Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

November 6, 2012

Plot summary (from the publisher): “Fight on, brave knights! Man dies, but glory lives!”

Banished from England for seeking to marry against his father’s wishes, Ivanhoe joins Richard the Lion Heart on a crusade in the Holy Land. On his return, his passionate desire is to be reunited with the beautiful but forbidden lady Rowena, but he soon finds himself playing a more dangerous game as he is drawn into a bitter power struggle between the noble King Richard and his evil and scheming brother John. The first of Scott’s novels to address a purely English subject, Ivanhoe is set in a highly romanticized medieval world of tournaments and sieges, chivalry and adventure where dispossessed Saxons are pitted against their Norman overlords, and where the historical and fictional seamlessly merge.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • The beginning of the novel was very exciting and engaging. I liked reading about the tournament, and at that point didn’t know who the Disinherited Knight (Ivanhoe) or the Black Knight (Richard the Lion-Hearted) were. It was cool to see them work together to beat all challengers, especially Prince John’s men.
  • Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, and the band of outlaws were a lot of fun as well. The scene where Friar Tuck hosts the Black Knight (not knowing he was king) for a night of eating, drinking, and singing was probably the best in the entire book, while Robin’s feats with the arrows were great as well.
  • Ivanhoe riding out to be Rebecca’s champion was a romantic conclusion to that storyline. I didn’t really get behind either Rebecca or Rowena as a match for Ivanhoe, but would have to agree with popular opinion that Rebecca would have made a worthy wife for the the knight.
  • Some of the scenes were pretty funny. Almost anything involving Gurth and Wamba made me laugh, and the part where Cedric tried to escape from Torquilstone by dressing as a monk and pretending to know Latin was awesome — especially when he said “Pax vobiscum” (as directed by Wamba) and was unexpectedly met with a torrent of Latin that he couldn’t understand. Ha!

Disliked:

  • It seemed odd to me that Ivanhoe was barely in the book after the first tournament at the beginning. Why name the book after him when he played such a minimal role?
  • The middle part of the novel where many of the main characters were being held prisoner at the castle at Torquilstone was just really boring to me. I didn’t care about the prisoners (I knew nothing would happen to them) and the resulting battle/rescue/conflagration didn’t do anything for me either.
  • I thought it was pretty harsh that the Jewish characters were called “dogs” throughout the entire novel. I know Scott was trying to be historically accurate about how Jews were treated at the time, but it was still hard to read that.

Rating:

Some parts of Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott were excellent, but the second act was so long and boring that I simply can’t overlook it. The middle really detracted from my enjoyment of the book, so I give this one 3 stars out of 5.

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