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Free Study Guide - Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

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Richard Plantagenet, King of England

King Richard, also known as Richard the Lion-Hearted, is a good and brave Norman, who is respected by Normans and Saxons. Friar Tuck, Locksley and his men, and Ivanhoe pledge loyalty to him. Even Cedric, a Staunch Saxon, eventually recognizes the king’s goodness and seems to accept his reign over England.

Richard is amiable and capable of forgetting his royalty, allowing himself to mingle with common people in good companionship. His feast with Friar Tuck and his good-natured exchange of insults and songs are proof of this. He is also merciful, especially in his banishing, rather than murdering, the traitors and the forgiveness of his shiftless brother John. Richard also proves his bravery and nobility, when he disguises himself as the Black Knight and comes to Ivanhoe’s aid against the wicked Norman knights during the tournament.

There is a weakness in Richard’s character, which Scott is quick to point out. He has spent most of his reign in the Holy Land, seeking personal glory in the Crusades, instead of looking after his people and his country. It is this weakness of character that allows his brother to seize power and rule with injustice. In spite of this weakness, Richard becomes a legendary king of English history.

Brian de Bois-Guilbert

Bois-Guilbert is an arrogant Knight Templar, who should be chaste, high-principled, and brave in battle. Although he proves himself to be a brave and skillful soldier, he lacks principles and lives an immoral life. His Moslem slaves fear his cruel ways. If Ivanhoe is the symbol of a good, brave, steadfast, honorable, and true knight, Bois-Guilbert represents just the opposite. Scott deliberately places them in opposition as the light and dark forces of the novel; they become the personifications of good and evil.

Bois-Guilbert is caught in his own trap of license and immorality. When he is attracted to Rebecca’s beauty, he takes her captive and makes plans to defile her. When she resists his advances, he simply loves her more. His licentious plans, however, are exposed to the chief of the order of Knight Templars, who is furious at Bois-Guilbert’s behavior. Rebecca is then accused of witchcraft and is to be put on trial. Bois-Guilbert is also tried and excused; his actions are blamed on Rebecca’s having cast a spell on him.

In the end, Bois-Guilbert fights with Ivanhoe in a duel for Rebecca’s life. He fights bravely, but is killed by Ivanhoe; as a result, he is spared the disgrace of being removed from the Knight Templars and the agony of condemning the girl he loves. Though he has spent much of the novel being a villain, in the end he regains some of his nobility through his bravery and his protection of Rebecca.

Maurice De Bracy

Perhaps the least evil of the Norman knights in the novel, De Bracy is brave in combat and honorable in his conduct toward Rowena. In sharp contrast to Bois-Guilbert’s treatment of Rebecca, De Bracy offers marriage to Rowena and treats her with great respect. Even when defeated, he reveals his dignity and practical nature. Knowing that Richard is going to triumph and accepting that he will never win Rowena’s love, De Bracy escapes hastily to France.


Front-De-Boeuf’s name means ‘face of an Ox’, and both his appearance and behavior support this description. His lack of humanity is demonstrated when he tortures Isaac in Torquilstone Castle. Urfried also accuses him of murdering his own father. When Front-De-Boeuf is dying in the fire at the castle, he cruelly hopes that De Bracy and Bois-Guilbert die with him. Both men escape and have no concern that Front-De-Boeuf has perished in the flames. It seems a just end for an unjust man.

Prince John

John is King Richard’s youngest brother. He is as evil and corrupt, as Richard is good and popular. He spends all his time extorting money, seizing Saxon lands, drinking, and plotting against his brother. When news arrives that the King is returning to England, John’s nobles desert him. He can attract no loyalty or respect from his people, for he is an ineffectual leader and a man of low moral character and stolen authority.

Waldemar Fitzurse

Fitzurse is John’s shrewd and power-hungry adviser. He patches up quarrels and pacifies John’s troubled followers. In fact, he is John’s only loyal follower. He actually tries to kill Richard in order to save his own power, but he is overcome and banished from the country. His loyalty to John is fueled totally by his own ambition; if he can get John to the throne, Fitzurse feels he can be the king’s right-hand man and become the most powerful man in the country.

Prior Aymer Jorvaulx

This greedy, worldly priest is a typical portrait of the corrupt religious man of medieval England. Though he has Saxon blood, Aymer caters to the Normans because they are in power, and he feels he is better served by them. He always appears in fine, expensive garments; in fact, the Prior seems to be more worried about the state of his clothes than the state of his soul. He is also portrayed as a heavy drinker and a total hypocrite. Prior Aymer becomes Scott’s symbol of all that is wrong with the priesthood of the Middle Ages.


Known as ‘The Unready’, Athelstane, a Saxon who claims royal blood, is a lazy, indifferent person. He is, however, the person that Cedric chooses to ascend the throne and regain power for the Saxons. He is also the person that he wants Rowena to marry, even though this despicable man is indifferent to her.

Athelstane does not prove his valor in battle, but is knocked unconscious at the end of the fighting. Everyone assumes he is dead, and they proceed to take his body back to his home for burial. During the trip, he is bizarrely “resurrected from the dead” since he has never died. In the end, Cedric accepts that this man will never be strong enough to ascend to the throne and Athelstane accepts that he will never marry Rowena.

Robin of Locksley

Robin of Locksley is really Robin Hood, the legendary figure from tales of antiquity. Deprived of his lands and earldom, Robin decides to become an outlaw. He collects a band of loyal men who rob the Normans whenever they can and share their plunder with the poor. History and legend show him defying unjust laws. In the novel, he is shown coming to the aid of the Saxons in their fight against the unjust Normans.


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