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Ivanhoe | Study Guide

Sir Walter Scott

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Ivanhoe | Chapters 4–8 | Summary



Chapter 4

Before entering the great hall, Prior Aymer and Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert change clothes, looking even more elegant than before. They are followed into the room by their attendants and by the pilgrim who guided them. The pilgrim sits by the fire and appears to be busy drying his clothes. Cedric of Rotherwood takes no more than three steps toward the newcomers and welcomes them in Saxon. The prior agrees that Cedric must keep his sacred vows and also speaks Saxon—like his grandmother, the Saxon St. Hilda of Whitby. The Templar understands English, but always speaks French, "the language of King Richard and his nobles."

Gurth and Wamba return, and Cedric yells at them for being two hours later. Wamba explains their dog was lamed by Sir Philip de Malvoisin's head huntsman, Hubert. Cedric tells Gurth to get another dog; if Hubert touches it, Cedric will "strike ... off the forefinger of his right hand!—he shall draw the bowstring no more."

As everyone is about to begin feasting, Lady Rowena enters the hall. Sir Brian tells Aymer the prior has won their bet. Despite the prior's warnings, the Templar can't tear his eyes away from Rowena with her "clear blue eye"; thick, ringleted honey-brown hair; and elegant jewels and robes. She sees him watching her and pulls her veil across her face. Cedric isn't pleased, and Sir Brian apologizes. The prior offers to have their group escort Cedric and Rowena to the tournament at Ashby-de-la-Zouche, but Cedric is confident that, if they go at all, they can defend themselves. Rowena asks for "the latest news from Palestine" and learns of the truce with Saladin. A page brings the news that there's another stranger at the gate, and Cedric sends Oswald to admit him.

Chapter 5

The stranger is a Jew, Isaac of York. Gurth is sent to show him into the hall. The prior and the Templar are outraged that a Jew should be brought into their presence. Isaac is "a tall thin old man" with a handsome face and plain clothing; he wears a yellow cap to show he's a Jew and carries no weapon. No one will make room for him to sit down, and he wanders through the hall till the pilgrim invites him to sit at the fireplace and gets the old man some food, relinquishing his own chair and table. The Jew eats "with a haste and an apparent relish, that seemed to betoken long abstinence from food."

The prior and Cedric are discussing hunting, and the abbot wonders why Cedric doesn't use French words to describe the hunt. Sir Brian adds that French is also the language of war and love. Cedric recounts how he fought the Scots at Northallerton and offers a toast "to the strong in arms." Brian feels the Templars deserve the toast, but Prior Aymer wants to add the Knights Hospitallers, as his brother is in that order. Rowena asks if there were "non in the English army ... whose names are worthy to be mentioned with the Knights of the Temple, and of St John." Brian answers that Richard's "gallant warriors [were] second only to" the knights of the military orders. The pilgrim suddenly joins the conversation to say, "Second to none." He describes a tournament in which the English knights bested seven Templars. Sir Brian is enraged. Cedric wants to know who the English knights were. The pilgrim tells him the first was King Richard; the second the Earl of Leicester; the third Sir Thomas Multon—which pleases Cedric because Multon is a Saxon; the fourth Sir Foulk Doilly—also a Saxon, "at least by the mother's side," says Cedric; the fifth Sir Edwin Turneham—a full-blooded Saxon; the sixth, the pilgrim says, was a young knight whose name he doesn't remember. Sir Brian says the sixth was "the Knight of Ivanhoe," who had the most "renown in arms." He is confident he could best the Saxon knight, though. The palmer promises, "If Ivanhoe ever returns from Palestine, I will be his surety that he meets you." He offers a reliquary "containing a portion of the true cross" as a pledge. Sir Brian offers a gold chain as his pledge. Rowena then gives her word that Ivanhoe will honor the challenge. Cedric is annoyed and says he would stand surety as well, but that it is unnecessary under the rules of Norman chivalry. The prior takes charge of the relic and the chain and suggests they all go to bed.

On his way out Sir Brian rudely asks the Jew if he is going to the tournament. He says he is, but only to ask "brethren of [his] tribe" to help him pay money demanded by the Exchequer of the Jews. Isaac is "staggered" by the conversation.

Chapter 6

Oswald asks the palmer whether he will come to the kitchen and give the servants news about Palestine, but he says his vows will not allow it. This annoys the cupbearer, who assigns him the room next to Isaac's. Rowena's maid comes to fetch the pilgrim to talk with Rowena; he is surprised, but goes without protest. She wants more news of Ivanhoe; she has heard he had been ill and was being persecuted by a French faction that included the Templars. The pilgrim replies that Ivanhoe is "on the eve of returning to England, where you, lady, must know better than I, what is his chance of happiness." Rowena says that if Athelstane of Coningsburgh wins the prize at the tournament, Ivanhoe will not be happy. When she presses the palmer for more news, he says only that Ivanhoe is "darker ... and thinner." Edwina shows the palmer back to where Anwold is waiting impatiently for him. Anwold takes him to a room between those of Isaac and Gurth.

