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Ivanhoe | Study Guide

Sir Walter Scott

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Ivanhoe | Discussion Questions 21 - 30


In Chapters 22 and 23 of Ivanhoe, how do the actions of Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert, Maurice de Bracy, and Reginald Front-de-Boeuf conflict with the ideals of chivalry?

In Chapters 22 and 23 Sir Bois-Guilbert, Maurice de Bracy, and Reginald Front-de-Boeuf violate the ideals of chivalry in the capture and imprisonment of Rowena, Rebecca, and Isaac of York. Knights are supposed to defend women and enfeebled men. When Bois-Guilbert reassures de Bracy over his capture of Rowena, "what hast thou to fear? Thou knowest the vows of our order," de Bracy darkly replies, "and also how well they are kept." Indeed, Bois-Guilbert planned the attack because of his lechery for Rebecca, though knights are forbidden to be lecherous. Similarly, de Bracy wanted to capture Rowena in order to force her to marry him. Meanwhile, de-Boeuf threatens to torture Isaac in order to extort a ransom. Front de-Boeuf violates the ideal that knights are protectors who punish thieves. Instead, he becomes one, and in his greed, he also wants the land that is Ivanhoe's by right. Thus, Scott portrays all three men as the antithesis of chivalrous knights. They each want status and property but without the honorable actions that go with knighthood.

In Chapters 23 and 24 of Ivanhoe, how do Rowena's and Rebecca's reactions to their captors compare and contrast?

In Chapters 23 and 24 both Rowena and Rebecca respond to their dangerous situations courageously. They are dignified despite their despair in the face of dishonorable knights whose lust for these women lead to their captivity and threats of forced marriage. Rowena shows contempt for Maurice de Bracy at first, though as he piles up his threats to harm Ivanhoe and his father, Cedric of Rotherwood, she weeps in anguish. Her reaction softens de Bracy as her misery disorients him. Rebecca is even more defiant. First she rebukes Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert when he bullies her, and then she threatens to kill herself in front of him when he says he will force her to become a Christian. Alarmed, Bois-Guilbert backs down and starts to negotiate with her, saying that their union will be on her terms. But Rebecca knows he is hungry for power, ruthless, and hypocritical, and thus untrustworthy.

In Chapters 25 and 26 of Ivanhoe, what is the significance of Wamba's and Gurth's actions in helping the Saxon hostages?

In Chapters 25 and 26 Cedric's jester, Wamba, and serf, Gurth, show themselves as resourceful and courageous men completely devoted to their master. Wamba especially is heroic in being ready to sacrifice his own life to save Cedric's life. Wamba and Gurth quickly team up with Locksley to challenge the Normans holding Cedric and his party. Wamba, who yearns for his freedom, is technically already free since Cedric is kidnapped. So, his bravery stems from his love of Cedric, such as when he trades places with Cedric, allowing Cedric to escape while he, Wamba, stays behind with the enemy. He and Gurth show that commonplace Saxon people without apparent power are willing to band together in order to defy the haughty Normans. Clearly, the Normans have not won the hearts of those they rule, which does not bode well for the future of the Norman rule.

In Chapter 27 of Ivanhoe, what is the significance of the epigraph at the beginning of the chapter?

In Chapter 27 the epigraph is an excerpt from the poem "The Hall of Justice" by George Crabbe, a 19th-century poet and friend of Scott's. In the excerpt a judge asks a criminal to tell the story of how his life became "deeds of sorrow, shame, and sin." The criminal responds that he wants to unburden himself of the "Troubles and sorrows" that led to his crime. Similarly, after having been held prisoner for many decades, Ulrica needs to tell her deeds of sorrow and shame when she realizes she is speaking to the disguised Cedric of Rotherwood. When Reginald Front-de-Boeuf Senior murdered her father, a Saxon and the original owner of Torquilstone, she was forced to become his lover. Ulrica had exacted some revenge when she goaded Reginald Front-de-Boeuf Junior into killing his father. Cedric is judgmental of her, saying she should have killed herself rather than living a sinful life, paralleling the judge in the excerpt from Crabbe's poem, who condemns the criminal, though he will listen to the criminal's tale of woe. Ulrica is still held against her will as a servant and wants revenge on the Normans. She promises to help Cedric and his party.

In Chapter 29 of Ivanhoe, how does the debate between Rebecca and Ivanhoe during the siege of the castle challenge the ideals of chivalry?

Rebecca is horrified at what she sees as she watches and describes the battle to the injured Ivanhoe. Though she is relieved that the Saxons are taking the castle, she is overcome by the cruelty of battle as the attackers begin killing the defeated Norman defenders. The debate on the nature of chivalry reveals Ivanhoe's continued embrace of the love of war expressed by the Christian knights. In contrast Rebecca, raised in the Jewish faith that one fights only in self-defense, disagrees by wondering what is the use of chivalry when all are dead. Ivanhoe cites "the oppressed, the redresser of grievances, the curb of the power of the tyrant. Nobility were but an empty name without her, and liberty finds the best protection in her lance and her sword." Even though she is in love with Ivanhoe, for Rebecca these ideals of glory and honor hide the reality of violence spawned "for a life spent miserably that ye make others miserable."

