Ivanhoe Study Guide

by Katie Barr


I consider Sir Walter Scott's novel Ivanhoe an excellent introduction to the higher levels of reading often required for high school and college. The story itself is not complicated. It is a simple romantic adventure in which good triumphs over evil. The language is complex, but not as challenging as some of Scott's other works. There is some dialect, as well as a few archaic words, but it is simpler than, say, Rob Roy. Most importantly, the story is vital and compelling enough to hold a student's attention, to make him want to work through the language.

I wrote this reading guide in 2010 as help for a co-op class I taught on Ivanhoe. Some of the students did not have the English history emphasis that AO provides. Therefore, I included a lot of background info. An AO student steeped in English history will most likely make these connections on his own or with the help of light scaffolding from the parent/teacher.

The best use of this guide would be for the parent to read the notes herself and reference them with her student *only as necessary* to enhance the student's enjoyment of the novel. (We want the student to remember Sir Walter Scott with fondness . . .)
FYI: These notes may also be accessed at my blog, CM, Children and Lots of Grace (look for the Ivanhoe links in the right-hand sidebar) or just go directly here

* And one more caveat: It is perfectly okay to read Ivanhoe without some kind of study guide. I am only providing this for people who want something more.* The following quote exemplifies the atmosphere in which we should enjoy challenging books:
"The Wart did not know what Merlyn was talking about, but he liked him to talk. He did not like the grown-ups who talked down to him, but the ones who went on talking in their usual way, leaving him to leap along in their wake, jumping at meanings, guessing, clutching at known words, and chuckling at complicated jokes as they suddenly dawned. He had the glee of the porpoise then, pouring and leaping through strange seas."--T.H. White, The Once and Future King

(More thoughts on Unabashed Enjoyment.)

My thanks to the Advisory of AmblesideOnline for their hard work on the AO curriculum. Many of the links in this guide can also be found at www.amblesideonline.org. I especially want to thank Anne White for providing the Plutarch study guides. I used her format as a model for my Ivanhoe notes.

Another resource for the teacher is Monkey Notes. I referred to these notes occasionally as I researched the novel. I especially like their take on the study of literature.

Chapters 1 through 4

These first notes are more comprehensive than the others. The beginning of the book lays groundwork for the exciting story, and I want to make sure everyone has enough background to delve into the adventure. Use as much or as little of this information as you need.

Links to background information:

The conquering Normans

Story of Richard I "Coeur de Lion", his brother John, and Richard's captivity and escape

Van Loon provides an astonishing look at medieval life, including the Crusades, in Chapters 35-39 of Story of Mankind

A timeline of the kings and queens of England, with pictures

Note on vocabulary: I will provide a list of vocabulary and definitions for each chapter, because I want you to be able to follow the story without looking up many words. However, I am not looking up every uncommon word because often you can figure out a word's meaning using context. Context is a word's immediate situation--the other words surrounding it, the language used, the opinions and beliefs of the people speaking or being spoken to, and the historic and geographic atmosphere of the book. If you cannot figure out a word's meaning using context or the chapter's vocabulary list, then get out the dictionary.

Who was Sir Walter Scott?

Also known as, "The Wizard of the North", Scott mysteriously published his novels in the early 19th Century under the nom-de-plume, "Author of Waverly". His collected prose works are often called The Waverly Novels. H.E. Marshall covers Scott's biography in Chapters 77-78 of English Literature for Boys and Girls.

OR for a shorter biography that includes a list of works, go here.

Introduction to Chapters 1-4

Most of all, Ivanhoe is an adventure story, a romance. However, Sir Walter Scott set the story in a real time period of English history, and he spends half of the first chapter describing the political climate of 12th century England, laying the groundwork for his exciting tale. If you find the first few pages a little dry, be patient. Halfway through the chapter, we meet two of the most colorful characters of the book.

Notes and Vocabulary for Chapter 1

History: William I (1066-1087), a Norman, conquered Anglo-Saxon England at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. After he died, England was ruled by several other Norman kings, the worst being Stephen, who ruled 'without any right', which appropriately led to chaos. After Stephen came Henry II. He attempted to restore order and was marginally successful. Richard (1189-1199) and John are Henry's sons.

When the story opens, Richard has inherited the kingdom from Henry II, gone to the Crusades, and been kidnapped by the Duke of Austria on his way home. During Richard's absence, his brother, Prince John, has attempted a power grab, and the Norman barons have increased in might, disdaining the king's council of advisors, and increasing their oppression of the Saxons, who after a hundred years of subjugation are still defiant.

Poetry: Scott begins each chapter with a verse of poetry that offers clues to the chapter. This particular offering is from Alexander Pope's translation of The Odyssey.

Geography: Sheffield is in Yorkshire, just north of Nottingham and east of Liverpool.

The English Constitution: To this day, the English Constitution is not a single document, but what is called 'case law'--law based on precedent set through court cases decided by a jury of free men. The English had practiced some form of 'shire court' since the earliest days of Anglo-Saxon society, and by Richard's reign, English Common Law was, well, common. Prior to the Norman invasion, even the king had to be recognized as legitimate by the witan, a group of noblemen who also served as the king's closest advisors. The Normans continued these customary practices after a fashion, but not to the satisfaction of the Saxons. One glaring change is that the language of the courts changed from Anglo-Saxon to French, fixing a barrier against any Saxon gentleman who had not gone to the Continent to learn the language.

More background on English law

English council of state: the King's council of advisors
state of vassalage: service, homage and fidelity owed to a feudal lord in return for protection
such and so multiplied were the means of vexation and oppression: the barons' ability to wield their power, and their unjust and cruel ways of doing it, were so increased
nourishing the most inveterate antipathy: encouraging ingrained hatred
laws of the chase: hunting laws
rustics and hinds: coarse country people and farm laborers
West-Riding of Yorkshire: one of the historic divisions of the county of Yorkshire
malice prepense: evil intent
Ranger of the forest that cuts the foreclaws off our dogs: a reference to tyrannical hunting laws, which disabled the dogs of the inferior classes to protect the deer in the forest
Eumaeus: the faithful swineherd of Odysseus

Notes and Vocabulary for Chapter 2

Poetry: Chapter 2 begins with a quote from The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer, a collection of biographical verses and poetic tales told in the persons of medieval figures. Chaucer himself lived in the 14th Century, near the end of the English Middle Ages. This quote is from Chaucer's biographical verses about the Monk. See if you can decipher his Middle English!

