Ivanhoe is a novel by Sir Walter Scott. It was written in 1819 and set in 12th century England, an example of historical fiction. Ivanhoe is sometimes given credit for helping to increase popular interest in the middle ages in 19th century Europe and America (see Romanticism).
Other major characters include Ivanhoe's intractable Saxon father Cedric, a descendant of the Saxon King Harold Godwinson; various Knights Templar and churchmen; the loyal serfs Gurth the swineherd and the jester Wamba, whose observations punctuate much of the action; and the Jewish moneylender, Isaac of York, equally passionate of money and his daughter, Rebecca. The book was written and published during a period of increasing struggle for Emancipation of the Jews in England, and there are frequent references to injustice against them.
The book opens with a scene of Norman knights and prelates seeking the hospitality of Cedric the Saxon, of Rotherwood. They are guided thither by a Palmer, fresh returned from the Holy Land. The same night, seeking refuge from the inclement weather and bandits, the Jew Isaac of York arrives at Rotherwood. Subsequent to the night's meal, characterised in keeping with the times by a heated exchange of words between the Saxon hosts and their Norman guests, the Palmer observes one of the Normans, the Templar Brian de Bois-Guilbert issue orders to his Saracen soldiers to follow Isaac of York after he leaves Rotherwood in the morning and relieve him of his possessions a safe distance from the castle.
The Palmer then warns the Jewish money-lender of his peril and assists his escape from Rotherwood, at the crack of dawn. When he tries to get the swineherd Gurth to open the gates, he refuses to do so until the Palmer whispers a few words in his ear, which turn Gurth as helpful as he was recalcitrant earlier. This is but one of the many mysterious incidents that occur throughout the tale.
Isaac of York offers to repay his debt to the Palmer by offering him a suit of armour and a destrier, to participate in the tournament of Ashby whither he was bound. His offer is made on the surmise that the Palmer was in reality a knight, having observed his knight's chain and spurs. Though the Palmer is taken by surprise, he acquiesces to the offer, after the admonition that both armour and horse would be forfeit if he lost in combat.
The story then moves to the scene of the famed tournament of Ashby-de-la-Zouche, which was presided over by Prince John Lackland of England. Besides the prince, the other characters in attendance are Cedric, Athelstane, the Lady Rowena, Isaac of York, his daughter Rebecca, Robin of Locksley and his men, Prince John's advisor Waldemar Fitzurse and numerous Norman knights.
In the first day of the tournament, a bout of individual jousting, a mysterious masked knight identifying himself only as "Desdichado", supposedly Spanish for the "Disinherited One" (though actually meaning "Unfortunate"), makes his appearance and manages to defeat some of the best Norman lances including the Templar Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert, Maurice de Bracy, a leader of a group of 'Free Companions' or mercenary knights, and the baron Reginald Front-de-Boeuf. The masked knight declines to reveal himself despite Prince John's request but is, nevertheless declared the champion of the day and, as his due, is permitted to choose the Queen of the Tournament, which honour he bestows upon the Lady Rowena.
On the second day, which is a melée, Desdichado, as champion of the first day, is chosen to be leader of one party. Most of the leading knights of the realm, however, flock to the opposite standard under which fight Desdichado's vanquished opponents of the previous day. The Desdichado's side is soon hard pressed and he himself unfairly beset by multiple foes simultaneously, when a knight who had till then taken no part in the battle, and thus earning the sobriquet Le Noir Faineant or the Black Sluggard, rides to the Desdichado's rescue. The rescuing knight having evened the odds by his action, then slips away. Though the Desdichado was instrumental in wringing victory, Prince John being displeased with his behaviour of the previous day, wishes to bestow his accolades on the Black Knight who had ridden to the rescue. Since this latter is nowhere to be found, he is forced to declare the Desdichado the champion. At this point, being forced to unmask himself to receive his coronet, the Desdichado is revealed to be Wilfrid of Ivanhoe himself, returned from the Crusades. This causes much consternation to Prince John and his coterie who now fear the imminent return of King Richard.
Being severely wounded in the competition and, since Cedric refuses to have aught to do with him, he is taken into the care of Rebecca, the beautiful daughter of Isaac of York, a skilled healer. She convinces her father to take him with them to York, where he may be best treated. There follows a splendid account of a feat of archery by Locksley, or Robin Hood at the conclusion of the tournament.
