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Free Study Guide - Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

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Scott uses nineteenth century language in Ivanhoe, even though he places his story in the twelfth century. To create the right atmosphere and make the story more believable, he uses a great many medieval colloquialisms such as “gramercy”. He also describes the Middle Age customs with precise detail, creating a vivid and realistic background against which to present his characters. Throughout the novel, his prose is colorful and evocative, successfully capturing the medieval world about which he writes.

Scott’s technique is to use a historical character, such as King Richard I, and surround him with fictional characters. He makes the fictional side believable by making all the plots, both historical and fictitious, parallel in appeal. He also creates a huge cast of characters, who weave in and out of the novel. He carries each character or group of characters to a certain crisis, and then he leaves them for awhile and begins to follow another set of characters. In order to bring all his characters to the same point in time, he uses flashbacks to fill in the necessary missing details. In spite of going backward and forward in time and of constantly changing the characters who are in the forefront, Scott’s narrative is never disjointed. The reader can clearly follow the action of the plot.

A good example of Scott’s constantly changing focus occurs in the castle, where the Saxons are held prisoners. Chapter 21 centers on Cedric and ends with his total despair; Chapter 22 shows Isaac about to be tortured; Chapter 23 shows Rowena being wooed by De Bracy; and Chapter 24 shows Rebecca fighting off the advance of Bois-Guilbert. All four chapters, however, end with the same event; the exact same bugle call is heard by all, saving some and causing some to perish. Through his varied narrative techniques, Scott shows that he is a masterful storyteller who can hold the reader spellbound with an exciting and unified plot and an interesting cast of characters who intertwine with one another.


1. Describe in your own words the historical and social setting of Ivanhoe.

2. Are Scott’s characters realistic? Give reasons for your answer.

3. Compare and contrast Ivanhoe with Bois-Guilbert.

4. How does Cedric change during the course of the novel?

5. Comment on the plot of Ivanhoe and show how Scott ties up all the loose ends of the conflicts.

6. What is the function of Wamba and Gurth in the novel?

7. Compare and contrast Rowena and Rebecca. Which of these two characters do you prefer, and why?

8. What information does Scott provide regarding the clergy of the Middle Ages? Give examples.

9. Who is the real villain of Ivanhoe? Answer in detail.

10. What picture of chivalry do you get from Ivanhoe?

11. Choosing two scenes from the novel, analyze them to show the dramatic progress of the novel.

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