Novel Development: Ivanhoe


Ivan Hoe is an adventure novel that earns a place as one of the most significant historical romance novels of all time. The primary goal of the book is entertainment as well as excite the readers with tales of heroism that took place during the Middle Ages. Other significances such as themes and symbols are second to the primary goal of Walter Scott. His writing is undeniably intelligent and evokes some sense of a vanished era that remains a critical part of history. Ivanhoe provides some vital points about a crucial time in English history. It was a time when King Richard came back to England after spending four years fighting and held in Austrian and German prisons. The narrative’s main emphasis is on the tension between the Saxons and the Normans. As such, the novel provides that Ivanhoe is the hero who was set to bring about reconciliation between the two groups. However, he is not as active as what the readers would expect because he spends most of his time nursing his injuries. Nonetheless, he is a Saxon knight who remains loyal to King Richard at all times. This article discusses how chapter one to five covers on the themes: patriotism, foreignness, heroism, principles, identity, society, and class. 

Chapter One to Six Analysis and Discussion


When the reign of King Richard 1 was coming to an end, England was facing turmoil. To begin with, the king was not in the country because he was imprisoned by the rulers in Austria and Germany when he was coming back from the Crusades. Like any other nation without a leader, the political atmosphere for England was tense, and in the absence of the king, the throne was Prince John’s. However, the real authority was in the hands of the nobles who decided on almost everything.  Therefore, they took advantage of the absence of the king to exercise their power at the expense of the monarchy. As a result, the relation between the Saxons and the Normans aggravated by the fight of power. The nation’s powerful nobles belonged to the Norman and they were eager to have all the wealth and authority to themselves. The Saxons were not happy with the way the Normans had seized power rendering them weak.

The division was intense that they refused to share a common language with each group speaking their native tongues. At the beginning of the story, A Saxon swineherd called Gurth is talking about state affairs with his companion called Wamba. They are critical of the way the Norman language undermines them. For instance, they notice that Saxons named the pigs, swine before they slaughtered them and the name swine is a Saxon name. However, once they die in the slaughterhouse and are food for the nobles, they go by the Norman name, Pork. Both men work under Cedric, a Saxon lord whose son was active in the war against his father’s wishes. As such, Ivanhoe was disinherited by Cedric who has a daughter named Rowena known for her beauty.  While the men gather the swine to get away from the storm, they hear the horses approaching. There are ten horsemen led by Brain de Bois-Gilbert and Prior Aymer. The former is a mighty warrior who leads the nights-Templars who are religious people dedicated to conquering the Holy Land. The group also takes part in Secular politics as well whereby Prior Aymer covets pleasure and indulges in food. The riders claim that they are looking for the hoe of the Cedric the Saxon who resents Norman’s imperiousness. Of course, Wamba gives them the wrong direction. As the horsemen ride on, the talk about how beautiful Rowena is and when they come at a crossroads, they meet a Palmer who is a religious man. He is on his holy attire made of palm leaves that signifies that he is on a trip to the holy land.

According to Palmer, he says that he is a native and gives the mean the right directions right up to Cedric’s place. Cedric comes to meet the men and asks for a feast for them. The house is rough and rustic but well kept. Cedric also notices that the Norman soldier was arrogant and that he refers to William the conqueror as ‘’William the bastard.’’ When Rowena comes in de Bois-Guilbert cannot seem to shake off her beauty. He starts audaciously, and this annoys Cedric but a stranger at the gate interrupts the feast, and the Cedric allows him in. According to Cedric, stormy night is dangerous for a weary traveler.


The narrator’s point of view

Ivanhoe is a third-person narration because the element of ‘’I’’ is conspicuously missing. The narrative sounds omniscient where the speaker uses an all-knowing tone. The narrator is aware of everything such as the clothing of the characters to their thoughts and feelings. Despite that the narrator sees everything, he does not bare it all. Walter Scott is aware of everything that is going on with the characters and does not show uncertainty. To make the story more captivating, Walter Scott holds back some information to create suspense. For example, the reader does not know right away the identities of the Black Night, the captain, and the disinherited knights as they are in disguise. While the characters remain hidden, we do not get many revelations about their thoughts and feelings. The angle of the narration is omniscient, but Walter decides to create a climax by determining when and where it is best to show the critical pieces of information to the reader.

