Ivanhoe

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Set in the twelfth century, during the reign of Richard the Lionheart, Ivanhoe tells of the love of Wilfred of Ivanhoe for the Lady Rowena, his father Cedric's ward. Cedric, who is dedicated to the liberation of the Saxon people from Norman oppression and to the revival of the Saxon royal line, intends Rowena - a descendant of King Alfred - for the oafish Athelstane, and he banishes his son. Ivanhoe joins King Richard on his crusade in the Holy Land, and eventually the two men return secretly to England - Ivanhoe...
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Ivanhoe (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

Set in the twelfth century, during the reign of Richard the Lionheart, Ivanhoe tells of the love of Wilfred of Ivanhoe for the Lady Rowena, his father Cedric's ward. Cedric, who is dedicated to the liberation of the Saxon people from Norman oppression and to the revival of the Saxon royal line, intends Rowena - a descendant of King Alfred - for the oafish Athelstane, and he banishes his son. Ivanhoe joins King Richard on his crusade in the Holy Land, and eventually the two men return secretly to England - Ivanhoe to regain his inheritance and the land of Rowena, Richard to secure his kingdom from his scheming brother John who has ruled in Richard's absence. With a gallery of memorable characters, high and low, Ivanhoe is a powerful and exciting evocation of a medieval world of jousting, baronial rivalry, siege warfare and trial by combat, and makes no attempt to gloss over the violence and brutality that lay behind the chivalric ideals.

In 1166 the Saxon knight Ivanhoe returns from the Crusades to a chaotic England ruled by the enemies of the absent King Richard the Lion-Hearted and finds himself disowned and dishonored, forced to fight for his name and the people he loves.

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What People Are Saying

Robert Louis Stevenson
Walter Scott is out and away the king of the romantics.
V. S. Pritchett
Scott is the single Shakespearean talent of the English novel.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Ian Duncan is Associate Professor of English at Yale University.

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Read an Excerpt

In that pleasant district of merry England which is watered by the river Don, there extended in ancient times a large forest, covering the greater part of the beautiful hills and valleys which lie between Sheffield and the pleasant town of Doncaster. The remains of this extensive wood are still to be seen at the noble seats of Wentworth, of Wharncliffe Park, and around Rotherham. Here haunted of yore the fabulous Dragon of Wantley; here were fought many of the most desperate battles during the Civil Wars of the Roses; and here also flourished in ancient times those bands of gallant outlaws whose deeds have been rendered so popular in English song.

Such being our chief scene, the date of our story refers to a period towards the end of the reign of Richard I., when his return from his long captivity had become an event rather wished than hoped for by his despairing subjects, who were in the meantime subjected to every species of subordinate oppression. The nobles, whose power had become exorbitant during the reign of Stephen, and whom the prudence of Henry the Second had scarce reduced into some degree of subjection to the crown, had now resumed their ancient license in its utmost extent; despising the feeble interference of the English Council of State, fortifying their castles, increasing the number of their dependants, reducing all around them to a state of vassalage, and striving by every means in their power to place themselves each at the head of such forces as might enable him to make a figure in the national convulsions which appeared to be impending.

The situation of the inferior gentry, or franklins, as they were called, who, by the law and spirit of theEnglish constitution, were entitled to hold themselves independent of feudal tyranny, became now unusually precarious. If, as was most generally the case, they placed themselves under the protection of any of the petty kings in their vicinity, accepted of feudal offices in his household, or bound themselves, by mutual treaties of alliance and protection, to support him in his enterprises, they might indeed purchase temporary repose; but it must be with the sacrifice of that independence which was so dear to every English bosom, and at the certain hazard of being involved as a party in whatever rash expedition the ambition of their protector might lead him to undertake. On the other hand, such and so multiplied were the means of vexation and oppression possessed by the great barons, that they never wanted the pretext, and seldom the will, to harass and pursue, even to the very edge of destruction, any of their less powerful neighbours who attempted to separate themselves from their authority, and to trust for their protection, during the dangers of the times, to their own inoffensive conduct and to the laws of the land.

