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Ivanhoe | Study Guide

Sir Walter Scott

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Ivanhoe | Chapters 39–41 | Summary



Chapter 39

After her trial Rebecca is joined in her room by Brian de Bois-Guilbert. She blames his lust and actions for her current situation. He tells her he could not have foreseen that Lucas de Beaumanoir would show up, and he calls the grand master a bigot, unworthy of his office. He was the one who gave her the note and had intended to be her champion. But Preceptor Herman of Goodalricke made that impossible when he suggested Bois-Guilbert be the order's champion. Only two men can best him, he says—King Richard, who "is in a foreign prison," and Ivanhoe, who can't put on his armor. So if Bois-Guilbert fights someone else, Rebecca will die. The only option is for him not to fight. If he doesn't fight, he'll lose everything, but he will do that for her if she will become his lover. Rebecca tells him, "Be a man, be a Christian!" by saving her without trying to blackmail her into submission. She tells him to go to Richard or John or the Queen Mother and get them to overturn the tribunal's decision. But he won't lose his position in the order for anything other than her consent to be with him. She tells him to go; she needs to pray. Bois-Guilbert says he wishes he had been born a Jew rather than play his part in her death. Rebecca is proud of her heritage and would not want to be a hypocritical Christian. He gives up and asks her forgiveness, which she grants.

Albert de Malvoisin is waiting for Sir Brian and tells the knight that if he confesses his actions and leaves the order, he will never be allowed to leave the preceptory but will be jailed in its dungeons. In fact he won't be allowed to leave before the fight. And anyway, the girl would not be saved even "by so costly a sacrifice." Sir Brian is convinced, and Malvoisin knows he must keep him convinced in order to achieve his own ambitions in the order.

Chapter 40

After leaving the Trysting-tree, the Black Knight goes to Ivanhoe, who is being tended by Gurth and Wamba at a nearby priory. He tells Ivanhoe he means to make peace between Wilfred and his father, Cedric of Rotherwood. They part the next morning, intending to meet again at Coningsburgh for Athelstane's funeral feast. Wamba goes with Richard as his guide. Later that day, Ivanhoe has a premonition "of approaching evil" and believes he must leave the priory. Riding the prior's jennet, he sets off after the Black Knight.

Richard and Wamba entertain themselves by singing and joking as they ride. They talk about the yeomen of the greenwood, and Wamba tells the knight about some of their escapades. Richard wonders, "Which of these was the good deed, which was the felony?" Wamba talks Richard into giving him Locksley's horn. Wamba sees people hiding in a thicket up ahead and warns Richard. Three arrows hit his armor. He rides into the thicket to find six or seven men who attack, yelling "Die, Tyrant!" A knight in blue armor kills Richard's horse. Wamba sounds the horn, which startles the attackers. The fight goes on, and just as the blue knight is about to lance Richard, Wamba hamstrings his horse. But Locksley, the friar, and several others join the fray. Soon the attackers are dead or dying. The blue knight proves to be Waldemar Fitzurse, and Richard is shocked. Fitzurse says he has acted out of ambition and revenge; Richard did not want to marry his daughter. He says that Prince John sent him on this mission, and Richard tells him to go home to Normandy and never mention that John was involved in this. He tells Locksley to give Fitzurse a horse. Locksley has realized he's not just some errant knight, and the Black Knight identifies himself as "Richard of England." The yeomen kneel, swear allegiance to him, and beg for pardon. He pardons them, and Locksley identifies himself as Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest. The friar is to have a home and chapel in the king's woods—and plenty of venison, ale, and wine as well.

Chapter 41

Ivanhoe and Gurth arrive just as Richard and his new liegemen are about to resume their travels. Richard intends to keep his identity secret a while longer in order to assemble "a force as enemies shall tremble to face" so that his enemies will surrender "without even unsheathing a sword." His allies are already gathering their troops. The companions feast together beneath an oak. Worried that someone might make one joke too many at the king's expense, Robin acts to put an end to the party. He has one of his men sound a Norman horn. Thinking Philip de Malvoisin is approaching, the king puts on his armor. Robin sends out scouts, and then comes clean to Richard. Richard is glad of good advice, and they mount and continue their journey.

When they get to Coningsburgh, everyone there is busy preparing for the funeral feast. The seneschal notices them because there are two knights in the group, which is unusual for a Saxon event. And one of the knights, Wilfred, looks familiar. Since they seem like notable guests, he goes up to them and leads them to the tower entrance.


Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert has a big problem. He disdains the Templars' current leadership and feels he would make a much better leader for the order than Beaumanoir. Yet, despite his ambition, he is completely in love with Rebecca and would give up anything for her and to be with her. But—once burned, twice shy—he needs assurances from her first. He's still looking for revenge on his first love. Of course this is unfair; he can hardly expect Rebecca to love him for taking her prisoner. Over and over again, he decides to give up his pursuit, but in the end she is the most important thing, and he tries desperately to save her by standing with the knights where he can offer to be her champion. But his plan is foiled, and he is forced to fight for the court instead. What should he do? Only two men in the world can best him in battle, but Richard is being held captive in Europe, and Ivanhoe is too badly injured. He cannot throw the fight; it would only get him punished and add ammunition against Rebecca. He's desperate, but Rebecca doesn't seem sympathetic to his side of the story. Still, she realizes he is sorry and forgives him, proving once again that she—a Jew—is the most Christian person in the book.

Albert de Malvoisin is the only person Bois-Guilbert has trusted with the truth about Rebecca. This is not only for the practical reason that de Malvoisin runs the preceptory where Bois-Gilbert is hiding out with her, but also because Albert is his longtime friend and supporter. Sir Brian is no fool, and the fact that he trusts Albert means Albert is trustworthy. But Albert is also ambitious and is forced by the arrival of the grand master to walk a tightrope between shielding his friend and keeping his own position in the order. He works out a compromise, but his compromise sacrifices Rebecca. The way Albert sees it, she is expendable but he and Brian are not. He still hopes to see Brian become grand master of the order; when that happens, his own future will be secure.

According to legend, Locksley's name is derived from the traditional birthplace of Robin Hood. Since the publication of Ivanhoe, other writers have made the outlaw a nobleman whose lands the Normans confiscated. But in Ivanhoe he is just a common man from a town called Locksley. But within his forest domain, he's like a king. Thus, when Richard and Robin Hood reveal their identities to each other, it is almost a meeting of equals. Certainly they fought as equals at Torquilstone, and both men are famous in Europe and in the Holy Land. Yet Robin and his men don't hesitate to kneel to Richard. This is not explained here, but readers might hazard the guess that they have been living as outlaws because of their opposition to Prince John's usurping his brother's throne. This would make them very conservative monarchists. After all, Richard was barely crowned before dashing off to the Holy Land, so the only reason for supporting him would be that he was Henry II's rightful heir by virtue of birth.

Richard is certainly not a safe person to know. Not only does he take big risks with his own life and the lives of others, but he cannot be trusted. He acts like he is a man's best mate and not a king; then he turns on a dime. Robin sees that quickly, and after years together in the Holy Land, Wilfred knows it well. Yet, it's also true of John. He is suspicious of everyone, even his friends, and he lied to de Bracy in Chapter 34 about de Bracy's refusal to kill Richard. Still, at least John stayed in England. Scott's readers would have known that Richard left without fulfilling any of the promises his fictional counterpart makes in these chapters or in Chapter 42. But it makes a great story.

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