up this wild trade, I have made a vow to prefer beauty to wealth." In French the man tells her Isaac is already being pressed for a ransom, but that he himself wants "love and beauty" and nothing else. Rebecca realizes he's a Norman and demands he show himself. He is Brian de Bois-Guilbert, and his words make clear how beautiful he finds her. She protests that their "union were contrary to the laws, alike of the church and the synagogue." If she will not willingly be his lover, he claims his right to take her "by violence" and keep her imprisoned here, where no one will hear. Rebecca throws open the window and runs to the edge of the balcony; she threatens to throw herself off if he comes any nearer. Overcome by admiration for her courage, the Templar swears he will not harm her.

Rebecca is calm, knowing she controls her own fate. Bois-Guilbert tells her he was once in love with a woman who married someone else while he was away. Sir Brian then joined the Templars and has lived for revenge and ambition ever since. His ambition is to rule the Templars and to "wrench the sceptre" from the hands of kings. He believes he has found a "kindred spirit" in Rebecca who will rise to power beside him. Then he hears the bugle blow and leaves, promising to return to "hold further conference" with her.

After the Templar leaves, Rebecca asks "the God of Jacob" to protect her and her father—and "the wounded Christian."

Chapter 25

In the hall Bois-Guilbert finds Maurice de Bracy, who complains of how Rebecca broke down in tears. Soon, Reginald Front-de-Boeuf joins them. He has a letter with him that he can't read because it's in Saxon. De Bracy can't read at all, so Bois-Guilbert reads it out. It's "a formal letter of defiance" from Wamba and Gurth and says they and their companions, including the Black Knight and "the stout yeoman, Robert Locksley, called Cleave-the-Wand," demand the safe release of Cedric and his party, including all persons, animals, and belongings. Otherwise they will attack and "do [their] utmost to [the] annoyance and destruction" of Front-de-Boeuf and his "allies and accomplices." De Bracy and the Templar laugh, but Front-de-Boeuf takes it seriously. He suspects they are supported by strong outlaw bands. A squire estimates there are at least 200 men in the woods. Sir Reginald blames the other two: "This comes of lending you the use of my castle." The castle is underdefended, he tells them, and the men outside are "English yeomen, over whom we shall have no advantage."

They try another ploy, drafting a letter saying they plan to kill the captives and place their heads on the castle battlements and asking that their rescuers send in a priest to hear their last confessions. The letter is brought to the "head-quarters of the allies." There are already some 200 yeomen and more arriving all the time; in addition there are a group of armed Saxons as well—people from Cedric's estate and the nearby town. The leaders decide they need to send a confessor as a spy, but the hermit says he cannot now change back to a priest. Wamba says he was "bred to be a friar" and will wear the "hermit's frock."

Chapter 26

The fool tells the guard at the gate he's Franciscan and has come to minister to the captives. He's taken into the castle and brought to Front-de-Boeuf, who wants to know how many "banditti" are outside. At least 500, says the fool. He's taken to Cedric of Rotherwood and Athelstane of Coningsburgh, where he plays his role and tells them to prepare to die. Then he reveals his identity and offers to trade places with Cedric. Cedric dons the friar's robe, but realizes he can speak only Saxon. Wamba tells him just to say "pax vobiscum" in any circumstance. Armed with these words, Cedric leaves the room. Soon, he is approached by a woman to whom he says in passing "pax vobiscum." The woman scares him by replying in fluent Latin. He feigns deafness and speaks Saxon. She begs him in Saxon to come "comfort a wounded prisoner," but he says he must leave. Urfried interrupts and tells Rebecca to go back "to the sick man's chamber, and tend him" till she returns.

