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!


  • 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!


  • 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.


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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