  The opening chapters of the book effectively provide the readers with an understanding of a social conflict that stems from a difference in social classes (Saxons and Normans). The primary situation presented in the novel is that the main characters hate each other. Take, for instance, there is a conflict in the way that Ivanhoe is loyal to Richard, his father hates the Normans, and the issue with Rowena’s marriageability. Wamba and Gurth being slaves to Saxons also shed light on the lowest class during that era. The Templar, the Prior and Palmer show the reader the various representations of the society as well as the medieval church at the time. The Templar comes from the military wing, the Prior is from the monastic side, and the Palmer belongs to the secular arm. All these characters combined reflect on the make-up of traditional classes where people belong to different types. The Palmers were persons whose faith made them become pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and their clothing marked their position.

Every religious character is not necessarily a good person. In one way or another, they are a sham. For example, the Templar is a holy knight but known for his addiction to food, wine, and pleasure. The Palmer is a gentle pilgrim but he is Ivanhoe in disguise, and this is evident when he tells the horsemen that he is a native to these parts. Ivanhoe as a narrative likes to criticize the medieval church throughout the book and becomes one of the main themes. However, the most thematic content of Ivanhoe’s chapter one to five is the illustration of the conflict between the Saxons and the Normans. The main story reflects a metaphor for the resolution of their conflict. These first chapters do not explicitly mention this theme, but they reflect the situations in which they emerge. Ivanhoe is narrative that sheds light on a nation that is socially divided because of an absent king and a Saxon Lord, Cedric who does not want anything to do with his song for being loyal to King Richard. As a result, this situation provides a stage for the return of the King and the need for Ivanhoe to forge a new kind of relationship between Saxon and Norman.

An in depth look into Ivanhoe shows that it is a historical romance as well as an adventure story. As such, the main goal is to excite readers with stories about how people viewed heroism in the Middle Ages. The text is one of the stories that aim to please as opposed to instructing the readers. Despite its fictions background, the story takes place during a critical time when King Richard is set to return from the Third Crusade and reclaim his throne from his brother who had already misused power during the King’s absence. 

The story divides into three main parts, and each of them centers on a particular adventure, and each focusses on the tensions between the Saxons and the Normans, the inhabitants of England. In each experience, they use virtues, trust, and loyalty to solve their tensions and the leading players are, Ivanhoe, Saxon knight, and King Richard. The first adventure revolves around the return of Ivanhoe to England and decides to disguise himself, and defeated Ashby-de-la-Zouche who is his arch enemy with the help of the Black Knight, Richard. The main implication is that the Saxons and the Normans can work together when they need a collective victory, and establish peace between them for good.

The second part of the adventure in the book is that it involves Sir Maurice de Bracy who kidnaps Cedric’s Saxon party due to his lust for Rowena. Here, the focus is on the efforts of King Richard and Robin Hood’s men to set free the prisoners. In this adventure, Ivanhoe is not active since he has an injury that he sustained during his previous experience and Rebecca and her father are helping him to recover. As such, it is the King and Robin Hood who save the day. Norman becomes a hero and achieves his victory through the help of those that were out of the society due to unfair laws of Prince John. As a result, it implied that cooperation helped them to achieve victory.

The third adventure that we shall not cover in this segment involves the captivity of Rebecca in the hands of Templars, Sir de Bois-Guilbert, through trial-by-combat. The arrangement is set to determine whether Rebecca will live or die. When no one stands to defend Rebecca, Ivanhoe volunteers at the last minute.  Despite that he wins through default when de Bois-Guilbert falls from his horse and dies, he still becomes the hero of the hero. Ivanhoe and Providence demonstrate that they can have Cooperation between themselves, which was a force to reckon with during that time.