Brian: In this chapter, we meet Sir Brian du Bois-Guilbert, a Temple Knight. The Knights Templar was a monastic order of knights charged with protecting pilgrims and reclaiming the Holy Land. They were exempt from all authority except that of the Pope.

In defiance of conventual rules and the edicts of popes and councils: contrary to the rules of his religious order and the government
furniture: the necessary equipment for a saddle horse
stocking loom: a mechanical knitting loom invented in England in the 1500s
Damascene carving: an intricate inlaid pattern
device: an identifying emblem used by knights and lords
baldric: a belt worn across the chest to support a sword or bugle
Saracens: Arabs or Muslims
El Jerrid: a game played with a blunt javelin in Muslim countries
in Flanders and in Normandy: Flanders is a region on the coast of Belgium near the Netherlands. Normandy is the homeland of the Normans, on the northern coast of France.
Prior of Jorvaulx Abbey: second-in-command at the monastery
scan too nicely: examine in too much detail
anchoret: a person who has retired into seclusion for religious reasons
Franklin: a property owner not of noble birth
palmer: a pilgrim that carried a palm leaf as a symbol of having been to the Holy Land

Notes and Vocabulary on Chapter 3

Cedric: We meet Cedric the Saxon in this chapter. Cedric is a descendant of Hereward the Wake, a famous Saxon rebel of one hundred years earlier.

sagacious knowledge of physiognomy: keen understanding of facial expressions
truncheon: a heavy club
to announce, I ween, some hership and robbery: to announce, I suppose, some pillaging and robbery
morat and pigment: "These were drinks used by the Saxons…Morat was made of honey flavored with the juice of mulberries; pigment was a sweet and rich liquor composed of wine highly spiced and also sweetened with honey." (from a note in the Signet Classic edition of Ivanhoe)

Notes and Vocabulary on Chapter 4

Rowena: In Chapter 4 we finally meet the beautiful Lady Rowena. Rowena is a Saxon princess descended from Alfred the Great. She is named for the 1st century daughter of Hengist who helped Hengist overcome Vortigern and conquer the Britons. (In the 1st century, the Saxons were the conquerors and Britons the vanquished…) The story of the earlier Rowena and her triumph over Vortigern can be read in Chapter 9 of Our Island Story (found online at gateway to the Classics). Sir Brian refers to this story when he drinks the health of Lady Rowena.

cope: a long ecclesiastical vestment worn over a robe
the wood was disforested: the wood is no longer a protected hunting area
reliquary: a container in which a religious relic is kept
the dark caverns under which they moved: the Templar has dark bushy eyebrows and deep-set eyes
I drink wassail: a toast of goodwill
a truce with Saladin: Richard had worked out a truce with the leader of the Muslims in whereby Jerusalem would remain in Muslim hands, but would be open to Christian pilgrimages.

Thought questions:

1. In Chapter 2, Scott says, ". . . charity, as it is well known, covereth a multitude of sins, in another sense than that in which it is said to do so in Scripture." According to the Bible, how does charity cover a multitude of sins? In what sense do you think Scott is using it?

2. Why doesn't Cedric want to listen to the latest news from Palestine?

3. Wamba the Fool is reprimanded several times in the first few chapters. What do you think of his responses? How does his social position differ from Gurth's?

4. "Nothing could be more gracefully majestic than his step and manner, had they not been marked by a predominant air of haughtiness, easily acquired by the exercise of unresisted authority." What do we learn from Scott's description of Sir Brian's walk?

5. "If mildness were the more natural expression of such a combination of features, it was plain that, in the present instance, the exercise of habitual superiority, and the reception of general homage, had given to the Saxon lady a loftier character, which mingled with and qualified that bestowed by nature." What do we learn about Lady Rowena from the description of her face and expression?

Ivanhoe Notes: Chapters 5 through 11

Chapter 5

Poetry: This chapter's poetry is from The Merchant of Venice, a play by Mr. William Shakespeare that deals with greed and mercy. One of the main characters in the play, Shylock, is the historic stereotype of a Jew. (A stereotype is a generally held belief about a specific type of person, which is usually too general to be true for everyone of that type.) Many people during the Middle Ages and for some time afterward believed that all Jews were just like Shylock.

Read a retelling of The Merchant of Venice

OR a simpler retelling.

The treatment of Jews in the Middle Ages: "[The Jewish race], during those dark ages, was alike detested by the credulous and prejudiced vulgar, and persecuted by the greedy and rapacious nobility…" (Ivanhoe, Chapter 5) During Medieval times, the Jews were kicked out of Israel and scattered throughout Europe and the rest of the world. Everywhere they went, they were despised and persecuted. England was no different. Many Jews were moneylenders. It was one of the few jobs open to them.

poniard: dagger
The Pilgrim: the Palmer from the previous chapter
Knights Hospitallers: An order of Knights in the Holy Land
guerdon: reward
Palestine: the Holy Land (the Middle East)
I will be his surety that he meets you: The Pilgrim (Palmer) is giving a pledge that Ivanhoe will meet de Bois-Guilbert on the field of battle if/when he comes back from Palestine.
paternoster: the Lord's prayer
he underlies the challenge: he is subject to (must submit to) the challenge
the exchequer of the Jews: at this time in England, Jews were required to pay money at regular intervals, simply because they were Jews.

Chapter 6

solere chamber: a loft or upper room
benison: blessing
whose good-will you probably have the means of securing: you probably have money you can exchange for protection
certes: certainly
ambuscade: ambush
Norman, Saxon, Dane and Briton: the four main races of people in Medieval England.
bills of exchange: the Medieval version of a check--a note that orders the bank to pay money out of your account to the holder of the check.
avarice: greed
gyves: shackles
hurly-burly: disorderly outburst
Gramercy: great thanks

Chapter 7

Introduction, OR Prince John plots to gain power: Prince John, the brother of King Richard, is doing everything he can to keep Richard imprisoned by Philip, the king of France. He is also gathering supporters among the English nobles just in case Richard dies, so that he can be the next king. (He isn't in line to be the next king, because his and Richard's oldest brother, Geoffrey, left a son named Arthur. Arthur is supposed to be king after Richard.)

