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Free Study Guide - Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

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STUDY GUIDE / BOOK SUMMARY: IVANHOE BY SIR WALTER SCOTT

CHAPTERS 40 - 42

Summary

In an earlier chapter, Prince John is seen losing the loyalty of most of his knights except that of Waldemar Fitzurse, who slips out of the banqueting hall to confront King Richard before he takes back his power. On their way to Athelstane’s castle of Coningsburgh to bury him, the Black Knight and Wamba are ambushed by Fitzurse and his men. Richard sounds his horn to summon Locksley and his outlaws. With their help, he overcomes and kills his attackers. Only Fitzurse is left alive. The king banishes him forever from England and confiscates his lands.

The Black Knight then reveals himself as the rightful King of England. He and Ivanhoe proceed to Coningsburgh. Athelstane, who has only been knocked unconscious and not killed, now rises to tell his story. Ivanhoe rides on, prepared and ready to champion Rebecca’s fate.

Notes

Fitzurse, John’s only loyal knight, assembles his men and seeks out King Richard before he returns to the throne. He knows that if he is able to defeat John’s brother, he will be richly rewarded by the prince. Ftizurse, however, is no match for the Black Knight and his motley crew of followers. With the help of Locksley, Richard easily overcomes the attacking Normans, killing everyone but Fitzurse, who is permanently exiled from England by the King.

A great many revelations take place in these chapters. The Black Knight finally reveals himself to be Richard the Lion-Hearted, the true King of England. Locksley reveals his true identity as Robin Hood. And most dramatically (and unrealistically) of all, Athelstane literally rises from the dead to prove he has only been unconscious, not murdered. The action of the plot is beginning to be resolved; the loose ends are being tied up.


Many scholars criticize Athelstane’s recovery, accusing it of being a weak twist in an otherwise strong plot; others, however, feel that Athelstane needs to be alive so that he can renounce his claim as the rightful bridegroom of Rowena and his assumed claim as a Saxon ruler of England. If he is alive and he willingly gives up his claims, the resolution of the conflict seems strengthened.

It is ironic that when all the Saxon resistors begin to accept the Norman Richard as their king, they are in the castle of Athelstane, who was supposed to become the next king. Athelstane’s place in the story is to be the symbol for the weakness and ultimate submission of the Saxons to the Normans.

In these chapters, Scott once again intrudes into the story, this time to take the reader away from his fictional plot into the world of actual historical fact. He recounts the “true” story of how, in truth, Richard perished, and King John gained access to the throne. In this authorial intrusion, attention is drawn to Scott’s deliberate subversion of truth, a narrative choice most authors try to disguise or make their readers forget.


CHAPTER 43

Summary

Rebecca’s trial attracts a large crowd, including many of Robin Hood’s men. Just as her situation seems hopeless, for no champion has offered to defend Rebecca, Ivanhoe rides into the arena. He challenges those who accuse the beautiful Jewess. Brian de Bois-Guilbert becomes an unwilling participant in the fight as a representative of the people who accuse Rebecca; Beaumanoir and the Knight Templars demand his obedience and loyalty. It is an exciting and hard-fought battle, but Bois-Guilbert is finally killed. Ivanhoe has saved Rebecca.

Notes

The death of de Bois-Guilbert is important to Scott’s narrative for two reasons. First, Ivanhoe comes to center stage as a noble hero and as valiant knight. Up to this point, he has remained a sometimes peripheral character who has not clearly displayed his honor. In this scene he is shown to be worthy and chivalrous. Second, Bois-Guilbert is saved from public disgrace by his death in a fair fight. Even to a knight as dubious as he, public disgrace would have been the ultimate dishonor. As a character, he is also somewhat redeemed because of his love for Rebecca and his attempt, even to the end, to save her life.

The combat is described in wonderful detail with all of Scott’s knowledge of chivalry coming to the forefront. He also successfully captures the tension and excitement of the crowd. Until the very end, the reader is kept guessing about Rebecca’s fate. The dramatic finish reinforces the exciting mood of Scott’s Ivanhoe.


CHAPTER 44

Summary

Richard, having intended to champion Rebecca himself, is detained by the Earl of Essex who warns him of John’s evil plans. He arrives at the trial too late to fight, but brings with him a troop of soldiers and arrests Albert Malvoisin for plotting with John against him. He gives Lucas Beaumanoir the choice of exile or death, and Beaumanoir chooses exile. Richard then banishes all the traitors except John, who is sent to his mother with a warning. Athelstane gives up his claim to Rowena and retires from public life. Rowena and Ivanhoe are married. Before departing from England with her father forever, Rebecca visits Rowena to thank her.

Notes

Scott provides the expected romantic conclusion to his novel. All loose ends of the narrative are neatly tied up with each character accounted for. Ivanhoe is raised to heroic status and marries Rowena. Bois-Guilbert is spared disgrace. Richard regains his throne and acts with kindness. He spares the lives of the traitors, simply banishing them from England forever. He is exceptionally kind to his brother John, who is only scolded and sent home to their mother. Good triumphs over evil with a merciful touch.

Only Rebecca, who is in love with Ivanhoe, is left out of the sweeping romantic triumph. Even she, however, is given the chance to once again prove her nobility. Before departing England with her father, she comes and expresses gratitude to Rowena. She is too much in love with Ivanhoe and too much of a lady to face the hero in person; she does not want to ruin any happy endings.

In true romantic form, Scott brings his exciting novel to a close with a sense of triumph and victory for the causes of good.

 

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