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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For other uses, see Ivanhoe (disambiguation).

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).

Plot introduction

Ivanhoe is the story of one of the remaining Saxon noble families at a time when the nobility was overwhelmingly Norman. It follows the Saxon protagonist, Wilfred of Ivanhoe, who is out of favor with his father owing to his courting of the Lady Rowena (promised to another man) and his allegiance to the Norman king Richard I of England, who is returning from the Crusades incognito amidst the plotting of Richard's brother, Prince John of England. The legendary Robin Hood, initially under the name of Locksley, is also a character in the story, as are his 'merry men,' including Friar Tuck and, less so, Alan-a-Dale. (Little John is merely mentioned). The character that Scott gave to Robin Hood in Ivanhoe helped shape the modern notion of this figure as a cheery noble outlaw.

Other major characters include Ivanhoe's intractable Saxon father, the last descendant of the Saxon King Harold Godwinson; various Knights Templar and churchmen; the loyal serfs Gurth the swineherd and the jester or fool Wamba, whose not-so-foolish observations punctuate much of the action; and the Jewish moneylender, Isaac, who is torn between love of money and love of his beautiful and heroic daughter Rebecca, who, in turn, steals the story (and probably Scott's heart) from Ivanhoe and Rowena.

Plot summary

Ivanhoe himself spends much of the story out of action, having been seriously wounded in the opening chapters. He is nursed by Rebecca, daughter of Isaac the Jew, but there can never be a romance between them, partly because of her religion and partly because Ivanhoe is already committed to the beautiful Rowena, his childhood love. However, his great enemy, the Templar Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert, finds Rebecca so irresistible that he is prepared to sacrifice everything for her. As noted by the author himself in the introduction, many of the book's critics prefer Rebecca as a heroine to the relatively-colourless Rowena.

The book was written and published during the period when the struggle for Emancipation of the Jews in England was starting to gather momentum.

Characters in "Ivanhoe"

  • Wilfred of Ivanhoe – a knight and son of a Saxon family
  • Rebecca – a Jewish healer
  • Rowena – a noble Saxon Lady
  • Prince John – the plotting regent of England
  • The Black Knight or Knight of the Fetterlock – his brother, King Richard the Lionheart, incognito
  • Locksley – i.e., Robin Hood
  • The Hermit or Clerk of Companhurst –– i.e., Friar Tuck
  • Brian De Bois-Guilbert – a Templar Knight
  • Isaac of York – the father of Rebecca; a money-lender
  • Prior Aymer – a rich churchman
  • Reginald Front-de-Boeuf– local baron who was given Ivanhoe's estate by Prince John
  • Cedric the Saxon – Ivanhoe's father
  • Lucas Beaumanoir – Grand Master of the Knights Templars
  • Conrade of Montfichet – Templar
  • Maurice De Bracy– Prince John's loyal minion
  • Waldemar Fitzurse– Prince John's loyal minion
  • Athelstane – last of the Saxon royal line
  • Albert de Malvoisin – Templar
  • Philip de Malvoisin – local baron (brother of Albert)
  • Gurth – Cedric's loyal swineherd
  • Wamba – Cedric's loyal jester
  • King Richard the Lionheart- King of England

Allusions/references from other works

In 1850, the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray wrote a spoof sequel to Ivanhoe called Rebecca and Rowena. In 2006, writer Christopher Vogler wrote a sequel called Ravenskull, published by Seven Seas Publishing.

The character Ann reads the book in Alfred Hitchcock's 1943 film Shadow of a Doubt.

The character Jem reads the book to Mrs. Dubose in the book To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

In an episode of The Simpsons, Bart feigns getting sick several times to avoid taking a test (in an allusion to The Boy Who Cried Wolf). When he finally takes the test, he writes "the story of Ivanhoe is about a Russian farmer and his tool".