At this time, several sorts of people inhabit England:
1) powerful people who have abused their power while Richard is gone,
2) lawless people just back from the Crusades, who gained more skill in robbing and plundering while there, and hope to stir up trouble now that they are back in England,
3) outlaws--people frustrated enough to go outside the law for justice. These vigilantes occupy the forests and wastes, stirring up trouble for the sheriffs and magistrates.
4) regular folks, both rich and poor, powerful and weak.

The duke of Austria has captured Richard for the king of France. At this time, Western Europe was divided into little kingdoms and duchies each ruled by a different feudal lord, although the kings of France and England had rule over several. (Richard, in addition to being king of England, was duke of Normandy and lord of several other areas in Europe.) As duke of Normandy, King Richard was the vassal (servant) of the King of France, BUT as King of England he was a fellow sovereign. A little confusing, but there it is.

Also, the Templars and Knights Hospitallers (Knights of St. John) were on the side of the king of France and hostile toward King Richard.

Geography: This historical map of Europe shows where everything was located--

OR a less detailed map.

Poetry: Palamon and Arcite is a translation of The Knight's Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer, one of the Canterbury Tales.

laced the helm: connected his helmet to his shoulder armor with laces
buckler: a small round shield
courser: a swift, strong horse
yeomen: servants
subaltern oppression: cruel exercise of authority by a person of lower rank than the actual leader
all who had reason to dread the resentment of Richard for criminal proceedings during his absence: all the barons who had done illegal things while Richard was gone and were not looking forward to facing him on his return
lists: the jousting arena
pursuivants: attendants similar to heralds
out-heroding the preposterous fashion of the time: going beyond even the excessive fashion of the time
caracole: a half-turn performed by a horse and rider
libertine: a person who acts without moral restraint
Bride of the Canticles: the bride in the Old Testament Song of Solomon, who was 'black but comely'
Mammon of unrighteousness: ill-gotten wealth

Chapter 8

Introduction, OR The Five Points of Chivalry: Knights were expected to embody the virtues of friendship, generosity, chastity, courtesy and piety. (These points of chivalry are detailed in the romance poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, written in the 1300s and translated in our time by several authors. If you would like to read it, the AO website recommends Burton Raffel's version.) As you read the next few chapters, think about whether the knights and nobles in Ivanhoe exhibit these qualities.

cap-a-pie: from head to foot
escutcheon: a shield or shield-shaped emblem bearing a coat of arms
"Cave, Adsum": "Beware--I am present"

Chapter 9

donative: donation or gift
John of Anjou: Anjou was territory in France that Prince John had inherited from his father, Henry II.
outrecuidance: presumption
menials: domestic servants

Chapter 10

barbed steed: a horse in armor
zecchin: a gold coin from the Venetian Republic (Venice)
moiety: half
necromancers and cabalists: practitioners of magic and secret arts

Chapter 11

errant: roving
merk: an old Scottish silver coin
St. Nicholas' clerks: robbers
visors: masks
quarter-staff: a pole six to eight feet long

Consider making these helpful lists:

1. Characters we have met so far in the story.
2. Synonyms for the word, "noble".
3. Antonyms for the word, "noble".

Thought Question:

A noble person might be a person with a fancy title and position, or it might mean someone with high moral character. What is high moral character?

Ivanhoe Notes: Chapters 12 through 18

Chapter 12

Introduction: The tournament continues, with the addition of a mysterious Black Knight, or Noir Faineant. (This actually means, "The Black Sluggard".)

palisade: a fence of pales (stakes)
vanquished: defeated in battle
derision: ridicule, mockery
the tale was found exactly complete: they had the same number of knights on each side
"Laissez aller!" No holding back!
the spears were…lowered and placed in the rests: the knights set their spears into grooves on the horses' armor that keep the spears steady and well-aimed.
endeavoring to extricate themselves from the tumult: trying to get out of the fight
springal: something like a catapult
casque: helmet
gorge: throat

Chapter 13

"What think ye of the doctrine the learned tell us of innate attractions and antipathies?" Do you think we can perceive that a person is a friend or enemy even if we don't see the face of the person?

Front-de-Boeuf must prepare to restore his fief of Ivanhoe: While Ivanhoe was at the Crusade, the Prince had taken his land and given it to Front-de-Boeuf. Now he will have to restore it. (Ivanhoe is the name of the estate. The man referred to as "Ivanhoe" is Wilfred of Ivanhoe.)

The audience were too much interested in the question not to pronounce the Prince's assumed right altogether indubitable: The people were receiving unlawful benefits from the Prince too, so they praised him for taking land from an absent knight and giving it to a present knight, rather than pointing out that he had no right to do so.

"She seems a minor, and must therefore be at our royal disposal in marriage." It appears from this quote that the ruler of England could use his power to insist that young ladies marry certain men. I could not find any information to verify this. Prince John offers Rowena in marriage to Maurice De Bracy. Rowena knows nothing about this.

celerity: swiftness
billet: a note
mummery: play-acting

Chapter 14

The great numbers of the Anglo-Saxons must necessarily render them formidable in the civil commotions which seemed approaching: The Anglo-Saxons are so numerous that if they decide to revolt, it will be difficult to subdue them.

While their manners were thus the object of sarcastic observation, the untaught Saxons unwittingly transgressed several of the arbitrary rules established for the regulation of society: The Normans watched to see if they could make fun of the Saxons for breaking random Norman rules of feast etiquette. The Saxons, who did not know any better, definitely broke some rules.