Ivanhoe is the hero of the book 

Because he is a knight from a Saxon family that recently came from the war. He is also in conflict with his father who does not want to forgive him for leaving behind his family in England to accompany King Richard to war. Ivanhoe is not just a brave warrior, but also a stubborn person because he does not hesitate to defy his father. He also loves women and Rowen; a Saxon is a head over heels in love with him. Due to his character, Walter Scott sets him up as the center of the plot in the novel. There is not so much to say about Ivanhoe apart from the fact that he is a right person with a complex personality.


He does not appear much in the novel, but his role helps us to understand Ivanhoe’s role in the book. He is a man that believes in loyalty and family. As such, when his son decided to go to war with King Richard, he felt betrayed, prompting Ivanhoe to disguise himself. He is not a hero but an essential part of the development of the plot when it comes to focusing on loyalty in medieval England.


She is the daughter of Isaac of York and appears to be a thoughtful and stunningly beautiful woman. Besides her beauty, she possesses skills of a critical thinker and also generous to the poor. Rebecca is also loyal to her father and the only character that the author depicts as honest, real, and religious. Not only does she have all these personal qualities, but she is also a strong personality when it comes to prejudice. She can challenge Ivanhoe about her views about the battlefields and explains that she is not a coward just because she does not believe in warfare. Despite that she loves Ivanhoe, she does not allow him to cross her.


She is also a beautiful woman, but as compared to Rebecca, she is mild, gentle, and timid. She also appears to be proud due to her upbringing. Beyond these characteristics, it is hard to describe her character as an individual. The novel paints her as more of a pawn than a queen. People like Maurice de Bracy want to marry her for riches and think they can take advantage of her quiet nature. Due to her character, Cedric intends to marry her off to Athelstane so that they can create a strong generation of Saxon children. These relationships overlook Rowena as a person and want to take advantage of her wealth, timid nature, and nobility. Even Ivanhoe does not see Rowena as a person, but an object. When he comes back to his home from England, he puts his disguise on and wins the right to name Rowena the queen of beauty and love.

Prior Aymer

He is an open individual about his worldly preferences. He believes in the law of the church but not ready to follow in spirit. He likes to appear flashy because all his clothes are from expensive materials. He visits local ladies to satisfy his non-religious reasons. He frequently visits local ladies for decidedly non-religious reasons. He tells Cedric he only adheres to healthy indulging when he is at home but he prefers wine. In a way, Prior Aymer is not a hypocrite like the rest. He is honest about his doings. Despite his title, he likes to have like everybody else.


He is a friend to Cedric and a Saxon royalty and he hopes that Althestane will marry Rowena, but he is not an active person. Despite liking Rowena, he does not have unique plans for them. The book portrays his main character as one that adores his food and drinks. When he was caught up in battle, he tries to put up a good fight and strives to win against the Normans. However, he is mostly and lazy and greedy character. 

Themes in chapter I – IV


Patriotism is usually a positive thing because it entails about being proud of your people and country. However, in Ivanhoe, portrays patriotism as a negative and intolerant thing. For example, Cedric and Ulrica hate all Normas because of the aftermath of Norman Conquest. There seems to be a strong sense of pride as well as anti-Norman hatred. As a result of this division, Cedric disinherits Ivanhoe and Ulrica loses her mind due to bitterness. It is critical to keep in mind that the writer put this text down at a time when there was a strong resentment between France and England. When Ivanhoe was published, it was just a few years after the Napoleonic wars. Then, England managed to defeat France at the battle of Waterloo. As reflected in this historical event, the struggle between Ivanhoe and the Normans gives a whole new meaning to Pro-English.

Nonetheless, Ivanhoe is not just a simple tale of the conflict between England and France; it is a book that provides what it means to be English through the patriotism theme. The Saxons were not the first people in England because there were also the Celts, the Irish, and even the Welsh. However, when the Saxons started coming in, they took over. The narrator seems to bring out the differences that are sharp at the beginning of the book. According to History, the Saxon versus Normans issue dissolves, and everyone begins to speak the same language. It goes to show how much people are willing to sacrifice in terms of maintaining peace for the sake of patriotism.

