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Ivanhoe | Chapters 29–33 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 29

Rebecca is happy to be near Ivanhoe again but knows he does not reciprocate her feelings. He's guessed they are in Reginald Front-de-Boeuf's castle and wants to know how he can protect his father and Rowena. She tells him what she knows, which isn't much—only that Brian de Bois-Guilbert is also there and that the castle is under attack. She mentions that a Christian priest is in the castle, and Ivanhoe asks to see him. When she returns without the priest, they can hear the soldiers shouting and hurrying to their positions. Then all is quiet as they wait for battle to begin. Rebecca goes to the window to watch and report to Ivanhoe what is happening. At his insistence she shelters behind a large shield as she watches. The window commands a good view of the most vulnerable section of the fortifications, and a lot of men have gathered there both inside and outside the castle walls.

The men outside carry no banner, but she sees a knight in black armor who seems to be giving orders. The advancing archers bend their bows, horns sound on both sides, and the battle begins. The attackers breach the outside barriers, and the Black Knight strikes down Front-de-Boeuf, whose men drag him inside. Now the attackers are climbing the outer walls. The Black Knight destroys the postern gate, and the attackers rush in. Bois-Guilbert manages to keep them from getting into the castle itself.

Ivanhoe believes the attackers are their friends and is focused on the Black Knight in particular. He thinks it unlikely "there be two who can do a deed of such derring-do." Even Rebecca admires him, saying, "It is fearful, yet magnificent, to behold how the arm and heart of one man can triumph over hundreds." Ivanhoe yearns to fight with the Black Knight, saying this is what chivalry is all about. But Rebecca doesn't see the point. For Ivanhoe the point is glory; but Rebecca doesn't think glory is worth much once the knight is in his tomb. Ivanhoe says she doesn't understand because she's not a Christian, but chivalry is what defends liberty against tyrants. Rebecca thinks she would gladly die to free Judah or even her father and Ivanhoe. Ivanhoe falls asleep, and Rebecca rebukes herself for her feelings for him.

Chapter 30

Bois-Guilbert tells Maurice de Bracy that Front-de-Boeuf is dying. De Bracy says they're outnumbered, and it's only a matter of time. Perhaps they should surrender the prisoners. Bois-Guilbert refuses; it would be "dishonourble." De Bracy is happy to keep fighting. The main problem for the defenders is that they can't see everything the attackers are doing, which means more work for the two leaders and more anxiety for their men.

Front-de-Boeuf knows he's dying, but will not ask Bois-Guilbert to hear his confession. Someone is with him who claims to be his "evil angel." The "angel" says it was Front-de-Boeuf who "stirred up" Prince John to fight first his father and then his brother, Richard. He says he wasn't alone; 50 barons urged John on. The "angel" says he killed his own father. He blames Ulrica for that. Then Ulrica steps forward and taunts him that Saxons are overrunning his "place of strength." He says his castle will hold, but Ulrica points out that smoke is filling the room. She has set fire to the castle's fuel supply. She leaves him alone, locking the door of the room behind her. He shouts for help, but no one hears over the sounds of battle. Alone and unable to move as the fire spreads, he goes mad.

Chapter 31

When Cedric escapes and joins the attackers, he gives them Urfried's message. They're glad to hear they have someone inside to help them if needed. They plan their next steps. Locksley will lead the archers, and the Black Knight will lead the attack on the walls. Readers know the outcome of their attack.

The next step is to cross the moat, so the Black Knight orders the men to build "a sort of floating bridge." When it's ready, the knight tells the men he doesn't have time to "tarry with" them another day and reinforcements may be coming from York. He sends the archers to the other side of the castle as a ruse and crosses the makeshift bridge to attack the sally port. Cedric is right behind him, but no one else manages to cross the moat. The only thing protecting the two men is the constant barrage of arrows. De Bracy orders stones dropped on Cedric and the knight. Just then Urfried waves her red flag. The Templar tells de Bracy the castle is on fire. They quickly make a plan to retake the barbican. But as soon as the sally port is open, the Black Knight is inside and beats back the defenders. Upon learning his identity, de Bracy yields to him, tells him Ivanhoe is inside, and takes him to the chamber. De Bracy then goes to Locksley and gives up his sword.