Conclamatum est, poculatum est: We have drunk and we have shouted (?)
purveyors: managers, stewards
objurgation: rebuke, scolding
simnel bread and wastel cakes: bread prepared by boiling (like bagels) and cakes made of the finest flour
surfeit: overindulgence
beccaficos: a type of small bird
abstemiousness: temperance, restraint
ague: a fever with shivering and alternating hot and cold spells

Chapter 15

"Is Richard's right of primogeniture more decidedly certain than that of Robert of Normandy, the Conqueror's eldest son? And yet… his second and third brothers were successively preferred to him by the voice of the nation." Although the firstborn son of the king was traditionally the heir to the throne in England, usually the approval of the nobles was sought as each new king was crowned. Fitzurse is suggesting that the barons could legitimately overthrow Richard by supporting Prince John's claim to the throne.

a deadly feud rose up between the tribe of Benjamin and the rest of the Israelitish nation: This episode from Hebrew history is found in Judges 20-21. Compare the Bible account to De Bracy's narration!

cabal: a group of people plotting something sinister
kirtle: a man's tunic or coat
Free Companions: mercenaries--knights who follow the ruler that pays them the most money
all the chivalry of that tribe: all the men of valor

Chapter 16

A note on hermits and friars: Friars were monks who had taken a vow of poverty and wandered as beggars. It was against the rules of their order to accept money, but they could accept food and clothing. Hermits (also called anchorites) were monks that lived completely alone and devoted themselves to fasting and prayer. They also took a vow of poverty, and subsisted on the gifts of local residents. Both friars and hermits were generally thought to be wise and learned.

Yet his purpose was baffled by the devious paths through which he rode: He couldn't get very far because the roads were bad.

assailed the door of the hermitage with the butt of his lance: knocked on the door

It has pleased Our Lady and St. Dunstan to destine me the object of those virtues, instead of the exercise thereof: I am in need of food and shelter myself.

St. Dunstan: An Anglo-Saxon monk and archbishop from around the 10th Century. Before he became archbishop, he lived as a hermit, studying, doing handicrafts and playing the harp. One tale told of St. Dunstan is that when he was tempted by the devil, he responded by seizing the devil's face with fire tongs.

a parish pinfold begirt by its large hedge: a pinfold was a place used to stable stray animals until they could be returned to their owners.

monastic austerity or… ascetic privations: severe self-denial such as monks might practice

More Old Testament references (find these episodes of OT history in the Bible):
1. ". . . even as the pulse and water was blessed to the children Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. . . "
2. "From the scissors of Dalilah. . . "
3. ". . . and the tenpenny nail of Jael. . . "
4. ". . . to the scimitar of Goliath."

hostelry: inn
crag: a jagged mass of rock jutting upward or outward
pater: the Lord's Prayer (Our Father which art in Heaven. . . )
ave: the "Hail, Mary" (Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee)
credo: this might be the Apostle's Creed (We believe in one God, the Father, Almighty. . . ) or the Nicene Creed (I believe in God the Father, Almighty…)
morass: an area of low-lying, soggy ground
ford: a shallow place in a river or creek where a person can wade across
precipice: a cliff with a vertical face
parched pease: parched peas (as in, 'pease porridge hot/pease porridge cold/pease porridge in the pot nine days old!')
horn of the urus: the horn of a wild ox
"Waes hael" a greeting wishing good health ("Wassail!" literally, "Be hale!")
"Drinc hael" the reply, also wishing good health (literally, "Drink and be hale!")
lay: the song of a minstrel

Chapter 17

A note on minstrelsy: Minstrels were wandering singers who told stories through their songs. Many of the tales were well-known and passed down from generation to generation.

At the beginning of this chapter, the Knight and the Friar discuss what kind of songs they are going to sing, using foreign terms. In medieval Normandy and France, 'yes' was oui, the poets were called minstrels, and their songs lais, or lays; in the south of France and into Italy, the 'yes' was oc, the poets troubadours, and the songs sirvente; in (Saxon) England, the songs were called ballads. 'Yes' was yes, and, as far as I can tell, the poets were also called minstrels in Old England.

If you would like to read more ballads, try A Taste of Chaucer by Anne Malcolmson (some of Chaucer's tales are based on popular ballads of the times) or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight translated by Burton Raffel.

exceptis excepiendis: (Latin) with the proper or necessary exceptions

Unlike old Ariosto, we do not pique ourselves upon continuing uniformly to keep company with any one of our drama: The author has stepped outside the narrative to comment on the way he is writing, saying he does not mind leaving the Friar and the Knight 'frozen in time', so to speak, while he tells what has been going on with other characters. Ariosto was an Italian poet of the 16th Century who apparently never let his narrative about one set of characters run ahead of another, as Scott has done here. (In the next chapter, Scott leaves the Black Knight and the Friar about to answer the door, and heads all the way back to the end of the tournament in order to tell us what happened to others. . . )

Chapter 18

Introduction: This chapter does not further the plot much, but it does give us plenty of insight. Cedric's thoughts, decisions and actions are especially noteworthy. Also, pay attention to Gurth--he seems to be a rather insignificant character, but will eventually have his part to play.

omens: a sign that is supposed to indicate future good or evil. The Saxons were Christian, but added these ancient superstitions to their Christian beliefs.
glaive: broadsword
brown-bill: halberd (a sort of spear with a curved, double ax-head near the pointy end)
weal: the general good
gyves: shackles

Thought questions:

1. How does Prince John try to gain popularity? Should he be doing this? Why is it so difficult for him to win the approval of the people?

2. What is Waldemar Fitzurse plotting? What is De Bracy plotting? (My, there sure is a lot of plotting going on.) He claims to behave "like a true knight". Is he a true knight?

3. Earlier, Rowena is cut off by Cedric as she says, "If, to maintain the honor of ancestry, it is sufficient to be wise in council and brave in execution, to be boldest among the bold, and gentlest among the gentle, I know no voice, save his father's. . . " How do you think she might have finished the sentence? What do you think of Cedric's decisions and actions?

Ivanhoe Notes: Chapters 19 through 24


A note on nobility: One synonym for the word, "noble" is "magnanimous". Webster's 1828 Dictionary defines "magnanimity" as, "That elevation or dignity of soul, which encounters danger and trouble with tranquillity and firmness, which raises the possessor above revenge, and makes him delight in acts of benevolence, which makes him disdain injustice and meanness, and prompts him to sacrifice personal ease, interest and safety for the accomplishment of useful and noble objects." Cedric uses this word in Chapter 21---be on the lookout for it!

