Author(s): Walter Scott; Judith John (Contribution by)
Ivanhoe is a historical novel by Sir Walter Scott. At the time it was written it represented a shift by Scott away from fairly realistic novels set in Scotland in the comparatively recent past, to a somewhat fanciful depiction of mediaeval England. It has proved to be one of the best known and most influential of Scott's novels. Ivanhoe is set in 12th-century England, with colourful descriptions of a tournament, outlaws, a witch trial and divisions between Jews and Christians. It has been credited for increasing interest in romance and medievalism; John Henry Newman claimed Scott "had first turned men's minds in the direction of the Middle Ages", while Carlyle and Ruskin made similar assertions of Scott's overwhelming influence over the revival, based primarily on the publication of this novel. It has also had an important influence on popular perceptions of Robin Hood, Richard the Lionheart and King John. There have been several adaptations for stage, film and television. Ivanhoe is the story of one of the remaining Saxon noble families at a time when the nobility in England was overwhelmingly Norman. It follows the Saxon protagonist, Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe, who is out of favour with his father for his allegiance to the Norman king Richard the Lionheart. The story is set in 1194, after the failure of the Third Crusade, when many of the Crusaders were still returning to their homes in Europe. King Richard, who had been captured by Leopold of Austria on his return journey to England, was believed to still be in captivity. The legendary Robin Hood, initially under the name of Locksley, is also a character in the story, as are his "merry men". The character that Scott gave to Robin Hood in Ivanhoe helped shape the modern notion of this figure as a cheery noble outlaw. Other major characters include Ivanhoe's intractable father, Cedric, one of the few remaining Saxon lords; various Knights Templar, most notable of whom is Brian de Bois-Guilbert, Ivanhoe's main rival; a number of clergymen; the loyal serfs: Gurth the swineherd and the jester Wamba, whose observations punctuate much of the action; and the Jewish moneylender, Isaac of York, who is equally passionate about his people and his beautiful daughter, Rebecca. The book was written and published during a period of increasing struggle for the emancipation of the Jews in England, and there are frequent references to injustices against them.