A circumstance which greatly tended to enhance the tyranny of the nobility and the sufferings of the inferior classes arose from the consequences of the Conquest by Duke William of Normandy. Four generations had not sufficed to blend the hostile blood of the Normans and Anglo-Saxons, or to unite, by common language and mutual interests, two hostile races, one of which still felt the elation of triumph, while the other groaned under all the consequences of defeat. The power had been completely placed in the hands of the Norman nobility by the event of the battle of Hastings, and it had been used, as our histories assure us, with no moderate hand. The whole race of Saxon princes and nobles had been extirpated or disinherited, with few or no exceptions; nor were the numbers great who possessed land in the country of their fathers, even as proprietors of the second or of yet inferior classes. The royal policy had long been to weaken, by every means, legal or illegal, the strength of a part of the population which was justly considered as nourishing the most inveterate antipathy to their victor. All the monarchs of the Norman race had shown the most marked predilection for their Norman subjects; the laws of the chase, and many others, equally unknown to the milder and more free spirit of the Saxon constitution, had been fixed upon the necks of the subjugated inhabitants, to add weight, as it were, to the feudal chains with which they were loaded. At court, and in the castles of the great nobles, where the pomp and state of a court was emulated, Norman-French was the only language employed; in courts of law, the pleadings and judgments were delivered in the same tongue. In short, French was the language of honour, of chivalry, and even of justice, while the far more manly and expressive Anglo-Saxon was abandoned to the use of rustics and hinds, who knew no other. Still, however, the necessary intercourse between the lords of the soil, and those oppressed inferior beings by whom that soil was cultivated, occasioned the gradual formation of a dialect, compounded betwixt the French and the Anglo-Saxon, in which they could render themselves mutually intelligible to each other; and from this necessity arose by degrees the structure of our present English language, in which the speech of the victors and the vanquished have been so happily blended together; and which has since been so richly improved by importations from the classical languages, and from those spoken by the southern nations of Europe.

This state of things I have thought it necessary to premise for the information of the general reader, who might be apt to forget that, although no great historical events, such as war or insurrection, mark the existence of the Anglo-Saxons as a separate people subsequent to the reign of William the Second, yet the great national distinctions betwixt them and their conquerors, the recollection of what they had formerly been, and to what they were now reduced, continued, down to the reign of Edward the Third, to keep open the wounds which the Conquest had inflicted, and to maintain a line of separation betwixt the descendants of the victor Normans and the vanquished Saxons.

--

The sun was setting upon one of the rich grassy glades of that forest which we have mentioned in the beginning of the chapter. Hundreds of broad-headed, short-stemmed, wide-branched oaks, which had witnessed perhaps the stately march of the Roman soldiery, flung their gnarled arms over a thick carpet of the most delicious green sward; in some places they were intermingled with beeches, hollies, and copsewood of various descriptions, so closely as totally to intercept the level beams of the sinking sun; in others they receded from each other, forming those long sweeping vistas in the intricacy of which the eye delights to lose itself, while imagination considers them as the paths to yet wilder scenes of silvan solitude. Here the red rays of the sun shot a broken and discoloured light, that partially hung upon the shattered boughs and mossy trunks of the trees, and there they illuminated in brilliant patches the portions of turf to which they made their way. A considerable open space, in the midst of this glade, seemed formerly to have been dedicated to the rites of Druidical superstition; for, on the summit of a hillock, so regular as to seem artificial, there still remained part of a circle of rough, unhewn stones, of large dimensions, Seven stood upright; the rest had been dislodged from their places, probably by the zeal of some convert to Christianity, and lay, some prostate near their former site, and others on the side of the hill. One large stone only had found its way to the bottom, and, in stopping the course of a small brook which glided smoothly round the foot of the eminence, gave, by its opposition, a feeble voice of murmur to the placid and elsewhere silent streamlet.

