Ivanhoe - Walter Scott

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Ivanhoe was published in 1819, a year before Walter Scott would receive his title from King George IV. Ivanhoe was to be his most famous and intriguing that he wrote in his lifetime. It is a tale of adventure, romance, comedy, and chivalry in the days of knights in shining armor. The first passage of Ivanhoe gives the setting for the entire novel. "In that pleasant district of merry England which is watered by the river Don," is where all of the action takes place. The first chapter gives an account of the present state of affairs in England.

After the defeat of the Saxons by William the Conqueror of Normandy at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the Norman French soon took over England. They reduced the proud, native Saxons into their servants and slaves. The action opens with the introduction of two men, Wamba and Gurth. Wamba is a bondsman who lives by his wits, and Gurth is a simple swineherd. Together they are discussing the state of Norman- Saxon relations while Gurth's dog, Fangs, is rounding up the swine.

As this carries on, a storm is approaching the two men. As they begin to leave for their master's estate, Wamba and Gurth hear horsemen approaching on the path. While returning, Wamba makes a point to take his time on the path home in order to find out who the horsemen are. When the horsemen do catch up to the two men in slave collars, they are introduced to the reader as Brian de Bois-Guilbert, the Knight Templar, his companion Prior Aymer, and Abbot of Jorvaulx. They also have about them their attendants.

They are seeking the home of Cedric the Saxon and Wamba purposely misdirects them so that they will not find it. As the horsemen carry on, Wamba and Gurth continue to the home of their master, Cedric the Saxon, in the other direction. As the horsemen continue their journey, they have a discussion about the beauty of Rowena, who is the ward of Cedric the Saxon. After some time they arrive at a sunken cross where two paths meet and find a Palmer gives them the proper directions to Cedric's home and takes the men their himself.

After a lengthy description of Rotherwood, home of Cedric the Saxon, the guests arrive at the estate and are welcomed and treated with respect and hospitality. They are in time for the evening's feast and just before the food is served, Wamba and Gurth make their entrance into the dining hall. Minutes later, the fair Lady Rowena also makes her way into the room. As the feast commences, the Jew, Isaac of York, makes his entrance into the dining hall. The Jews are victims of much prejudice in the novel and Isaac is treated as an "unbelieving dog" would be.

Isaac, however, does have much to share with the congregation at the dinner. He brings news of the Crusades in Palestine and of the courage of Ivanhoe. Cedric is very interested in news of Ivanhoe and listens carefully to what Isaac has to say. After Isaac's telling of the news from the Crusades, de Bois-Guilbert raises up and speaks against Ivanhoe, saying that he could conquer the brave knight. At this moment, the Palmer begins to speak angrily at de Bois-Guilbert and vows that them moment Ivanhoe returns from the Crusades that he will challenge de Bois-Guilbert immediately. The Templar accepts this challenge and the Palmer hands over a small token to the Prior Aymer to insure honesty in his challenge of the Knight.

Thus the feast is ended and all the participants head towards their quarters. Along the way, the Palmer hears the two Moslem attendants of the Templar discussing their plan to rob Isaac. The Palmer, who understood their native tongue, rises early the next morning to wake Wamba to escort himself and Isaac our of Rotherwood to escape the robbery by the Moslems. In reward for his help, Isaac loans the Palmer a horse and a suit of armor to use at the tournament at Ashby-de-la-Zouche.

The tournament begins the next day and the colorful pageantry is described in detail. Isaac arrives with his daughter, Rebecca, whom we meet for the first time. The Normans and Saxons argue about where the Jews should sit, but this quarrel is solved by Wamba. At the tournament we are also introduced to Athelstane the Unready, a native Saxon who is also a suitor to Rowena, and Waldemar Fitzurse, a counselor to Prince John. At the tournament their arrives a competitor known as the Disinherited Knight who proceeds to overthrow the four strongest opponents in the tournament, including Brian de Bois-Guilbert. At the conclusion of the tournament, the Disinherited Knight chooses the Lady Rowena as the Queen of Beauty and Love. The knight and Lady Rowena decline an invitation to Prince John's banquet of that evening. The Disinherited Knight takes care not to have his face shown to anyone at the tournament.

After the tournament, the squires of the four vanquished knights arrive at the tent of the Disinherited Knight. As is custom, they offer their master's armor and horse, or an equal ransom, to their victor. The Disinherited Knight accepts a rather moderate ransom from three of the squires but will not accept either the horse and armor or ransom from the squire of Brian de Bois-Guilbert. Instead he relates his feelings of mortal defiance of the Templar and tells his squire to relate that to his master.

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