In Chapter 30 of Ivanhoe, how does the manner of Reginald Front-de-Boeuf's death create situational irony?

In Chapter 30 Reginald Front-de-Boeuf's death in a battle led by King Richard (disguised as the Black Knight) creates situational irony because it was de-Boeuf who provoked Prince John to fight against his brother, Richard, in order to grab the throne, creating a contrast between expectation and reality. Furthermore, de-Boeuf's death is at the hands of the enfeebled old woman, Ulrica, whom he had kept locked in his castle for decades. There is further situational irony in that de-Boeuf becomes the powerless Ulrica's victim, for she now locks the powerful baron in a room to die after setting fire to the castle's fuel supply. Finally, de-Boeuf had cruelly threatened Isaac of York earlier, saying he would have him roasted to death if Isaac did not pay him a ransom. Yet now, in a situational twist of irony, Isaac is alive, and it is de-Boeuf who will die from a fire.

In Chapter 31 of Ivanhoe, why is the epigraph at the beginning from Shakespeare's play Henry V relevant to the events in this chapter?

In Chapter 31 the English are fighting the French, just as they are in Shakespeare's Henry V. King Henry V rallies his troops just before they attack a French town, urging the yeomen, who historically included servants, to fight bravely. Similarly, King Richard, disguised as the Black Knight, leads the main attack on the fortified walls of Torquilstone, setting the pace by putting himself in the same danger as those fighting on his behalf. Just as King Henry V praised "the limbs ... made in England" and the "mettle," or determination, of English breeding, King Richard addresses his troops of nobles and yeomen, pressing them to use their loyal hearts to be courageous during the siege of Torquilstone.

In Chapter 32 of Ivanhoe, why is the Black Knight impressed by Locksley?

In Chapter 32 when the Black Knight, Cedric, and Locksley meet in Sherwood Forest after the victory, Locksley is back to his role as leader of his band of outlaws. The Black Knight observes that Locksley first determines that the friar is absent and dispatches someone to find him; then Locksley divides the spoils from victory according to a precise set of rules that all the outlaws accept. A specific percentage is set aside for the Church, another allocated to their public treasury, another for widows and orphans, and the rest divided among the men according to their rank and performance as judged by Locksley. That outlaws would have complex rules they use to govern themselves peacefully surprises the Black Knight. That Locksley dispenses the spoils wisely and all his men accept his judgment is even more impressive to the Black Knight. Finally, he is impressed that Locksley and his band agree to help the Black Knight if he ever finds himself in trouble. Dispossessed under Norman rule, Locksley has created his own orderly society.

In Chapters 31 and 32 of Ivanhoe, how does King Richard as the Black Knight differ from his brother, Prince John?

King Richard has to disguise his identity as the Black Knight, while Prince John is able to be transparent about who he is. King Richard demonstrates true leadership, courage, and chivalry in a real battle to rescue captives, while Prince John is spectator to tournament entertainment. King Richard rallies his troops with inspiring words about English spirit just before personally leading the charge on Torquilstone. He defeats Maurice de Bracy, who surrenders his sword as well as the intelligence that Ivanhoe is in the now-burning castle. King Richard rushes into the castle, carries Ivanhoe to safety, and then hurries back into danger to rescue more prisoners. He then deals with the aftermath of victory with compassion and justice. King Richard saves de Bracy's life from the outlaws and liberates Isaac of York from the friar with a blow. When Locksley and his band present King Richard a horn to blow for help should he need them, they show that King Richard has earned their respect. In contrast Prince John dispossesses King Richard and his followers. Prince John relies on conspiring with nobles and barons, promising them land and status in exchange for granting him power. His followers are not loyal to him beyond his ability to enrich them. He has not earned their respect, nor has he demonstrated courage or justice. He is losing his followers.

In Chapter 33 of Ivanhoe, how does Locksley demonstrate shrewd management skills in his dealings with Isaac of York and Prior Aymer?

In Chapter 33 Locksley demonstrates deep understanding of and ability to handle the intense emotions of the Christian, Prior Aymer, who is both angry and fearful in his captivity. Locksley remarks that the prior is vain and selfish, and he rebukes the prior's disrespect of Isaac of York as a Jewish man. Locksley also is able to negotiate with Isaac of York, despite Isaac's being frantic after his near-death experiences, angry over his continued captivity, and resentful over Christians' shabby treatment of him in general. Locksley negotiates the cultural conflict between the two men, persuading each of them to set aside their wounded pride and animosity in order to accept what is in their best interests. Further, Locksley generously negotiates Isaac's ransom down and offers him money to have his beloved daughter Rebecca returned. Locksley is one of the few characters in Ivanhoe who treats Isaac fairly and with empathy. Locksley upholds his honor code in helping Isaac because he recalls that Rebecca once saved him. Thus, Locksley displays remarkable management skills and good judgment in unifying opposing forces, Christian and Jewish players, nobleman and yeomen, to generate loyalty toward him.

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