In the morning the palmer goes into Isaac's room and wakes the Jew from a nightmare. He warns the old man that he must leave now. He speaks "the Saracen language" and heard Sir Brian telling his Muslim slaves to capture Isaac and take him to the castle of one of Cedric's Norman neighbors—Philip de Malvoisin or Reginald Front-de-Boeuf. Isaac collapses in terror. The palmer's compassion is mixed with contempt as he says he will guide Isaac through the "secret paths of the forest" to some chief or baron "whose good-will you have probably the means of securing." But Isaac explains he does not have the means; he could secure the goodwill of a beggar. So the palmer says he will accompany him. The palmer wakes Gurth and tells him to open the postern gate. Gurth refuses until the pilgrim whispers something in his ear. Gurth "start[s] up as if electrified." But the pilgrim tells him to be "prudent" and promises he will know more later. Gurth gets Isaac's mule and lends the pilgrim one as well, then shows the two men out. Before they go, Gurth kisses the pilgrim's hand "with the utmost possible veneration."

Despite his age Isaac rides quickly. This is no wonder because the Jews are persecuted by everyone. After a while, the pilgrim says they are safe and need have "no fear of pursuit." They can part company. But Isaac begs him not to leave an old man defenseless, and the pilgrim agrees to take Isaac to Sheffield, where Isaac's "kinsman Zareth" can help him. When they get to Sheffield, again the pilgrim tries to say goodbye. Isaac stuns him by guessing that the pilgrim wants "a horse and armor." Isaac noticed that morning that the younger man had "a knight's chain and spurs of gold" hidden beneath his "Palmer's gown." He writes a scroll in Hebrew and sends the pilgrim to Leicester to find Kirjath Jairam, who will lend him a horse and everything else he needs for the tournament. The younger man protests that the horse and arms may be damaged or even forfeited if he loses. The Jew says it doesn't matter. But he asks the pilgrim to be careful "for the sake of thine own life and limbs." The two finally part.

Chapter 7

Conditions in England are bad. King Richard is being held by the Duke of Austria, and Richard's brother, Prince John, is working to keep Richard in captivity and to consolidate his own claim to the throne upon Richard's death. Large bands of outlaws live in "the forests and the wastes." The nobles also have their own large bands of mercenaries and have to borrow from the Jews to maintain their mercenaries and their extravagant lifestyles. The interest on these loans is bankrupting them, and they hate the Jews for it, taking out this hatred in violence. To top it all off "a contagious disorder of a dangerous nature spread[s] through the land ... rendered more virulent by the uncleanness, the indifferent food, and the wretched lodging of the lower classes."

In such bad times a tournament offered a popular distraction. Prince John himself would be at Ashby in Leicestershire for the tournament. Five pavilions have been set up, one for each of "the five knights challengers" in the tournament. Sir Brian's pavilion has the place of honor. The audience, too, is arranged hierarchically, with the commoners sitting on the ground or even perching in trees to watch. On one side of the field is the royal gallery in which Prince John's throne can be found, and across from it stands another where a throne has been erected that is reserved for "the Queen of Beauty and of Love." Isaac is at the tournament with his daughter, Rebecca. Isaac is "magnificently dressed" and feeling safe and confident in the knowledge that Prince John is "negotiating a large loan from the Jews of York ... [and] Isaac's own share in this transaction [is] considerable." He jostles a Norman Christian, who protests loudly. This attracts the attention of "a stout well-set yeoman, arrayed in Lincoln green ... with ... a bow of six feet length in his hand," who tells Isaac off. Prince John arrives, accompanied by the very fashionably dressed Prior Aymer, several mercenary leaders, some barons and other courtiers, and some Templar and Hospitaller Knights. Both these orders support Prince John against King Richard. Prince John despises the Saxons and the commoners, who return the sentiment.