Foreigners and the ‘other.’

The first six chapters, the novel focusses on how the characters view foreignness and others. Foreign people tend to be less human hence the anti-foreign prejudice. The most significant conflict in the text stems from the fact that people cannot stand each other. For instance, Scott reflects on his anti-jewish attitude but also tries to imagine how it feels not to belong because of ill-treatment. For example, when abuse by Christians becomes so typical for Isaac, he is no longer a stranger to their discrimination. Despite that Rebeca has no regard for her father she is humble towards ladies like Rowena. Life has taught her that people who are not from her side will always discriminate against her. The humility of both Isaac and Rowena is due to a symptom of facing anti-Jewish hatred.


In the book, the writer also highlights the importance of family. It is not about the memories of the Middle East that cause Ivanhoe pain; it is his issues with his father. When h chooses to fight the Ashby tournament under the name, “the Disinherited Knight,” shows what he feels about his situation with his father. While the novel mentions that it is about the historical background of England, there is a large segment in the beginning chapters that focus on family conflict. While Rowena wants to marry Ivan Hoe, Cedric disapproves it and instead, engages her to Athelstane. Cedric also blames Ulrica for being alive after her father and seven brothers died. Richard also recognizes the need for reconciliation between Ivanhoe and Cedric. There seems to be a lot of focus on individual relationships between family members. The authors manage to shed light on the need importance of family, something that even modern society relates.


The novel may seem to be a straightforward read about swords, knights, drams, and kings. However, a closer look into the first chapters (i-vi), show that despite the mix of character, good or bad, the people had a strong commitment to the rules. For example, when we look at Lucas Beaumanoir, he appears to be a complete meanie, but he is adamant that the Knights Templar practice what they preach. He advocates that they should stick to their vows according to their order. He may seem like a bigot and jerk, but the man has principles. Rebecca is also another character that is keen with laws. Her biggest virtue is her giving to her principles. She tends to thrive on the strength of her beliefs, and they keep her from doing evil or other temptations. We also have principled individuals across the board: good and evil side. Beaumanoir is one of the book’s sadistic individuals and Rebecca, the most humble. According to Ivanhoe, loyalty does not make one a right person. If one is an outstanding moral code based on injustice, then they will be unjust no matter how principled they may seem.

Society and Class

It is agreeable that Ivanhoe is also critical of culture and class. Through the character, we learn about the cultural conflicts that arise in the social setting due to level. The characters are finding a hard time to get along, and there seems to be a never-ending conflict between the Saxons, Normans, Christians, and the Jews. It is important to note that even in these groups there are a lot of class issues. For example, Cedric owns Gurth who has an iron collar on his neck to symbolize his status as a slave. The reason that De Bracey wants to marry Rowena is to be in a position to control her property and become rich. It is notable that money and power influence the way the characters view class, ethnicity, and cultural boundaries.

Justice and judgment

Walter Scott also talks about different judges. First and least important, Ivanhoe gets to decide the most beautiful girl at the Ashby-de-la- Zouche tournament.  He was like a biased judge on a beauty pageant because he goes straight for his childhood girlfriend, Rowena. Talking of biased judgment, we also have Lucan Beaumanoir who uses his authority as the head of the knights to judge Rebecca for witchcraft. He appears to be a judge who lacks objective and has already decided to condemn Rebecca to death even before trial. However, he pretends to go through the motions and act as though his judgment is fair. Lastly, we have Robin Hood whose kingdom is in the forest. He is a leader of thieves and the sole decider of who is on the right when his men disagree. Even though Robin is an outlaw, he is still the best example as a judge of character. Despite his bias, he tries to be fair than the rest of the characters who try to be judges.