Ivanhoe and Rebecca realize the castle is burning. He tells her to save herself, but she won't leave him. Bois-Guilbert enters and carries Rebecca out of the room with Ivanhoe screaming after them that the Templar is a traitor. Then the Black Knight arrives and carries Ivanhoe to safety. Cedric and Gurth rescue Rowena. Wamba tricks a guard into leaving the door to the old hall open, and he and Athelstane escape, only to find themselves in a courtyard where Bois-Guilbert is defending Rebecca by holding a shield in front of her. Thinking it is Rowena, Athelstane attacks the Templar, who knocks him out with a blow to the head. The Templar leads his Saracens and a small group of mounted knights out of the fight and around to the other side of the castle, where he finds de Bracy, who refuses rescue. De Bracy warns him to leave the country because "there are hawks abroad." The Templar says he'll go to the Preceptory of Templestowe.

Above them, Ulrica appears on a turret, dressed as a fury or avenging spirit and completely mad. She sings a war song. The castle collapses "tower after tower" until her turret also gives way. Locksley calls to his yeomen to meet at the Trysting-tree at break of day.

Chapter 32

At the Trysting-tree, just half a mile from Torquilstone, the outlaws assemble their "booty." Locksley is sitting on a "throne of turf" with the Black Knight on his right and Cedric on his left. The friar is missing, and Locksley sends the Miller and a group of men to search the castle ruins for him. He wants to give Cedric half the plunder to divide among his people. Right now, Cedric wants to go bury Athelstane. He says he is rich enough to reward his people himself. Cedric wonders how he can reward Wamba, who just wants Gurth pardoned. Cedric does better; he frees Gurth and gives him a parcel of land.

Rowena rides in with a company of her men. She is happy Ivanhoe is free and that she is free to be with him. She tells Locksley and his men that they will always be welcome at her table and have the freedom of her forests. Before she leaves again, de Bracy begs her forgiveness, which she gives. Before leaving with her, Cedric asks the Black Knight to come with him to Rotherwood "not as a guest, but as a son or brother." The knight says he will come soon and "ask such a boon as will put even [Cedric's] generosity to the test." As they ride out, a group of priests follow, carrying Athelstane's bier, followed in turn by a procession of his vassals.

The Black Knight frees de Bracy, warning him to beware. De Bracy takes a horse and gallops away. Locksley gives him a horn and tells him if he is ever endangered in the woods to blow on it a certain way and "it may well chance ye shall find helpers and rescue." The knight watches as Locksley divides the spoils and is impressed by their good government and "the justice and judgment of their leader."

The friar finally arrives, bringing a prisoner at the end of a rope: Isaac of York. He believes he has converted Isaac, who pledged to donate all his wealth to the friar's order, but Isaac says no such thing occurred. The friar is about to hit Isaac when the Black Knight steps in. The friar challenges him, and the knight accepts—each may cuff the other. To the astonishment of all the outlaws, the knight doesn't fall when hit. Instead, the knight fells the friar. Afterward, the two shake hands. Locksley says the next topic is to decide on the ransom for Isaac and their other captive—Prior Aymer.

Chapter 33

It is Allan-a-Dale who captured Prior Aymer. He has stolen his money and possessions and even the lace from his collar—and demanded a ransom. Despite the prior's protests, the captain insists. One of the men suggests that the prior name Isaac's ransom and Isaac name Prior Aymer's. Isaac lists the abbey's income and holdings and names 600 crowns. For Isaac the prior names 1,000 crowns. Isaac says it is wrong to take his money when he is "this day childless" and adds that he would give all he has to know if Rebecca is alive. One of the outlaws remembers seeing her being carried off by Brian de Bois-Guilbert. The chief asks Isaac to be honest; is the 1,000 crowns really all he has? Isaac grudgingly admits "there might be some small surplus." He is to pay the outlaws 400 and save the other 600 to ransom his daughter, says Locksley.