Chapter 27

Urfried takes Cedric to a small room where she pours them each a flagon of wine and tells him how wonderful it is to hear her own language spoken. She drinks her wine and tells him her story. She was the daughter of the Thane of Torquilstone—the daughter of Cedric's "father's friend and companion in arms." She realizes he is Cedric and thinks he has "sought refuge from oppression" in a monastery. He asks her to tell her story, and she admits she was forced to be the elder Front-de-Boeuf's lover. Cedric is horrified she could have done such a thing. Why didn't she kill herself, he demands. Had he known she was there, he would have come and killed her himself. Triumphant to hear Cedric is such a defender of the Saxons, she tells him that she sowed "unnatural hatred" between her lover and his son, Reginald, and that Reginald killed his father while drunk. Cedric is still more horrified and wants to leave, but she holds him long enough to say that she has an idea. He is to tell his comrades outside to look for a red flag from a certain turret and to attack when they see it. The castle defenders will be busy inside. She leaves as Front-de-Boeuf enters.

Front-de-Boeuf takes Cedric out through the postern gate. He tells the supposed priest to carry a scroll to Philip de Malvoisin's castle and have it sent to York. Before going, he is to make sure "the knaves" stay where they are till the Norman knights arrive. Cedric swears, "Your commands shall be obeyed! Not a Saxon shall stir from before these walls, if I have art and influence to detain them there." After Cedric (in the monk's cloak) has left the castle, Sir Reginald orders Cedric and Athelstane taken to the armory. There it is discovered that they have Wamba and not Cedric. De Bracy guesses that Cedric escaped disguised as a monk. Sir Reginald wants to have the fool killed, but de Bracy wants to take him on the road to keep his Freelances entertained. When asked, Athelstane says he will pay 1,000 marks for his own and his companions' freedom and will try to call off the attackers. Athelstane is willing to leave the Jews, but refuses to leave his fiancée or the fool, who has just saved Cedric's life.

Another monk arrives, this time a real one called Ambrose. Prior Aymer has been taken prisoner by the outlaws and needs to be rescued. The attackers are camped outside, he says, and raising a bank against the castle walls. De Bracy looks out and confirms it. The Normans make plans to defend the castle and refuse to listen further to the monk. Sir Brian studies the approach of the attackers and thinks they must be led by "some noble knight or gentleman, skilful in the practice of wars." De Bracy sees the Black Knight among them, and Sir Reginald says he's glad to get a chance at revenge on him.

Chapter 28

When Ivanhoe lost consciousness at Ashby, it was Rebecca who insisted that she and her father take him to their house to tend him. She insists Ivanhoe be placed in her litter and she will ride. Along the road Bois-Guilbert passes them several times, "fixing his bold and ardent look on" Rebecca. In their house she binds his wounds and uses her skills as a healer to stabilize Ivanhoe. Although he is still unconscious, she says he can travel to York with them the next day. She insists on this as she refuses to leave a particular medicine with another doctor and because saving Ivanhoe will put her father in King Richard's good graces when he returns. Ivanhoe wakes in the evening, and his ornate surroundings and his first glimpse of Rebecca at first make him think he's back in the Holy Land. He addresses her in Arabic and calls her "noble damsel," but she explains she's Isaac's daughter. When he hears they plan to take him to York, he is hesitant, but she says she can have him on his feet again in eight days; otherwise it would be at least a month. He offers to pay her, but she doesn't want money, just his admission "that a Jew may do good service to a Christian, without desiring other guerdon than the blessing of the Great Father who made both Jew and Gentile."

Rebecca catches him up on the activities of Prince John and his companions and of Cedric and his companions. She tells him Cedric took Gurth into custody, but that Cedric's steward believes he'll be forgiven. In any case the steward, Wamba, and Cedric's other servants plan to help Gurth escape in case Cedric's anger doesn't lessen. Ivanhoe believes he brings only "ruin" on anyone who is kind to him and warns Rebecca to leave him behind. But she foresees that he had been "restored to [his] country" in its time of need. The next day he has no fever, and they set out. Afraid of robbers, Isaac insists they travel fast, which leads first to disagreements with their hired bodyguards and then to "a deadly feud." So, at the first sign of danger, the bodyguards desert them.

When they are attacked by what appear to be Saxon outlaws, Ivanhoe identifies himself to one of them. Unfortunately, it turns out to be de Bracy. But the chivalric code keeps him from harming Ivanhoe or revealing his identity to the other Normans. De Bracy assigns his squires to tend the "wounded companion." They are still doing so on the day of the attack, and when Front-de-Boeuf hears of it, he orders them "to the battlements." It is Sir Reginald who tells Urfried to see to the "dying man."


