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Ivanhoe | Study Guide

Sir Walter Scott

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Ivanhoe | Discussion Questions 11 - 20


In Chapter 12 of Ivanhoe, what is the significance of the epigraph from Chaucer's "The Knight's Tale" at the beginning of the chapter?

In Chapter 12 Scott quotes from Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer was one of the greatest authors of the Middle Ages, whose piercing and witty writing exposed much about the hypocrisy of feudal life in England. Scott used Chaucer's "The Knight's Tale" as a source about medieval tournaments. Chaucer's themes included good fortune often followed quickly by a reversal of fortune, in which characters face disaster. Also, rather than celebrating Greek gods and goddesses, Chaucer's heroes were knights and dukes, who fought and often died for their conquerors. Similarly, Scott portrays the tournament as bloody and violent, "a field slippery with blood" and slain men and horses. Prince John is using his power to call the tournament as entertainment in order to distract the populace from their losses under Norman rule. Thus, the knights are performing, even at the risk of their own death, for their conquerors much as Chaucer's knights did in the Middle Ages.

In Chapter 12 of Ivanhoe, what is the significance of Rowena's reaction when she realizes that the Disinherited Knight is Ivanhoe?

In Chapter 12 Rowena "uttered a faint shriek" and "trembled with the violence of sudden emotion" upon seeing that it was Ivanhoe who was disguised as the Disinherited Knight. In placing a victory wreath on Ivanhoe's head, she spontaneously adds to the standard victory declaration that no one else is so worthy of "a wreath of chivalry." Rowena is surprised to see the knight unmasked as Ivanhoe. Also, she is pleased as a Saxon noblewoman and Cedric of Rotherwood's ward that a Saxon knight has won that day's tournament. However, her passion at seeing Ivanhoe again suggests more than simple surprise or the pleasure of a Saxon victory at the tournament. It reveals that she most probably is in love with Ivanhoe.

In Chapter 12 of Ivanhoe, what is the significance of the Black Knight's shield, and how does it fit with his other tactics to conceal his identity?

In Chapter 12 the Black Knight's shield is described as having no device, or image, that connects the knight symbolically with a place, a group of people, or a special trait. The absence of a distinguishing mark helps hide the Black Knight's identity as Richard the Lionheart. A blank shield allows him to simply remain anonymous. It fits with his other tactics such as lying low during the tournament rather than calling attention to himself—so much so that he's nicknamed the "Black Sluggard" for acting more like a "spectator" than a participant until Ivanhoe is in trouble at the end. Though he shows he has even greater skills than Ivanhoe, the Black Knight doesn't speak to anyone and disappears rather than be acknowledged the winner of that day's tournament. His mysteriousness and secrecy, therefore, are even greater than Ivanhoe's have been.

In Chapter 13 of Ivanhoe, how does Prince John treat Locksley at the archery contest, and what do his actions reveal about Prince John's character?

In Chapter 13 Prince John tries to bribe Locksley to participate in the archery contest, offering him more money for the prize—but with strings attached. If Locksley loses, Prince John will have him whipped. Furthermore, Prince John threatens to break all his bows and arrows if Locksley refuses, thus presumably depriving Locksley of his livelihood. Forced to compete, Locksley wins the contest and gives the prize money to the runner-up because he knows that the contest was unfair. Yet Prince John presumes to ask for Locksley's support. Prince John's approach shows his abuse of power, poor judgment, and lack of understanding of chivalry and of what motivates people. He is devious and appears to enjoy setting people against each other. Thus, Locksley, who embraces true chivalry, rejects Prince John and declares his loyalty to King Richard.

In Chapters 13 and 14 of Ivanhoe, why is Prince John upset when he learns that his brother, Richard, is free, and why does he respond with a feast?

In Chapters 13 and 14, France notifies Prince John that "the Devil is unchained," that is, his brother, Richard the Lionheart, is free. Prince John realizes that Richard is probably headed back to England to reclaim the throne. Prince John is agitated because he has plotted to have King Richard arrested so Prince John himself can seize the throne. He worries whether he has enough supporters to ward off his brother's challenge. Realizing he needs to consolidate support among the Saxon leaders, he holds a royal feast to unite his Norman supporters with Saxon noblemen and gentry. However, he fails to successfully curry favor with the Saxons as he allows his Norman guests to ridicule the Saxons. Thus, despite his pretense of generosity in extending courtesy to the Saxons, he ends up "undoing all that had been gained with his previous dissimulation."