Literary term--Romance: Sir Walter Scott calls Ivanhoe a Romance. Nowadays, we have a pretty narrow definition for that word, but in literature, a Romance is a heroic story of mysterious or extraordinary events. It can also be a story that combines elements of joy and sorrow--a tragic-comedy.

Chapter 19

"Saint George for merry England!" St. George and the Dragon was a popular medieval legend about an Eastern soldier who rescued a maiden by slaying a dragon.

dingle: a small wooded valley or hollow
defile: a narrow pass
embarrassed with baggage: the luggage is hampering his efforts
green cassocks and white visors: green tunics and white masks
vizard: a disguise or mask
reconnoitering: exploring in order to gain information
"Shall we e'en give him leg-bail?" Shall we run away?
errant thieves: roving robbers
halidome: a holy place or thing (literally, "holy-dome")

Chapter 20

Prior of Jorvaulx: the holy man who was walking with Sir Brian du Bois-Gilbert in the first or second chapter

calumniator: one who falsely accuses another person of a crime
de profundis clamavi: "from the depths I cried"
matins: late night/early morning prayers
orisons: prayers
countenance: appearance or facial expression
partisan: quarterstaff
shaveling: holy man (they shaved the center of their heads, making their hair into a tonsure)

Chapter 21

Historic note: In this chapter, Cedric mentions his grandfather feasting with Torquil Wolfganger. According to Cedric, Torquil Wolfganger was the Saxon owner of Torquilstone Castle during the time of Harold Godwinson, the last Saxon king.

Harold was advancing against his treacherous brother, Tostig, and the Norwegian king, Harald Hardraada. Cedric tells us that Torquil invited Harold to stay the night at Torquilstone, which invitation was graciously accepted. Also according to Cedric, Harold's brother Tostig arrived at the castle to confront Harold. The "magnanimous answer" Harold gave his brother was that if he would send the Norwegians home, Harold would forgive him and restore Tostig's lands and title. Tostig refused to accept these terms.

Torquil Wolfganger and Torquilstone Castle appear to be inventions of Sir Walter Scott. History places the conversation between Harold and Tostig on the battlefield just before the battle commenced.

Harold defeated the Norwegians in Yorkshire, at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. (Remember, Ivanhoe takes place in Yorkshire.) Unfortunately, William of Normandy was landing in southern England at the same time.

The King knew that William was planning to invade. William had made Harold swear that he would give the throne of England to William after Edward the Confessor died, but when Edward died, Harold had allowed himself to be crowned by the English council of earls (known as the Witanagemot) who made such decisions.

After the Battle of Stamford Bridge, Harold marched his army south as fast as he could. He was defeated by William at the Battle of Hastings in East Sussex. (This battle is depicted in the famous Bayeux Tapestry.) And that is how the Normans came to power in England in 1066 AD/CE, around a hundred years before our story takes place.

Pictures of the Bayeux Tapestry, scene by scene

". . . our grand master hath granted me a dispensation." The head of the Templars has excused Bois-Guilbert from the rule stating that Templars may not marry Jews.

Englishmen: Saxons
repast: meal
Hardicanute: a Danish king of England who died from drinking too much

Chapter 22

expiry: end
pannier: basket
she is the last of six pledges of her love: Rebecca is the last of Isaac and Rachael's six children
the blessed rood: crucifix

Chapter 23

A note on Physiognomy: In an earlier chapter, the Black Knight says he can tell Locksley is a man of good character by looking at his face. Physiognomy, the practice of judging a person's character by his or her physical features, was a popular practice in Sir Walter Scott's time. Scott brings up physiognomy again in Chapter 23, when discussing Rowena's personality.

Another strange practice in the 19th Century was phrenology, the practice of determining a person's character by the bumps on his or her head.
Question: How does the Bible say we should determine a person's character?

Industrious Henry: Henry of Huntingdon was a 12th Century English church official who wrote a history of England.

The Saxon Chronicles: A history of the Anglo-Saxons in England begun around the 9th Century and updated into the 12th. (It looks like Scott attributes the writing of the Chronicles to Henry, or else he was quoting Henry while Henry quoted the Chronicles. A bit confusing if you ask me.)

The Wardour Manuscript: This is an imaginary manuscript that Sir Walter Scott made up in order to give his novel an authentic historic flavor. At the beginning of my copy of Ivanhoe, there is a "Dedicatory Epistle" to a Reverend Dry-As-Dust. (He is not real, either.) In this letter, Scott gives a fictitious explanation of the manuscript:

". . . the singular Anglo-Norman manuscript which Sir Arthur Wardour preserves with such jealous care in the third drawer of his oaken cabinet, scarcely allowing anyone to touch it, and being himself unable to read one syllable of its contents."

(Sir Walter Scott must have been quite a character himself!)

foppery: the clothes of a man preoccupied with his appearance
St. Michael trampling down the Prince of Evil: The archangel Michael trampling the Devil (sometimes pictured as a dragon)
loadstar: a guiding star, especially used in navigation
crowder: a common person
avarice: extreme greed
license: unrestrained freedom or disregard for proper limits
the Empress Matilda: the granddaughter of William the Conqueror, mother of Henry II, and short-lived Queen of England. (She is usually not included in lists of English kings and queens.)
Eadmer: a Saxon historian born shortly before the invasion of William the Conqueror
apocryphal: of questionable authorship or authenticity

Chapter 24

Damocles at his celebrated banquet: read the short legend here

sybil: a witch
unguent: ointment
alembic: something that refines or purifies

Thought Questions:

1. "Both the Saxon chiefs were made prisoners… under circumstances expressive of his character." How was Cedric made prisoner? What about Athelstane? How did these events express each man's character?

2. As events proceed, Cedric and Athelstane become aggravated with one another: "It astonishes me, noble Cedric, that you can bear so truly in mind the memory of past deeds, when it appeareth you forget the very hour of dinner."/"It is time lost to speak to him of aught else but that which concerns his appetite!" Why do Cedric and Athelstane frustrate one another?