In the meanwhile, Maurice de Bracy finds himself infatuated with the Lady Rowena and, with his companions-in-arms, plans to abduct her. In the forests between Ashby and York, the Lady Rowena, her guardian Cedric and the Saxon thane Aethelstane encounter Isaac of York, Rebecca and the wounded Ivanhoe, who were abandoned by their servants for fear of bandits. The Lady Rowena, in response to the supplication of Isaac and Rebecca, urges Cedric to take them under his protection till York. Cedric acquiesces to it, being unaware that the wounded man is Ivanhoe. En route, they are captured by Maurice de Bracy and his companions and taken to Torquilstone, the castle of Reginald Front-de-Boeuf. The swineherd and serf, Gurth, who had run away from Rotherwood to serve Ivanhoe as squire at the tournament, and who was recaptured by Cedric when Ivanhoe was identified, manages to escape.
The Black Knight, having taken refuge for the night in the hut of a local friar, the Holy Clerk of Copmanhurst, volunteers his assistance on learning about the predicament of the captives from Robin of Locksley who comes to rouse the friar for an attempt to free them. They then set about besieging the Castle of Torquilstone with Robin Hood's own men, including the friar, and the Saxon yeomen they manage to raise, who are angered by the oppression of Reginald Front-de-Boeuf and his neighbour, Philip de Malvoisin.
At Torquilstone, Maurice de Bracy presses his suit with the Lady Rowena, while his love goes unrequited. In the meantime, Brian de Bois-Guilbert, who had accompanied de Bracy on the raid, takes Rebecca for his captive and tries to force his attentions, which are rebuffed, upon her. Front-de-Boeuf, in the meantime, tries to wring a hefty ransom, by torture, from Isaac of York. Isaac refuses to pay a farthing unless his daughter is freed from her Templar captor
When the besiegers deliver a note to yield up the captives, their Norman captors retort with a message for a priest to administer the Final Sacrament to the captives. It is then that Wamba manages to slip in desguised as a priest and take the place of Cedric, who thus escapes, bringing important information of the strength of the garrison and its layout.
Then follows an account of the storming of the castle. Front-de-Boeuf is killed while de Bracy surrenders to the Black Knight, who identifies himself as Richard of England. SHowing mercy, the Black Knight releases de Bracy. Brian de Bois-Guilbert manages to escape with Rebecca and Isaac is released from his underground dungeon by the Clerk of Copmanhurst. The Lady Rowena is saved by Cedric, while the crippled Ivanhoe is plucked from the flames of the castle by the Black Knight. In the fighting, Aethelstane is grievously wounded while attempting to rescue Rebecca, whom he mistakes for Rowena.
Subsequently, in the woodlands, Robin Hood plays the host to the Black Knight. Word is also conveyed by De Bracy to Prince John of the King's return and the fall of Torquilstone.
In the meantime, Bois-Guilbert rushes with his captive to the nearest Templar Preceptory, which is under his friend Albert de Malvoisin, expecting to be able to flee the country. However, Lucas de Beaumanoir, the Grand-Master of the Templars is unexpectedly present there. He takes umbrage at de Bois-Guilbert's sinful passion, which is in violation of his Templar vows and decides to subject Rebecca to a trial for witchcraft, for having cast a spell on so devoted a Templar brother as Bois-Guilbert. She is found guilty, through a flawed trial and pleads for a trial by combat. De Bois-Guilbert who had hoped to fight as her champion incognito, is devastated by the Grand-Master's order to fight against her champion. Rebecca then proceeds to write to her father to procure a champion for her.
Meanwhile Cedric organises Aethelstane's funeral at Kyningestun, in the midst of which the Black Knight, having been invited, arrives with a companion. Cedric, who had not been present at Robin Hood's carousal, is at first ill-disposed towards the Black Knight, on learning his true identity. King Richard calms Cedric and reconciles him with his son, convincing him to agree to the marriage of Ivanhoe and Rowena. Shortly afterwards, Aethelstane emerges - not dead, but having been laid in his coffin alive by avaricious monks, desirous of the funeral money. Over Cedric's renewed protests, Aethelstane pledges his homage to the Norman King Richard and urges Cedric to marry the Lady Rowena to Ivanhoe. Cedric yields, not, as it seems, unwillingly.