The Templar knight, Brian de Bois-Guilbert, is full of surprises. Until now he has seemed increasingly evil. But in Chapter 24 he is redeemed somewhat in readers' eyes when he tells how the woman he loved betrayed him. Of course his response was to take some sort of brutal revenge; although Scott doesn't say exactly what that revenge was, readers can guess it involved murder. What humanizes him still more is the total reversal of his plans toward Rebecca. He sincerely admires her defiance and lack of fear. Moreover, he is one of the few non-Jewish characters in the novel who shows no anti-Semitism—even though he acknowledges society's anti-Jewish practices. Later, his realistic assessment of the threat from the attackers in Chapter 27 is also admirable.

Unlike his nemesis Ivanhoe wakes to find a beautiful woman he at first believes is a Saracen, but the warmth he feels toward her disappears completely the moment he learns she is a Jew. At least he remains open minded enough to accept her assurances that she can help him. But his anti-Semitism doesn't hold up well in comparison with Sir Brian's complete acceptance of Rebecca's heritage.

Cedric, too, is shown at his worst in his conversation with the "old hag" Ulrica. It turns out she is the daughter of his father's friend and must therefore be about Cedric's age. It is probably because of her years of mistreatment that she looks so much older. Cedric himself is still a strong, vigorous man. He is ready to be sympathetic toward Urfried (her real name), but this changes when he learns that she was the elder Front-de-Boeuf's lover for many years—however unwilling. After hearing that, he is completely without sympathy. He is quick to pass judgment without stopping to consider what she may have suffered and tells her she should have done exactly what Rebecca threatened to do: kill herself. Urfried is angry at first, but—as if she had never thought of that possibility before—now thinks up some plan that makes use of his suggestion. Like Cedric readers have no idea what her scheme might be, but it sounds like the rescuers outside now have an ally inside the castle. Having already decided she has, at least to some degree, gone over to the enemy, Cedric is doubtful of her credibility but, readers hope, will pass on Urfried's message.

Readers get to know Rebecca much better in these chapters. When put in basically the same situation as Rowena and as Urfried many years earlier, rather than dissolve into tears or accept her fate, she assesses the situation and sees one opportunity for retaining control over her own life. She takes this opportunity. By showing that she is ready to die rather than accept Bois-Guilbert as her lover, she reverses their roles: She is now in control. Rebecca is not only proud and noble of spirit, she is also intelligent, resourceful, and practical.

Aside from moneylending, medieval Jews were known as skilled physicians. Since they weren't allowed to practice many professions, medicine offered them a respected option. Christians tended to think God had sent illness and that to heal it was to go against his wishes, but Jews saw the healer as an instrument of God. Moreover, it was considered wrong to get paid for studying and teaching about the Jewish faith, so for centuries rabbis worked as physicians. Because Jews traveled a lot (both by choice and by necessity) and maintained close ties with friends and family in many places, they could gather medical information from all over and pass it on. Most medical treatises were written in Arabic and Hebrew, and Jewish scholars knew Latin, Arabic, Hebrew, and sometimes Greek. As a result, they brought to Europe medical knowledge and techniques from the east and around the Mediterranean. They still had to contend with Christian reluctance to consult a Jewish healer, but Muslims were more tolerant of consulting Jewish doctors than Christians. In Chapters 24, 27, and 28 Rebecca demonstrates her linguistic prowess, speaking French (with the Templar), Hebrew (with her servant), Latin (to Cedric), Saxon (with the Templar and with Cedric), and English (with Ivanhoe); she also understands Ivanhoe's Arabic. The medical skills and techniques she uses when tending Ivanhoe in Chapter 28 reflect rigorous training and knowledge passed down from other great healers.

The Jews (especially Rebecca) are the best-educated characters in the book with the exception of the Black Knight and a few of the nobles. Even those nobles who can read aren't always interested in learning and thinking; Athelstane is a good example of this.

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