3. At this point in the novel, De Bracy and the Templar both have moments of grace in which they either continue down their chosen paths, or choose to change. See if you can pinpoint those two moments. The Templar's is easiest to see- after his moment of grace, good and evil struggle within him for the rest of the novel.

3. Should De Bracy and the Templar trust each other? Why or why not? What does De Bois-Guilbert say when De Bracy accuses him of conspiring to break the rules of his order?

Ivanhoe Notes: Chapters 25 through 31


Three Norman knights. Two beautiful maidens. One desperate father. Here is a brief recap--
1. Isaac of York is the prisoner of Sir Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, who owns Torquilstone Castle,
2. The Lady Rowena is the prisoner of Sir Maurice De Bracy, a mercenary knight in the pay of Prince John,
3. Rebecca is the prisoner of Sir Brian du Bois-Guilbert, a Temple knight . . .

. . . and they are all holed up in Torquilstone Castle.

In addition to these prisoners, the Normans have captured Cedric the Saxon, Athelstane of Conyngsburgh and a mysterious sick person.

Wamba the Jester and Gurth the Serf have located the REAL outlaws of the green wood (including Robin of Locksley) and are helping to plan a rescue, along with the Black Knight and the Hermit (who is actually Friar Tuck, one of Robin Hood's merry men).

What will happen next?

Chapter 25

A note on Thomas a Becket: He was the Archbishop of Canterbury (the head of the English church) in the 12th Century. He was foully murdered by the knights of King Henry II (the father of Richard I) after he refused to side with the king against the Pope.

In Henry's defense, he didn't actually want Becket killed. When a messenger came to give Henry news of Becket's doings, Henry is said to have bellowed in a rage, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?!!" and unfortunately, a few of his knights took him seriously. They hunted Becket down and killed him at the very altar of the cathedral. (Holding onto the altar was a sort of 'base' or safe sanctuary for a person in trouble with the authorities.)

St. Niobe: A character in Greek mythology. During the Dark Ages, monks and priests preserved and copied ancient Greek and Roman manuscripts. Apparently, the Prior told them a Greek myth, and they thought she was a Catholic saint. According to myth, Niobe was very proud of her fourteen children, and boasted that she was better than a goddess that had only two. The gods slew her children. She wept without ceasing, and was turned to stone.

Apollyon: "the king of the bottomless pit" according to the Book of Revelations.

cartel: a written agreement or challenge between opponents
pax vobiscum: peace be with you

Chapter 26

quidam viator incidit in latrones: A certain man, while traveling, fell among thieves (?) This appears to be a reference to the parable of the Good Samaritan.

quaso, domine reverendissime, pro misericordia vestra: This is something like, "Reverend father, pity a poor lady."

Chapter 27

the scallop-shell of Campostella: the scallop shell was a heraldry symbol for people who had been on pilgrimage to Campostella. Legend has it that James the son of Zebedee (from the New Testament) is buried in Campostella, Spain.

their war-song of Rollo: Rollo the Viking was the first duke of Normandy.
mangonel: a type of catapult or siege machine
Woden, Hertha, Zenebock, Mista, Skogula: gods and spirits from Norse and Germanic mythology
biggin: a plain, close-fitting cap
Wittenagemotes: groups of wise older men that governed kingdoms in Saxon England and decided who would be king.

For what saith the blessed St. Augustin in his treatise, 'De Civitate Dei'?: Augustine was one of the first priests of the Catholic church, and he wrote a book called "The City of God".

The bull of the holy see, 'si quis, Suadende Diabolo': A 'bull' was a declaration from the Pope. The 'holy see' is the Vatican--the home of the Pope. The Latin phrase translates to: "By the persuasion of the Devil".

Men of Belial: In the Bible, people who were completely given over to folly or godlessness were called 'sons of Belial'. Belial is another name for Satan.

Seething pitch and oil: Pitch is a tar-like substance, sort of like asphalt. During a siege, boiling pitch mixed with oil would be dumped from the ramparts of a castle onto the soldiers below.

Some hilding fellow must he be: he must be low and contemptible

Chapter 28

Introduction: In this chapter, Sir Walter Scott tells us what happened to Ivanhoe. He also gives us more insight into Rebecca's character and education.

At one point in this chapter, Rebecca says to Ivanhoe, "Bestow not on me, Sir Knight, the epithet of noble," and yet her actions are indeed generous and courageous.

Thought question: How does Ivanhoe's manner toward Rebecca change when he learns she is a Jewess? Does Rebecca's manner change?

Personally, I get aggravated with Ivanhoe at this point. But, as Scott points out, he is a product of his times. Every era in history AND group in society has its blind spots.

Thought questions: What are our era's blind spots? How about blind spots in the groups to which we belong?

We learn more about De Bracy's character when he discovers Ivanhoe in the litter. Scott says, "The ideas of chivalrous honour… never utterly abandoned De Bracy. On the other hand, to liberate a suitor preferred by the Lady Rowena… was a pitch far above the flight of De Bracy's generosity. A middle course betwixt good and evil was all which he found himself capable of adopting…" Yet De Bracy becomes the protector of Ivanhoe and smuggles him into the castle.

Our history must needs retrograde for the space of a few pages: Let's back up the story a bit.
importunity: a pressing demand or request
hacqueton and his corslet of goodly price: well-made padding and armor
cabalistical art: witchcraft
The fate of Miriam had indeed been to fall a sacrifice to the fanaticism of the times: Rebecca's teacher in the medical arts had been executed as a witch.
vulnerary remedies: treatments for wounds
Nazarenes: Christians
Lion of Idumea: Idumea was the land of Edom in the Bible.
leech: doctor
the enriched traveler of Juvenal's tenth satire: Juvenal was a Roman poet from the 1st century. His tenth satire is called "The Vanity of Human Wishes". In it, he says that the enriched traveler trembles at the shadow of a reed shaking, but the poor traveler whistles in a robber's face.
reversing Shylock's position: Shylock was the Jew in The Merchant of Venice.