Soon after this reconciliation, Ivanhoe receives a message from Isaac of York beseeching him to fight on Rebecca's behalf. Upon arriving at the scene of the witch-burning Ivanhoe forces de Bois-Guilbert from his saddle, but does not kill him - the Templar dies "a victim to the violence of his own contending passions", which is pronounced as the judgment of God by the Grand Master, and proof of Rebecca's innocence. King Richard who had quit the funeral feast soon after Ivanhoe's departure, then arrives at the Templar Preceptory, banishes the Templars from the Preceptory and declares that the Malviosin's lives are forfeit, for having aided in the plots against him.
Fearing further persecution, Rebecca and her father leave England for Granada, prior to which she comes to bid Rowena a fond farewell. Ivanhoe and Rowena marry and live a long and happy life together, though the final paragraphs of the book note that Ivanhoe's long service was cut short when King Richard met a premature death in battle.
The ancient town of Conisbrough has become so dedicated to the story of Ivanhoe that many of the streets, schools and public buildings are named after either characters from the book or the 12th-century castle.
Robin's feat of splitting his competitor's arrow in an archery contest appears for the first time in Ivanhoe.
There has been criticism, as unsupported by the evidence of contemporary records, of the enmity of Saxon and Norman, represented as persisting in the days of Richard I, which forms the basis of the story. Most historians have assumed that there was substantial intermarriage between the Normans and the English, but genealogical analyses of the 11th century Domesday Book and 12th century manuscripts have shown that this was not the case. In fact, the Normans considered themselves to be socially and ethnically élite, and operated a medieval version of apartheid. Scott's depiction of late 12th century society fits well with this research.
One inaccuracy in Ivanhoe created a new name in the English language: Cedric. The original Saxon name is Cerdic but Sir Walter committed metathesis. The satirist H. H. Munro, with his typical caustic wit, commented: "It is not a name but a misspelling."
A major inaccuracy is that it would be quite impossible for Rebecca to be sentenced to burn for witchcraft in England in 1194. The Church did not undertake the finding and punishment of "witches" until the 1250s, and death did not become the usual penalty until the fifteenth century; even then, the form of execution used for witches in England (unlike Scotland and Continental Europe) was hanging, burning being reserved for those also convicted of high or petty treason. However, it should be noted that the method of Rebecca's execution was proposed by Lucas Beaumanoir, Grand Master of the Knights Templars, a Frenchman and a fanatic. Determined to root out corruption from the Templars, it is quite possible that Beaumanoir, like many nobles of the time, considered himself above the law and entitled to execute a witch in his power in any way he chose.
The novel's references to the Moorish king Boabdil are also anachronistic, since he lived about 300 years after Richard.
It has been conjectured that the character of Rebecca in the book was inspired by Rebecca Gratz, a preeminent Jewish American educator and philanthropist who was the the first Jewish female college student in the United States. Scott's attention had been drawn to Gratz's character by Washington Irving, who was a close friend of the Gratz family. The claim has been disputed, but it has also been well sustained in an article entitled "The Original of Rebecca in Ivanhoe", which appeared in The Century Magazine, 1882, pp. 679-682.
Gratz, considered among the most beautiful and educated women in her community, has never married, and is told to have refused on account of her faith a marriage proposal from a Gentile whom she loved - a well-konwn incident at the time, which may have inspired the relationship depicted in the book beween Rebecca and Ivanhoe.
There is also a Russian movie The Ballad of the Valiant Knight Ivanhoe (Баллада о доблестном рыцаре Айвенго) (1983), directed by Sergey Tarasov, with songs of Vladimir Vysotsky, starring Peteris Gaudins as Ivanhoe.
There have also been many television adaptations of the novel, including:
An operatic adaptation by Sir Arthur Sullivan (see Ivanhoe) ran for over 150 consecutive performances in 1891. Other operas based on the novel have been composed by Gioachino Rossini (Ivanhoé), Thomas Sari (Ivanhoé), Bartolomeo Pisani (Rebecca), A. Castagnier (Rébecca), Otto Nicolai (Il Templario)and Heinrich Marschner (Der Templer Und Die Jüdin). Rossini's opera is a pasticcio (an opera in which the music for a new text is chosen from pre-existent music by one or more composers). Scott attended a performance of it and recorded in his journal, "It was an opera, and, of course, the story sadly mangled and the dialogue, in part nonsense.