The commotion between Isaac and the Norman Christian attracts the attention of the handsome prince, but his eye is caught by Rebecca's beauty. She is dark haired, has a wonderful figure, and is dressed exotically in silk and jewels. The prince tells someone in the gallery to make space for Isaac and Rebecca. In the gallery are Cedric and his kinsman Athelstane of Coningsburgh with their families, and it happens to be Athelstane the prince addressed. Athelstane is so shocked that he doesn't move. Prince John tells a knight to "prick him with [his] lance"; before he can, Cedric draws his sword and chops off the tip. The crowd cheers, which annoys Prince John. His eye alights on the green-clad yeoman, and he challenges him to prove his mastery with his bow. In the meantime Isaac is refusing to enter the gallery; he is happy to insult a Norman, but not a Saxon. But the Prince insists, so he begins climbing, only to be surprised by Wamba brandishing a wooden sword and a shield of pork headcheese. Isaac tumbles down the stairs, making everyone laugh. Prince John insists the Jew sit in the bottom row and, grabbing Isaac's purse, takes out some gold coins and tosses them to Wamba.

Chapter 8

Prince John suggests to Prior Aymer that they name Rebecca the Sovereign of Love and of Beauty, but the prior and all of their companions protest. Maurice de Bracy suggests the victor of the tournament choose the queen. This is agreed, and John signals "the heralds to proclaim the laws of the tournament." Anyone can challenge any one of the five knights by tapping the knight's shield with his lance. If he taps with the blunt end, they will use blunted lances, if with the sharp end, they will use sharp lances. When each knight has broken five lances, this day's tournament is over, and the winner will be given a fine warhorse and will name the Queen of Love and Beauty, who will bestow the prize on the winner of tomorrow's "knightly games."

The tournament progresses, with each champion tapping his chosen knight's shield with the dull end of his lance—to the disappointment of the onlookers. Soon, Bois-Guilbert and Front-de-Boeuf emerge as the knights to beat. After four rounds, all five knights are still in play, and no champions seem to want to take them on. Cedric is distraught that the Norman knights should go unchallenged and suggests Athelstane might "take the lance," but Athelstane says he will wait till the "melee" the next day. Cedric doesn't like his lack of interest in defending the Saxons or his use of the Norman word melee.

Then a trumpet sounds and a new champion rides in. He's medium sized and slim, his armor is "richly inlaid with gold," and on his shield is the image of "a young oak-tree pulled up by the roots, with the Spanish word Desdichado, signifying Disinherited." He raps the sharp end of his lance against Bois-Guilbert's shield. Sir Brian chooses a new horse, lance, and shield. His new shield carries the image of "a raven in full flight, holding in its claws a skull, and bearing the motto, 'Gare le Corbeau' [beware the raven]." The onlookers favor the Disinherited Knight, but few think he'll win. In their first clash both lances shatter. In the second Sir Brian's lance shatters, and his saddle girth breaks, sending him tumbling. Both men draw their swords, but the marshals stop them from fencing; it's not allowed till the next day. The Disinherited Knight drinks a toast "To all true English hearts, and to the confusion of foreign tyrants," then goes on to best the other four challengers.


Chapters 4 to 6 slowly reveal more about the mysterious pilgrim. In Chapter 4 he sits humbly at the back of the hall in the inglenook, apparently to dry his clothes. But could he have another reason for distancing himself from the high table? Perhaps he doesn't want anyone to look too closely at him. Whatever his reason, he gives up this warm seat to Isaac at the beginning of Chapter 5 and drifts elsewhere in the hall. When Rowena asks about the performance of the English knights in the Holy Land and Sir Brian says they were second only to the knights of the military orders, it turns out the pilgrim is nearby, and he suddenly speaks up. No longer so humble, he boldly defends the honor of the English knights who followed Richard, talking as if he were actually a knight himself. His defense of Richard's companions seems almost proud—until he mentions the sixth knight. Then he hesitates and claims not to remember the name. It's Sir Brian who supplies the information: The sixth knight is Ivanhoe. It seems Sir Brian has a special relationship with the "Knight of Ivanhoe"—who is clearly Cedric's son and the object of Rowena's devotion. But although he might be upsetting his host by doing so, Sir Brian charges ahead with a challenge to Ivanhoe, whose honor in accepting the challenge is vouched for by the pilgrim, Rowena, and even Cedric. It seems like the pilgrim must be Ivanhoe. But if that's true, why doesn't anyone recognize him? Maybe the strange hat he's wearing covers his face, or his years on the Crusades have changed him drastically. Chapter 6 adds still more evidence. The pilgrim won't go talk to the servants about Palestine, claiming it's because of his vow, yet he's willing to talk to Rowena. He even sneakily ascertains how things stand between Rowena and Athelstane. But still, neither the servants nor Rowena recognizes him. So is he Ivanhoe? It's not till the next morning that readers learn he must be. Gurth isn't about to help this stubborn, unfriendly stranger till that stranger whispers something to him. It must be a secret that only Ivanhoe would know because Gurth's unwillingness to help reverses so quickly and completely that it's amazing the clever fool, Wamba, doesn't realize what's afoot.