Chapter 29

Introduction: In this chapter we get a description of the battle, told by Rebecca as she watches from Ivanhoe's window. Ivanhoe and Rebecca discuss glory, chivalry and nobility, too.

Thought questions: Does Rebecca speak of things she does not know of? What do you think of Ivanhoe's definition of chivalry?

fetterlock and shacklebolt azure: a lock for a horse's foot and a bar used for a shackle
En avant: Forward!
Beau-seant: this must have been part of a heraldic symbol
a la rescousse: To the rescue!
Saint John of Acre: the city of Acre in Palestine
assoilize: absolve or forgive
emprize: enterprise or adventure

a second Gideon or a new Maccabeus: Gideon was a judge in the Bible (Judges 6-8) who led an army against the Midianites. Maccabeus was a Hebrew around 150 years before Christ who led a revolt against the Seleucids and was considered one of the greatest heroes of the Jews.

Chapter 30

Introduction: Of all the wicked Norman knights, Front-de-Boeuf seems be the worst. Now he is mortally wounded. As he lies dying, his partners, De Bracy and Bois-Guilbert, argue over what to do next. They go to battle, and Ulrica confronts Front-de-Boeuf with his (and her) wickedness.

bruit: rumor
malapert: offensively bold
parricide: a person who has murdered his father

Chapter 31

mount joye Saint Dennis! a war-cry of the French
Preceptory of Templestowe: a religious house of the Templars
strophes: stanzas containing uneven lines

Ivanhoe Notes: Chapters 32 through 44

Chapter 32

A note on Cedric's pronouncement of Gurth's freedom: Cedric says, "THEOW and ESNE art thou no longer… FOLKFREE and SACLESS art thou in town and from town, in the forest as in the field. A hide of land I give to thee in my steads of Walbrugham, from me and mine to thee and thine aye and forever; and God's malison on his head who this gainsays."

This basically means, "I hereby make you a free person and give you land to be yours forever. May God condemn anyone who denies it."

This made Gurth not only a freeman, but a special kind of landowner called a 'freeholder'. He was not only given his freedom, but also some political clout, as a person had to be a freeholder in order to participate in government. (A person had to be titled gentry in order to have *real* power in medieval England, but freeholders held some sway in shire and village.) THEOW and ESNE basically equate with 'thrall' or 'slave', while FOLKFREE and SACLESS mean 'lawful freeman'.

liard: spirited
mots: notes played on a bugle
Sathanas: Satan
ruth: sorrow for another's misery
maugre: pleasure
quondam: former
cardecu: a quarter of a crown
leman: sweetheart

Thought question: How did Locksley divide the spoil?

Chapter 33

Introduction: The holy man in this chapter is none other than Prior Aymer of Jorvaulx, whom we met walking along with Sir Brian in the first few chapters of the book. It has been awhile since we heard about the Prior.

manus imponere in servos Domini: This is something like, "you mustn't lay hands on the Lord's servant"
excommunicabo vos: something like "at the point of excommunicating you". Excommunication is being removed as a member of the Catholic church.
nebulo quidam: "a certain person without boundaries" (?)
Deus faciat salvam benignitatem vestram: "The Lord bless you with good health"
propter necessitatem, et ad frigus depellendum: "because of necessity and cold"
latro famosus: on account of (?)
inter res sacras: among the sacred objects
pouncer-box: a small box with perforated lid used for sprinkling powder on paper, or a box for perfume
morris-dancer: an English folk dancer
ye may retain as borrows my two priests: he is offering his priests as pledges that he will come back with the ransom
Ichabod: "the glory of the Lord hath departed"
dortour: dormitory
score: twenty
marevedi: Moorish coins (the Moors were Muslims that settled in Spain in the Middle Ages)

Note: Stop for a moment and make sure you know the situation of each of the following: the Black Knight, the Hermit, Rebecca, Isaac, Sir Brian, Maurice de Bracy, Cedric and Rowena. (We don't find out about Ivanhoe until a later chapter.) The plot thickens at this point, and it is easy to get lost. If you aren't sure where one of our characters has ended up, look back at the previous couple of chapters and find out. From now on, I will include some questions meant to ensure we all keep up with the story.

Chapter 34

Introduction: Remember Prince John's plot to take over King Richard's throne? John and his advisor, Waldemar Fitzurse, are still working toward that end, and the battle at Torquilstone has deprived them--temporarily, at least--of some of their fiercest allies.

Key quote: "Richard is in England--I have seen and spoken with him."

"I will lead them to Hull, seize on shipping, and embark to Flanders; thanks to the bustling times, a man of action will always find employment." As we learned earlier in the story, De Bracy is the leader of a band of Free Companions--basically knights-for-hire. He wants to escape with his knights to mainland Europe and find employ in the army of some duke or king.

"I will take sanctuary in this church of St. Peter--the archbishop is my sworn brother." Fitzurse plans to seek sanctuary at the altar of the church, similar to Thomas a Becket's historic attempt at safety.

bewray: betray
Tristram and Lancelot: legendary knights of the Round Table (Tristram is the older English version of 'Tristan')
Tracy, Morville, Brito: the knights that slew Thomas a Becket at the altar of the church in Henry II's time

1. Why won't De Bracy attack Richard?
2. What is Fitzurse going to do?
3. What does John do after Fitzurse leaves?

Chapter 35

vair or ermine: squirrel or ermine fur
romaunts: romances
extirpate: uproot
basilisk: a legendary serpent, like a dragon, with lethal breath and glance
consuetude: a practice that has become so customary that it seems to be law
periapts: charms

Question: What does Beaumanoir decide to do with Rebecca?

Chapter 36

A note on local government in medieval England: Beaumanoir says, "The laws of England permit and enjoin each judge to execute justice within his own jurisdiction. The most petty baron may arrest, try, and condemn a witch found within his own domain."

The King of England was the 'top of the heap', so to speak, in English government; the barons served him, but they were also lords of their own land; they in turn had their vassals, usually knights, who lorded it over smaller sections of the barons' land; then sometimes there were smaller divisions ruled by underlings below the knights. Imagine it as a pyramid, with the king at the top, the barons and knights in the middle, and the smaller landholders providing the wide base. Slaves and persons that owned no land spread out at the very bottom with no power at all. Many churchmen held positions of power similar to those of barons and knights.