Locksley takes Isaac aside and advises him to use his money to "make a friend of" Prior Aymer. It turns out the captain knows exactly how much Isaac has and where he keeps it. Once Rebecca saved Locksley from captivity at York and healed him. As he left, Isaac gave him a coin. The captain convinces the prior to help get Rebecca back; she is being held at their nearest Templar Preceptory. The prior writes a letter to Bois-Guilbert as a safe conduct for Isaac and advises him to offer money when he gets there.

After advising Isaac to spare no expense in ransoming Rebecca, Locksley sends him on his way. Then he and the Black Knight agree not to ask each other their true identities and part as friends.

Analysis

The first half of Chapter 29 is a description of the battle in Rebecca's words. It's very gripping but also expresses Rebecca's horror at war: "Great God! hast thou given men thine own image, that it should be thus cruelly defaced by the hands of their brethren!" she says at one point. Scott has already made clear that Jews do not fight except in self-defense, and this comment explains why. To Scott's 19th-century readers Rebecca's horror doubtless sounded more Christian than the love of war expressed by the Christian knights. When the battle is all but over and the victors are killing the defeated defenders, Rebecca says, "I see it is still more difficult to look upon victory than upon battle." To see the attackers killing men who are no longer fighting them is even more distressing to her. All this time, Ivanhoe is lying in bed, frustrated that he cannot join the fight or even watch its progress. His desire to fight turns their conversation into a debate over the nature of chivalry, which for Ivanhoe is all about battle: "The love of battle is the food upon which we live—the dust of the 'melee' is the breath of our nostrils! We live not—we wish not to live—longer than while we are victorious and renowned," he says. She wonders what use all that is when they are dead. His answer is "glory." But Rebecca looks into the future and sees only a tomb with a "defaced sculpture" and an "inscription which the ignorant monk can hardly read to the enquiring pilgrim." Scott was probably thinking of the many tombs in Britain today that were defaced after Henry VIII's break with the Church of Rome; his troops rode throughout the kingdom hacking at the images in Catholic churches. But putting these words in Rebecca's mouth adds to readers' sense of the character's wisdom and foresight.

Reginald Front-de-Boeuf is one of the most heartless characters in the novel, but his death is also among the most horrible. There is also situational irony. Used to being powerful and vigorous, it is extremely ironic that he should die at the hands of a weak old woman who was his father's and perhaps even his own concubine. He's dying anyway, of course, but she makes sure that he knows his castle and his men are lost and that there is no hope whatsoever. She also reminds him of his greatest sins so that he can wonder whether he will have to face a reckoning after death. He has not been a true believer, but even he thinks he would like to take confession. Instead, he has a brief conversation with the one person who knows he killed his own father. After she locks him in the room, unable to move from his bed, he knows he will burn with his castle. That is the second situational irony about his death—he threatened to have Isaac roasted to death, but now Isaac is alive and Front-de-Boeuf is the one who will burn.

In these five chapters two people have learned the identity of the Black Knight. Ivanhoe guesses it from his actions in the battle, and the knight whispers it to de Bracy. Although Scott has not yet confirmed it, readers can be pretty sure the knight is King Richard. Ivanhoe has known only one man who could fight like that, and others have commented on Richard's abilities. And de Bracy at once submits to the Black Knight when he learns his identity. It is hard to imagine that anyone else would make the proud and lighthearted de Bracy become so humble and somber. This scene recalls the one in which Ivanhoe whispers his identity to Gurth and completely changes Gurth's demeanor.

Before the battle for Torquilstone, the Black Knight calls himself "a true English knight." If he is the Norman king of England, this marks a major departure from the Norman kings up to this time. Later, after the battle, Locksley calls himself "a true Englishman." What can this mean, readers wonder? And what will happen when these men reveal their true identities to one another?

In Chapter 31 readers see another side of Cedric. Instead of the proud Saxon, he is humble. He says honestly that he isn't skilled in war and shouldn't be put in a position of leadership. At the same time he's brave and dashes into danger right behind the Black Knight even though he has no armor to protect him. In Chapter 33 Cedric shows that his stubbornness will yield to evidence. Not only does he forgive Gurth, but he makes him a freeman and a landowner, which gives Gurth the right to ride to war—just exactly what he wished for earlier in the story.

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