The human figures which completed this landscape were in number two, partaking, in their dress and appearance, of that wild and rustic character which belonged to the woodlands of the West Riding of Yorkshire at that early period. The eldest of these men had a stern, savage, and wild aspect. His garment was of the simplest form imaginable, being a close jacket with sleeves, composed of the tanned skin of some animal, on which the hair had been originally left, but which had been worn off in so many places that it would have been difficult to distinguish, from the patches that remained, to what creature the fur had belonged. This primeval vestment reached from the throat to the knees, and served at once all the usual purposes of body-clothing; there was no wider opening at the collar than was necessary to admit the passage of the head, from which it may be inferred that it was put on by slipping it over the head and shoulders, in the manner of a modern shirt, or ancient hauberk. Sandals, bound with thongs made of boar's hide, protected the feet, and a roll of thin leather was twined artificially round the legs, and, ascending above the calf, left the knees bare, like those of a Scottish Highlander. To make the jacket sit yet more close to the body, it was gathered at the middle by a broad leathern belt, secured by a brass buckle; to one side of which was attached a sort of scrip, and to the other a ram's horn, accoutred with a mouthpiece, for the purpose of blowing. In the same belt was stuck one of those long, broad, sharp-pointed, and two-edged knives, with a buck's-horn handle, which were fabricated in the neighbourhood, and bore even at this early period the name of a Sheffield whittle. The man had no covering upon his head, which was only defended by his own thick hair, matted and twisted together, and scorched by the influence of the sun into a rusty dark-red colour, forming a contrast with the overgrown beard upon his cheeks, which was rather of a yellow or amber hue. One part of his dress only remains, but it is too remarkable to be suppressed; it was a brass ring, resembling a dog's collar, but without any opening, and soldered fast round his neck, so loose as to form no impediment to his breathing, yet so tight as to be incapable of being removed, excepting by the use of the file. On this singular gorget was engraved, in Saxon characters, an inscription of the following purport: 'Gurth, the son of Beowulph, is the born thrall of Cedric of Rotherwood.'

Beside the swineherd, for such was Gurth's occupation, was seated, upon one of the fallen Druidical monuments, a person about ten years younger in appearance, and whose dress, though resembling his companion's in form, was of better materials, and of a more fantastic description. His jacket had been stained of a bright purple hue, upon which there had been some attempt to paint grotesque ornaments in different colours. To the jacket he added a short cloak, which scarcely reached half-way down his thigh; it was of crimson cloth, though a good deal soiled, lined with bright yellow; and as he could transfer it from one shoulder to the other, or at his pleasure draw it all around him, its width, contrasted with its want of longitude, formed a fantastic piece of drapery. He had thin silver bracelets upon his arms, and on his neck a collar of the same metal, bearing the inscription, 'Wamba, the son of Witless, is the thrall of Cedric of Rotherwood.' This personage had the same sort of sandals with his companion, but instead of the roll of leather thong, his legs were cased in a sort of gaiters, of which one was red and the other yellow. He was provided also with a cap, having around it more than one bell, about the size of those attached to hawks, which jingled as he turned his head to one side or other; and as he seldom remained a minute in the same posture, the sound might be considered as incessant. Around the edge of this cap was a stiff bandeau of leather, cut at the top into open work, resembling a coronet, while a prolonged bag arose from within it, and fell down on one shoulder like an old-fashioned nightcap, or a jelly-bag, or the head-gear of a modern hussar. It was to this part of the cap that the bells were attached; which circumstance, as well as the shape of his head-dress, and his own half-crazed, half-cunning expression of countenance, sufficiently pointed him out as belonging to the race of domestic clowns or jesters, maintained in the houses of the wealthy, to help away the tedium of those lingering hours which they were obliged to spend within doors. He bore, like his companion, a scrip attached to his belt, but had neither horn nor knife, being probably considered as belonging to a class whom it is esteemed dangerous to entrust with edge tools. In place of these, he was equipped with a sword of lath, resembling that with which harlequin operates his wonders upon the modern stage.
The outward appearance of these two men formed scarce a stronger contrast than their look and demeanour. That of the serf, or bondsman, was sad and sullen; his aspect was bent on the ground with an air of deep dejection, which might be almost construed into apathy, had not the fire which occasionally sparkled in his red eye manifested that there slumbered, under the appearance of sullen despondency, a sense of oppression, and a disposition to resistance. The looks of Wamba, on the other hand, indicated, as usual with his class, a sort of vacant curiosity, and fidgety impatience of any posture of repose, together with the utmost self-satisfaction respecting his own situation and the appearance which he made. The dialogue which they maintained between them was carried on in Anglo-Saxon, which, as we said before, was universally spoken by the inferior classes, excepting the Norman soldiers and the immediate personal dependants of the great feudal nobles. But to give their conversation in the original would convey but little information to the modern reader, for whose benefit we beg to offer the following translation:

'The curse of St. Withold upon these infernal porkers!' said the swineherd, after blowing his horn obstreperously, to collect together the scattered herd of swine, which, answering his call with notes equally melodious, made, however, no haste to remove themselves from the luxurious banquet of beechmast and acorns on which they had fattened, or to forsake the marshy banks of the rivulet, where several of them, half-plunged in mud, lay stretched at their ease, altogether regardless of the voice of their keeper. 'The curse of St. Withold upon them and upon me!' said Gurth; 'If the two-legged wolf snap not up some of them ere nightfall, I am no true man. Here, Fangs! Fangs!' he ejaculated at the top of his voice to a ragged, wolfish-looking dog, a sort of lurcher, half mastiff, half greyhound, which ran limping about as if with the purpose of seconding his master in collecting the refractory grunters; but which, in fact, from misapprehension of the swineherd's signals, ignorance of his own duty, or malice prepense, only drove them hither and thither, and increased the evil which he seemed to design to remedy. 'A devil draw the teeth of him,' said Gurth, 'and the mother of mischief confound the ranger of the forest, that cuts the fore-claws off our dogs, and makes them unfit for their trade! Wamba, up and help me an thou beest a man; take a turn round the back o' the hill to gain the wind on them; and when thou'st got the weather-gage, thou mayst drive them before thee as gently as so many

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Reading Group Guide

1. In what way-or ways-does the bloody conflict between the Normans and the Saxons serve as a mirror for Wilfred's personal struggle in the novel? Is it possible to separate the two? How does the love story inform the larger leitmotif of strife, and vice versa?

2. Certain critics have drawn attention to the novel's various anachronisms. Do you feel that Scott succeeded as far as historical accuracy is concerned? How important is historical accuracy to the narrative, in your opinion?

3. Discuss the importance of heroism and the chivalric code in the novel. How do the precepts of chivalry inform the action that occurs throughout? How do these honorable practices reconcile with the Third Crusade and all of its attendant violence?

4. Discuss the novel's language. Did you find it archaic, or did you think it helped in creating a more effective experience of a different time?

5. Discuss Cedric's unwillingness to accept Wilfred's love for Rowena. How does this illuminate the role of politics at the time? Is Cedric singularly obstinate, or do you think his view would be commonly held? Why does he change his views?

6. Discuss the significance of Rebecca's character. How do she and Isaac reveal Scott's views on the discrimination common at the time, if at all?

7. Ivanhoe is roundly held to be the progenitor of the historical romance. Do you agree with this assessment, or not? What, in your opinion, makes a book a romance?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 317 )
Rating Distribution

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(125)

4 Star

(62)

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(47)

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(30)

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(53)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 321 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2008

    Book, yes, edition, no

    'Ivanhoe' remains as much of a pleasure to read, this time with my grand-daughter, as it was when I first read it nearly fifty years ago. And the editor has provided an introduction which offers some interesting insights into Scott and his book. Beware the annotations, however, for there Professor Wood reveals himself hopelessly out of his depth. The notes suffer from both political correctness, e.g., his implied claims that the crusaders had no reason to wage war war against Muslims, and inexcusable ignorance, e.g., his statement that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were brothers and that Iconium was the the medieval--it was the ancient--name of modern Konya.

    10 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2010

    not recommended unless you read French

    I am new to E-Books I tried loading this book. When it appeared, it was in French. Nowhere does it say the book would be in French. What a BIG disappointment.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 2, 2010

    Abridged

    This is an abridged version about half the length of the original. Intended for a young audience. I deleted after downloading as it did not meet my needs.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2010

    ebook freezes

    One of my favorite novels, but the eBook kept freezing on my Nook. Eventually I deleted from my library without being able to read.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2008

    A Truly Engrossing Read

    I was apprehensive about reading _Ivanhoe_, but I took it under the recommendation of a very well-respected professor. Between its covers, I have found a new favorite novel! I was completely captivated by the story itself, and the characters were so well-crafted that at times I forgot that I was reading. If you are looking for an enjoyable read, full of chivalry, adventure, and bravery 'from both men AND women', look no further than _Ivanhoe_.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2007

    A reviewer

    Ivanhoe is not written in 'Old English'. It is modern English, written in the 19th century, so some of the prose may seem antiquated to a modern reader. This is an example of Old English, from Beowulf: 'Hwæt! We Gardena in geardagum' . This is Middle English, from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales: 'Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote/The droghte of March hath perced to the roote'. Spenser, Shakespeare, and definitely Scott all wrote in Modern English--which has been used since the English Renaissance in the 15th century.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2006

    GREAT!!

