Ivanhoe

Ivanhoe

A Romance

Book - 2001
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Hailed by Victor Hugo as 'the real epic of our age,' Ivanhoe was an immensely popular bestseller when first published in 1819. The book inspired literary imitations as well as paintings, dramatizations, and even operas. Now Sir Walter Scott's sweeping romance of medieval England has prompted a lavish new television production.

In the twelfth century, Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe returns home to England from the Third Crusade to claim his inheritance and the love of the lady Rowena. The heroic adventures of this noble Saxon knight involve him in the struggle between Richard the Lion-Hearted and his malignant brother John: a conflict that brings Ivanhoe into alliance with the mysterious outlaw Robin Hood and his legendary fight for the forces of good.

'Scott's characters, like Shakespeare's and Jane Austen's, have the seed of life in them,' observed Virginia Woolf. 'The emotions in which Scott excels are not those of human beings pitted against other human beings, but of man pitted against Nature, of man in relation to fate. His romance is the romance of hunted men hiding in woods at night; of brigs standing out to sea; of waves breaking in the moonlight; of solitary sands and distant horsemen; of violence and suspense.' For Henry James, 'Scott was a born storyteller. . . . Since Shakespeare, no writer has created so immense a gallery of portraits.'
Publisher: New York : Modern Library, 2001.
Edition: Modern Library pbk. ed.
ISBN: 9780679642237
0679642234
Branch Call Number: SCO
Characteristics: xlvii, 538 p.

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t
traceyrb
Aug 27, 2017

If you haven't read any Scott then at least read Ivanhoe.

One of the most important things to know to understanding Ivanhoe is how the Norman Invasion of 1066 effected the Anglo-Saxon and Briton people. For almost 300 years afterwards, Norman French was the 'acceptable' language and Normans and Saxons did not intermarry. In several places the Normans, to prove a point, sallied out from their castles and wiped out the local population, men, women children. In others they were treated little better than slaves. The Romans and the Anglo-Saxons did not do this. They integrated with the people after initial struggles. They also allowed some sovereignty to local chiefs/kings. Ivanhoe is at it's core a story of an oppressed people struggling to keep their identity, their beliefs and customs, language and freedom.

Scott's writing is great and the story interesting if not always historically accurate. He mentions marriages between Saxon and Norman which were very rare. Also, King Richard was only in England for 6 months out of his 10 year reign and spent his time there exacting increased taxes from the people to fund his crusades. He was a giant of a man who was known as the Lion Heart but he really was not that beloved of the people. However, Scott's portrayal of John is pretty accurate except that he probably died of dysentery and not a 'surfeit of peaches.'

Scott's depiction of the Jew, Issac of York, is very stereotypical and yet his depiction of his daughter, Rebecca, was a brave move at a time when Jews were still seen as less than Christians. Since Christians were not allowed to loan money for interest and this was the only profession open to Jews, then this image of being money greedy was forced upon them. Maybe Scott wanted to balance the view of Jews and made in Rebecca one of the finest heroines in literature as will be seen later in the book.
The Jews were totally expelled from England in the Edict of Expulsion, a royal decree issued by King Edward I of England on 18 July 1290, expelling all Jews from the Kingdom of England. The expulsion edict remained in force for the rest of the Middle Ages. The edict was not an isolated incident, but the culmination of over 200 years of increased persecution.
Not until 1856 were Jews given equal rights in England. Scott did a very brave thing making Rebecca, a Jewess, the heroine of the story. Another of the great reasons to love Scott.

Scott studied chivalry before writing the book and it shows in a lot of Ivanhoe. However, Scott had the Knights; Bois-Guilbert, De Bracy and Front-de-Bouef all display non chivalrous behaviour whereas Cedric's followers, his jester and swineherd, the most. Interesting? Was Scott saying chivalry is more to do with the heart than the taking of an oath?

The story is close to my heart being staged close to where I grew up and full of Scott's wisdom and enlightenment. Love the story.

j
jensenmk
Aug 26, 2016

I think I started this twice before but never finished it. This time I made it to the end. It's one of the few books my rather unliterary father seemed to have been impressed with in his youth. Highly melodramatic: the good are very good, the bad are very bad. Some stock characters grow tiresome. The work had a considerable vogue during the heyday of romanticism, then migrated to the category of children's literature. Highly politically incorrect with overt anti-Semitism, but this is undercut by Rebecca's stealing the show.

a
Annie1318
Jun 06, 2011

I read this when I was 12, but stopped half way through because t was due back at the library. A lot of it was pretty slow, but the part where the mysterious Black Knight was fencing was too good to put down. If you like Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice you should definently read this.

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jensenmk
Aug 26, 2016

jensenmk thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

red_ostrich_17 Nov 27, 2013

red_ostrich_17 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 10 and 99

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jensenmk
Aug 26, 2016

On the books' influence: "With Scott's 'Ivanhoe,' issued among the Waverleys for a variation in setting, if not in theme, an idyll of sentimental feudalism was taken up in the antebellum South as a blueprint and a benediction for a civilization already divided into landed fiefdoms and fully regulated by caste. Out of the novel's high-colored Arthurian cloth was fashioned, in and for the states of the future Confederacy, a self-conscious and elaborately archaizing cult of courtliness (the leading planters even dubbing themselves 'The Chivalry'), complete with tournaments and duels and, above all, a prodigiously exaggerated attachment to the chastity and honor of women, who were reared and cultivated accordingly."

--Claudia Roth Pierpont, "A Study in Scarlett," The New Yorker (Aug. 31, 1992), p. 90.

j
jensenmk
Aug 26, 2016

“. . . women are but the toys which amuse our lighter hours — ambition is the serious business of life."

—Albert Malvoisin, the preceptor of Templestowe, a preceptory of the Knights Templar, in Walter Scott, Ivanhoe (1820), ch. 36.

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t
tif12
Aug 01, 2014

Violence: Nothing too gory. What you would expect from Medival times violence. It didn't make me want to put the book away.

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