Notable quotes:

". . . [Albert Malvoisin] knew how to throw over his vices and his ambition the veil of hypocrisy, and to assume in his exterior the fanaticism which he internally despised."

"Will future ages believe that such stupid bigotry existed?".

"Trial moves rapidly on when the judge has determined the sentence beforehand."

quean: a woman of bad reputation
there is little time to find engines fitting: there is little time to make up false evidence

Question: What is Sir Brian's reaction when he finds out about Beaumanoir's decision to try Rebecca?

Chapter 37

sortileges: witchcraft
gage: pledge

I challenge the privilege of trial by combat: Rebecca is asking that her guilt or innocence be determined by whether her champion wins or loses a fight. This medieval type of trial was based on the idea that God would perform a miracle to save the innocent, and would let the guilty die. Rebecca is allowed to have a champion, rather than fighting herself, because she is a woman.

Thought questions:
1. How might you be able to tell that a "person of God" is not actually following God?
2. How do the Templars 'prove' that Rebecca is guilty of sorcery?
3. What is written on the bit of parchment Rebecca was mysteriously given in Chapter 36?

Chapter 38

essoine: excuse
devoir: courtesy
appellant: one who appeals a court decision
recreant: cowardly
capul: work-horse
asper: a Turkish or Egyptian silver coin
mancus: an Anglo-Saxon coin

bring down my grey hairs to the grave: Genesis 44:29
till, in the bitterness of my heart, I curse God and die: Job 2:9
Benoni: Genesis 35:18
gourd of Jonah: Jonah 4:7

1. What judgment was delivered by Beaumanoir?
2. What does Rebecca ask Isaac to do?

Chapter 39

Notable quotes:

"Protect the oppressed for the sake of charity, and not for a selfish advantage."

"Proud as thou art, thou hast in me found thy match."

"I envy thee not thy faith, which is ever in thy mouth, but never in thy heart nor in thy practice."

"Thus do men throw on fate the issue of their own wild passions."

"There are noble things which cross over thy powerful mind; but it is the garden of the sluggard, and the weeds have rushed up, and conspired to choke the fair and wholesome blossom."

that which is not bread: Isaiah 55:2
the garden of the sluggard: Proverbs 24:30-34


1. What plan does Bois-Gilbert present to Rebecca? What does Rebecca think of it?
2. What plan does Bois-Gilbert present to Albert Malvoisin? What does he think of it?
3. What does Bois-Gilbert finally decide to do?

Chapter 40

Introduction and question: In the first paragraph, Scott mentions "the magnanimous Wamba". How has Wamba demonstrated magnanimity?

magnanimity: greatness of mind; that elevation or dignity of soul, which encounters danger and trouble with tranquillity and firmness, which raises the possessor above revenge, and makes him delight in acts of benevolence, which makes him disdain injustice and meanness, and prompts him to sacrifice personal ease, interest and safety for the accomplishment of useful and noble objects.

destrier: a war-horse
jennet: a kind of horse
manciple: steward, or purchaser of provisions
falchion: a sword with a short, broad, slightly curved blade
targe: shield

1. What does Wamba mean by the yeomen's (outlaws') "trade with heaven?"
2. Which "companions are worse to meet than yonder outlaws"?
3. Who attacks the Black Knight?

Chapter 41

Richard's good intentions toward the bold Outlaw were frustrated by the King's untimely death: This refers to events that occur in history after this story takes place (Ivanhoe is historic fiction, not actual history, but the real Richard I did meet an untimely death five years after resuming his throne).

Coningsburgh (Conisbrough) is an actual Saxon castle in Yorkshire. You can see pictures here.

since the days of the Heptarchy: Since the confederation of the seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms (Kent, Sussex, Wessex, Essex, Northumbria, East Anglia and Mercia) which were loosely allied during the early Middle Ages (or late Dark Ages). Alfred the Great is traditionally supposed to have been the first king over all England.

barrow: mound
Hengist: one of the leaders of the Anglo-Saxon invasion in the 5th century AD
mendicants: beggars
harps, crowds and rotes: musical instruments
panegyric: formal and elaborate praise

Question: Ivanhoe takes King Richard to task at the beginning of this chapter, saying, "But your kingdom is threatened with dissolution and civil war---your subjects menaced with every species of evil, if deprived of their sovereign in some of those dangers which it is your daily pleasure to incur, and from which you have but this moment narrowly escaped." Do you think Richard has shirked his duty by staying in disguise so long, or was it wise for him to wait to reveal himself? For that matter, should he have gone to the Crusades in the first place, or should he have stayed in England?

Chapter 42

Introduction: This is one of the strangest chapters in the book. You may want to read it twice.

1. What happened to Athelstane?
2. What happened to Ivanhoe and King Richard?
3. At Coningsburgh, the Normans are represented by Richard and Ivanhoe--Ivanhoe is counted a Norman because of the way he dresses. Compare the younger and older Saxons' attitudes toward them. (I think it is interesting that Richard and Ivanhoe are thought to be Saxons by Normans at Torquilstone, and thought to be Normans by Saxons at Coningsburgh.)

Chapter 43

What was the outcome of the combat?

Chapter 44

obsequies: funeral rites
rowel: the wheel of a spur

I will appeal to Rome against thee: The pope and the Church had considerable power in the medieval world, so the Grand Master might be able to stir up trouble for Richard. Medieval government was a complicated thing.

1. Why do you suppose Rebecca wants to leave without thanking Ivanhoe?
2. How did King Richard deal with Prince John?
3. Scott says Richard's "administration was wilfully careless, now too indulgent, and now allied to despotism." What do you think?
4. How do Cedric's feelings change?
5. What is Rebecca going to do?

A final note on English government: After Richard's untimely death, the throne passed to John, who was such a tyrant that the barons of England finally forced him to sign a document--the Magna Carta--stating that he would respect the liberties of freemen and abide by the law himself. This document was one reason the American colonists (they considered themselves free Englishmen) resisted King George's arbitrary laws, five hundred years later.

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