Critical Reception 

The approach of the novel is more like an adventure only suited for children rather than readers of serious literature. The main themes of the text tend to shed light on the matters that seem shallow. Nonetheless, both nineteenth and twentieth-century critics that explore the complexity as well as the subtleness of themes and characters, agree that the main subjects are less than fascinating the author does not out any effort in decorating the styles and instead, makes them appear shallow minded according to the way they think. It is agreeable that the fascinating character is Rebecca; her relationship with Ivanhoe is impressive as compared to that of Ivanhoe and Rowena. Moreover, modern critics have stepped in to look down on the representation of Rebecca and Isaac, terming it as stereotypical.

A look into the plot also shows that it glorified chivalry and romantic adventure rather than focusing on the expression of historical realism. Recently, some critics have implied that the authenticity of Ivanhoe holy attitude does not represent historical accuracy but depicts moral choice. As such, Ivanhoe and other characters show that they are noble men despite their selfish actions. Because readers do not hear anything of the inner thoughts of the characters, there tends to be a complex dialectic of cultural as well as moral values. Although some commentators applaud Ivanhoe for creating a romantic spirit that guides the actions of characters, other people believe that a romantic vision is not appropriate for shedding light on history for the sake of entertainment as opposed to moral education. The texts attract criticism in the sense that the several anticlimaxes destroy the fluidity of the plot. Take, for example, when Ivanhoe decided to come back, he disguised himself, and such a scenario did not seem necessary. However, despite these issues, Ivanhoe is still a testament of Scott’s ability to arouse history and influence the genre of historical fiction.

Ivanhoe elaborates the significance of the different elements of the chivalric code: Heroism and compassion and the elevation of selfishness and chaos on the other hand. The novel seems to focus on the disarray of conflicting passions.  Despite that the plot of the text has two homecomings, multiple conflicts occur and transform the familiar into a complicated order. The Saxons seem to be struggling to maintain power in a Norman dominated world. The presence of the Jews also brings out the theme of cultural diversity which is an essential element in medieval Britain. The notion of national unity sips through the different events that take place in the novel. The people put more value on a chivalric adventure as well as local superstition as opposed to adopting a more stable order and rational faith. 

To sum it up, the novel sheds light on the value of a specific chivalric code that provides for the nobility and its pervading of the characters in the text. In some crucial areas, shows that nobility is not about selfishness and associates with some passivity. For example, at the siege of Front-de-Boeuf’s castle, Ivanhoe lies unable to fight following an injury as such dignity should not be in a more rationally and economic-minded culture without putting into consideration for things like values and nobility. Through the revelation of Scott’s ambivalent valuation of a romantic tradition, Ivanhoe provides the readers with a complex picture of the transition between eras of heroism to a period of reason. In chapter one to six, Scott deals with many themes including family, loyalty, foreignness and such. A closer look into the development of the story shows that he was attempting to define this historical text in a new form. The first chapters that this article analyzes reveals that Scott was trying to create believable characters set on past historical accounts. As such, the branches are successful in sharing different aspects of a mixed society. The stereotypes and conflicts are accurate because they describe what happens in typical diverse community.

Works Cited

Ben-Ari, Nitsa. “From Scott to Rispart, from Ivanhoe to The York Massacre of the 

JewsRewriting and translating historical “fact” into fiction in the historical novel.” Palimpsestes. Revue de traduction 24 (2011): 41-63.

Brown, David. Walter Scott and the historical imagination. Routledge, 2016.

DeGategno, Paul J. Ivanhoe: The Mask of Chivalry. Twayne, 1994.

Duncan, Joseph E. “The Anti-Romantic in” Ivanhoe”.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction 9.4 (1955): 


Schmidt, Peter. “Walter Scott, postcolonial theory, and New South literature.” The Mississippi 

Quarterly 56.4 (2003): 545-554.

Scott, Walter. Ivanhoe. Penguin, 2000. 1-100.

Simeone, William E. “The Robin Hood of Ivanhoe.” The Journal of American Folklore 74.293 

(1961): 230-234.

Wulandari, Desi. A Class Struggle reflected In Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe: A Marxist 

Perspective. Diss. Universitas Muhammadiyah Surakarta, 2008.

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