    Ivanhoe was much better than I thought it would be. I have a passion for the medieval times so this book was perfect. Its filled with adventure, romance, and chivalry. The characters are wonderful! This book was amazing!!!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2007

    A classic

    A great tale of renaissance intrigue, deception and honor, much like the tale of Robin Hood.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2006

    Rebecca of York by herself makes the book a masterpiece

    Sir Walter Scott's 1819 novel IVANHOE is a thoroughly enjoyable masterpiece by one of the greatest story tellers this world is ever likely to know. Hints are given as to where the story is going, making it easy to follow despite being set in long ago England. Memorable characters abound, especially the Norman Knight Templar, villainous Brian de Bois-Guibert, the Jewess Rebecca of York and a supporting cast led by Wamba the Jester and Gurth the swineherd. Throw in the thinly disguised Black Knight (King Richard the Lion-Hearted), his crafty brother Prince John, Robin Hood and his Merry Men, sullen Saxons, ruthless Normans like Front-de-Boeuf, worldly churchmen, beautiful women and the lovers Wilfred of Ivanhoe and Rowena and you have a tale hard to set down till read cover to cover. *** The motivations of all the characters as well as 'where they are coming from' drive their actions. The visual backdrop is lush from joust, to castle siege, to witch trial. *** Finally, this is a powerful study of anti-Semitism, a few generations before Jews were driven out of England. The scene in Chapter XXVIII when Ivanhoe wakes to find his wound well tended by Rebecca is unforgettable. Initially, he is grateful. But honesty compels her to say, 'your handmaiden is a poor Jewess.' And 'Ivanhoe was too good a Catholic to retain the same class of feelings toward a Jewess.' Though it was hard for him to overcome the prejudices dinned into him by church and culture, in the end Ivanhoe alone champions Rebecca and prevents her being burned at the stake for witchcraft by the Grand Master of the Knights Templar. In her meeting with an apparently unprejudiced Rowena at novel's end, Rebecca of York asserts (Ch. XLIV) ' ... there is a gulf betwixt us. Our breeding, our faith, alike forbid either to pass over it. Farewell.' *** IVANHOE may be the best work of Scott's for someone to read first. It will not be his last.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2013

    Jacob Turner Top 5 Favorite Book. I recommend this book for th

    Jacob Turner

    Top 5 Favorite Book.

    I recommend this book for the following reasons. Ivanhoe was a book in which I had great ease and comfort in reading.
    I was captured in this book, as the tension was building between the Saxons and the Normans.
    The book presented a nail biting and edgy experience as you turned page to page, with hints of romance sprinkled throughout.  
    The turmoil and mischievous action keeps you wanting to read. You quickly find yourself flipping pages as if you are watching a movie. 

     The setting of Ivanhoe is medieval England, in the late twelfth century. The historical environment of which the novel takes place is one that changes with quickness.
     Saxon England has been taken by Norman French for over a century, but the invasion of England’s best homes and land is still going forward as fast as ever.
    This setting has proven to create great uncertainty in leaving you wondering what next and contemplating upcoming confrontations or situations.
     The main characters are Cedric, Ivanhoe, a.k.a. Wilfred, Athelstane, Rowena, Brian de Bois-Guilbert, Front-de-Boeuf, Richard Plantagenet, John Plantagenet, Waldemar Fitzurse, Isaac, Rebecca, and Maurice De Bracy.
    This novel would be on my must read list for anyone who enjoys medieval struggle and strife.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2012

    French

    Its in French!!!!!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2012

    It purely awesome

    If your looking for a book that has action this is it if your looking for a book that has drama step aside days of our lives if you want adventure its got that as well indiana jones wishes he had this much adventure. This book takes all the action and adveture and puts it on the midevil level it awesome. And in this story you get the real story of robin hood well a good amount anyway. This is a must read it should be your library if you got one going.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2011

    Good

    I found iy a little confising, but something that i would read again

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 22, 2011

    Great Read!

    I was captivated by this book's storyline as well as the quaint language. I had only seen the movie before and the book is ever so much better!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2006

    Don't let the old English prose scare you away!!!

    The old English prose of this book is somewhat difficult to read at first & the initial prospect of reading several hundred pages of this seems somewhat akin to watching paint dry. But once you get used to this type of writing, the book is exciting, funny & intriguing. For lovers of historical fiction, this is one of the best. From the tormented chivalry of Ivanhoe, the hubrous of the Templar, the obstianancy & pride of Cedric, the beauty & grace of Rowena & Rebecca, the sharp witted humor of Wamba, the faithfulness of Gurth, and the pride and love of the miserly Isaac this work covers the gamut of society in medival England. Definitiely worth the read!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2014

    This a cat rp

    ?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2014

    Kalika

    Grinned then nodded (whats the name. My results are messed up)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2014

    THANKS!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2014

    Havoc

    Oaky...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2014

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