Ivanhoe is the most popular novel by Sir Walter Scott. It is a specimen of historical romance. It contains certain elements of Romantic Literature. Even the full title of the book is Ivanhoe: The Romance. The novel is set in Medieval England, and its historical setting is the late twelfth century. Moreover it is an adventure tale.
King Richard ruled England from 1189 to 1199 and mounted the Third Crusade. In 1092 Richard was captured in Vienna by Leopald V, the Duke of Austria and wanted to sell him to the Germans. After raising the money demanded by the Germans, King Richard was freed in 1194 and was re-crowned.
During King Richard’s absence his brother Prince John took over his place and situations got worse in England. The Normans started dominating the Saxons. Ivanhoe is based on the story of this historical event. Through the novel Scott tried to decrease the gap between the Saxons and the Normans.
Cedric a Saxon of Rotherwood disinherited his son Ivanhoe for supporting the Norman King Richard. King Richard returns in disguise of a Black Knight in the novel and Ivanhoe is often referred to as Disinherited Knight. Ivanhoe loved Cedric’s ward Rowena.
Let’s move to the main story. Maurice De Bracy kidnapped the Saxons Cedric, Rowena and Athelstane including the Jews Rebecca and Issac. He intended to marry Rowena. However Black Knight fights with the kidnapper and all are rescued except Rebecca.
Brian de Bois Guilbert kidnapped Rebecca and intends to marry her. At Templestowe everybody abused de Bois Guilbert for bringing a Jew in the castle. On the advice of de Bois Guilbert, Rebecca demands a trial by combat. At last Ivanhoe comes to save Rebecca whom Rebecca took cared once. Ultimately Ivanhoe and Rowena get married.
Scott introduced the theme of Anti- Semitism, or prejudice against Jews. In the twelfth century European Jews were abused, insulted and dominated by Christians. Scott presents Issac as a perfect Jewish. Through him may be Scott wants to give his own message against prejudice. Scott presents Rebecca as a more sympathetic character. However the book contains certain historical errors.
This novel is very hard to read. The descriptions are long and a reader may lose patience. Few readers even may not understand Scott’s style of writing. It’s a novel which is often heard rather than read. It is more to amuse rather than instruct. In spite of all these, it’s a great historical novel of all times.