In Chapter 15 of Ivanhoe, how does Waldemar Fitzurse's approach to gathering support for Prince John contrast with Prince John's earlier approaches to unite his supporters?

In Chapter 15 Waldemar Fitzurse shows he understands that Prince John's supporters are loyal only to the extent that their own ambitions are satisfied. Fitzurse's advice to Prince John likewise is motivated by his ambition to become the chancellor to the next King of England, who he believes will be Prince John. As an experienced knight, Fitzurse is practical in how to attain power. He acknowledges to Prince John's faltering supporters that Prince John shows poor judgment and can be devious and arrogant. However, he persuades them that they have more to gain by elevating Prince John to the throne rather than restoring King Richard. He argues that Prince John will grant them more land, titles, and money. In contrast Prince John uses his power to bully both Normans and Saxons, exacerbating tensions between the two groups.

How is the tone of Chapters 16 and 17 of Ivanhoe different from the tone in the previous two chapters?

In Chapters 16 and 17 Scott lightens the tone after Prince John's conspiring for the throne and the Norman nobles' plotting a shocking kidnapping. He injects humor in introducing the Hermit of Copmanhurst, or Friar Tuck, a merry monk disguised as a hermit. After disappearing from the tournament, King Richard, still disguised as the Black Knight, wanders through the forest and comes upon a hermit's hut. As the two men establish trust, there is much comic relief as Friar Tuck is a sham of a holy man with his love of feasting, heavy drinking, partying, and singing of lusty songs that spoof the Church. He's also revealed as an unfrocked priest, a poacher, and more of a warrior than a holy man. Though the friar is a Saxon and the Black Knight is a Norman, the Black Knight shows no arrogance as Prince John's followers do toward Saxons. In fact King Richard tolerates the friar because he at least is on the side of the honest outlaws in the forest.

In Chapter 18 of Ivanhoe, why doesn't Cedric of Rotherwood accept his disinherited son back once he realizes Ivanhoe is the badly wounded Disinherited Knight?

In Chapter 18 Cedric of Rotherwood yearns to be by his wounded son's side at first, but instead focuses on his main goal: what he believes is best for the Saxons as a group. Because Cedric is against all Normans, he is still upset that Ivanhoe fought with King Richard at the Crusade. Cedric believes that Athelstane of Coningsburgh, the last member of the Saxon royal family, is the best prospect to become a Saxon king. He wants his ward, Rowena, to marry Athelstane in order to unite the Saxons. However, he knows Rowena loves Ivanhoe and does not want to marry Athelstane. Thus, Cedric wishes to keep Ivanhoe away from his house in order to keep him from her.

In Chapters 19 and 20 of Ivanhoe, how is Locksley similar to and different from the modern character of Robin Hood?

In Chapters 19 and 20 Scott imagines Robin Hood, using the name Locksley as his alias, as a Saxon victim forced into disguise and outlawry by Prince John's appropriation of his lands. Scott portrays Locksley as a chivalrous man of honor and a respected leader of a well-organized group dispossessed by Norman rule, whose loyalty to King Richard is beyond question. When dishonorable Norman knights capture Cedric of Rotherwood, Rowena, Issac of York, Rebecca, and the injured Ivanhoe, Locksley leads Wamba and Gurth deep into Sherwood Forest. There, Locksley rallies his men to attack the castle at Torquilstone in order to free the captives. Locksley also turns to the Black Knight (the disguised Norman King Richard), whom Locksley trusts as "a friend to the weaker party," to help rescue Cedric and his party. Though settings, historical background, and political complexities have changed, much of Scott's portrayal of Locksley's core character carries into modern interpretations of Robin Hood. In modern times Robin Hood is still dressed in "Lincoln green" and imagined as a superb archer, a defender of the oppressed, a rebel with a heart of gold, and, somewhat more simplified, as a hero who robs from the rich to give to the poor.

In Chapter 21 of Ivanhoe, what is the significance of the setting Torquilstone?

In Chapter 21 Torquilstone is a moated castle, once belonging to a Saxon, now owned by one of Prince John's barons, Reginald Front-de-Boeuf. It is the estate next to Cedric of Rotherwood's. Because Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert and his Normans are disguised, Cedric thinks he and his party have been captured by English outlaws until he sees that they are being taken to Torquilstone. At that point Cedric realizes he, Athelstane, Rowena, Issac of York, his daughter Rebecca, and the sick man (Ivanhoe) are all in the hands of the Normans. Cedric is overcome by the Saxon history at Torquilstone, where he is now held prisoner by the Normans.

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