Since Ivanhoe is the hero of the tale and Scott seems to feel the Jews are mistreated, it's somewhat surprising that Ivanhoe is so contemptuous of Isaac. But neither of these first impressions lasts. Ivanhoe goes with Isaac more-or-less unwillingly. Yet, when they part at Sheffield, he has gained a new respect for Isaac because of the old man's powers of observation and his true, unselfish gratitude. As the novel progresses, Ivanhoe will learn much more about Jews. But even Scott's attitude toward Isaac seems ambivalent. On the one hand his descriptions of what the Jews suffered portray them as victims—both of individuals' prejudices and of government's unfair laws, such as having to mark themselves as Jews by wearing yellow hats and having to pay extra taxes to the Exchequer of the Jews, which, as Scott wrote in a footnote, "laid them under the most exorbitant impositions." On the other hand Scott still seems to blame them for practicing usury and for using tricks like Isaac's pretense of poverty when he turns up at Rotherwood. Some of this comes from his use of Shakespeare's Shylock (from The Merchant of Venice) as his model for Isaac. Also, since Scott is writing as Laurence Templeton, it may, of course, be Templeton who is ambivalent. It is likely Scott wants to show what persecution has made of the Jews, who have to mistrust every non-Jew they meet and pretend to be penniless in order to survive. After all, there is not one Christian or Muslim character in the book, even the humblest serf, who does not look down on the Jews. In contrast Isaac's faith in Kirjath Jairam is complete; he can speak with total confidence for his kinsman's willingness to accept a loss should Ivanhoe not return the horse and armor.

Wamba's comments on other characters' anti-Jewish sentiments are also interesting. Of the Templars he says, "It would seem the Templars love the Jews' inheritance better than they do their company." After all, the Templars fought the Muslims to defend the holy structures in Jerusalem, which are sacred to the Jews as well as the Christians. In fact Christianity traces its roots to Judaism, and Christians share the Old Testament with Jews. Wamba remarks of Muslims in general that he "cannot see that the worshippers of Mahound and Termagaunt have so greatly the advantage over the people once chosen of Heaven." Here Wamba again refers to the position of the Jews in the Old Testament. At the same time he questions the right of Muslims to look down on Jews. Mahound was a corruption of the name Mohammad; both Mahound and Termagaunt were believed by medieval Europeans to be gods, demons, or evil spirits worshipped by the Muslims. Yet Wamba is quick to make fun of the Jewish aversion to eating pork and even uses pork brawn as a "shield" against Isaac in Chapter 7. (He seems to be unaware that Muslims don't eat pork either. Added to his comments about Mahound and Termagaunt, this indicates the lack of knowledge of Islam that typified Europeans during the Crusades.)

Readers' first meeting with Prince John in Chapters 7 and 8 shows him to be a superficially attractive man—handsome and often charming in public. But he is also ruthless and calculating. He is ready to have a stranger lanced for not immediately carrying out his whims. Yet, he is also aware of the image he needs to convey in order to keep people on his side. He has arranged the tournament and the partying that goes with it in order to curry favor with the people. He also is quick to make peace with his most influential supporter, Waldemar Fitzurse. And, because they are useful to him, he shows the least contempt for Jews of any character readers have met so far; in fact he is happy to use them to stir up the Saxons a bit for sport.

There are any number of anachronisms and inaccuracies in these five chapters. For example in Chapter 7 the narrator says, "a contagious disorder of a dangerous nature spread through the land; and, rendered more virulent by the uncleanness, the indifferent food, and the wretched lodging of the lower classes, swept off many." This appears to refer to the plague. However, the plague is anachronistic; it first arrived in England in 1348 and then reappeared several times over a 300-year period. In 1348 England had been suffering a famine for about 50 years, which made the people all the more susceptible to the epidemic. But until about 1300, crop yields were particularly high due to several centuries of climate warming, so even the poor were not suffering in the way the narrator describes. Temperatures took a nosedive at the end of the 13th century. This caused crop failures, which led to the famine, which in turn spread, weakening the population and making them susceptible to the plague. The plague returned intermittently for over 300 years. Scott is also inaccurate when he says that Desdichado means "disinherited"; it actually means "unfortunate."

Scott is a practitioner of authorial intrusion—in which the author suddenly speaks in the first person directly to the reader—sometimes giving opinions on themes, but often, in Ivanhoe, commenting on the practice of writing about history. An instance of this occurs in the middle of Chapter 8, when the fictitious Wardour manuscript is mentioned. In this case it may be considered narrative intrusion, as it is his narrator, Laurence Templeton, who makes the comment. In some ways the narrator is like a separate character and sometimes seems to be continuing the discussion he began in the dedicatory epistle.

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