Allusions to real history and geography

The location of the novel is centred upon South Yorkshire and North Nottinghamshire in England. Castles mentioned within the story include Ashby de la Zouche where the opening tournament is held (now a ruin in the care of English Heritage), York (though the mention of Clifford's Tower, likewise EH and still standing, is anachronistic, it having been built later) and 'Coningsburgh', which is based upon Conisbrough Castle near Doncaster (also EH and a popular tourist attraction). Reference is made within the story, too, to York Minster, where the climactic wedding takes place, and to the Bishop of Sheffield. These references within the story contribute to the notion that Robin Hood lived or travelled in and around this area.

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.

Influence on Robin Hood

The modern vision of Robin Hood as a cheerful, patriotic rebel owes much to Scott's "Locksley" (a title associated with Robin since the 16th C.), and many subsequent retellings of the Robin Hood legend have borrowed from Ivanhoe. The novel introduces the Saxon-Norman conflict which has become a standard theme in most modern versions of Robin Hood, and along with it the idea of his loyalty to King Richard and the organization of a ransom (which Errol Flynn's does himself, for example). These contributions to the Robin Hood legend seem to have stuck, and could prove the lasting influence of Scott's book, which cannot hope to compare to Robin Hood in popularity. (See the full Robin Hood article for more on the development of the legend.)

Historical accuracy

Although the general political events depicted in the novel are relatively accurate – it tells of the period just after King Richard's imprisonment in Austria following the Crusade, and of his return to England – the story is heavily fictionalised. Most notably, its depiction of an England in which Saxon and Norman nobles are at odds is highly anachronistic. By the late 12th century, there were no such distinctions among an upper class that generally had a common Norman French culture, with elements of English nobility, mainly due to intermarriage between the two nationalities. [citation needed]

Possibly this error arose because Scott appears sometimes to have confused his time period with the late 11th century. Occasionally, a character refers to a father or other near relative who was alive during the Norman Conquest, which was actually 130 years earlier.

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."

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

The novel has been the basis for two movies, each also titled Ivanhoe;

  • The 1913 Ivanhoe film production: Directed by Herbert Brenon. With King Baggot, Leah Baird, Brenon. Filmed at Chepstow Castle, Wales
  • The 1952 Ivanhoe film was directed by Richard Thorpe and starred Robert Taylor as Ivanhoe, Elizabeth Taylor as Rebecca, Joan Fontaine as Rowena, George Sanders as Bois-Guilbert, Finlay Currie as Cedric, and Sebastian Cabot. The film has a notable jousting scene as well as a well choreographed castle siege sequence. The visual spectacle is given more attention than the dialogue and underlying story, though the main points of the plot are covered. The film was nominated for three Oscars:
    • Best Picture - Pandro S. Berman
    • Best Cinematography, Color - Freddie Young
    • Best Music Score - Miklós Rózsa

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:

  • Late 1950s: A television series based on the character of Ivanhoe starred Roger Moore as Ivanhoe.
  • 1982: A television movie starring Anthony Andrews as Ivanhoe, Michael Hordern as his father, Cedric, Sam Neill as Sir Brian, Olivia Hussey as Rebecca, James Mason as Isaac, Lysette Anthony as Rowena, Julian Glover as King Richard, and David Robb as Robin Hood. In this version, Sir Brian is a hero. Though he could easily have won the fight against the wounded and weakened Ivanhoe, Brian lowers his sword and allows himself to be slaughtered, thus saving the life of his beloved Rebecca.
  • 1997: This version of Ivanhoe was released as a 6-part, 5-hour series, a co-production of A&E and the BBC. It stars Steven Waddington as Ivanhoe, Ciarán Hinds as Bois-Guilbert, Susan Lynch as Rebecca, and Victoria Smurfit as Rowena.
  • 2000 A Channel Five adaptation entitled Dark Knight attempted to adapt Ivanoe for an ongoing series. Ben Pullen played Ivanhoe and Charlotte Comer played Rebecca.

An operatic adaptation by Sir Arthur Sullivan (see Ivanhoe (opera)) ran for over one hundred performances in 1891.

External links

  • Ivanhoe, available freely at Project Gutenberg
  • Online edition at eBooks@Adelaide
  • IMDB listing for Dark Knight

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1907 edition of The Nuttall Encyclopaedia.

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