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Ivanhoe

Sir Walter Scott

Chapters 9-12

Chapters 5-8

Chapters 13-17

Summary

Prince John and his councilor Waldemar Fitzurse discuss the identity of the Disinherited Knight; they run down a list of candidates, but are unable to draw any conclusions. When the Knight is allowed to choose his Queen of Love and Beauty, he shocks the assembled Normans by selecting Rowena, a Saxon. He further surprises the company by declining to attend Prince John's banquet in celebration of the first day of the tournament.

As the victor in five combats, the Disinherited Knight is allowed to take a horse, armor, or ransom money from the knights he has vanquished. He accepts ransom from four knights, but contemptuously refuses to accept anything from Brian de Bois-Guilbert. The Disinherited Knight sends Gurth to repay Isaac for the horse and armor he loaned him; unbeknownst to Isaac, Rebecca returns the money to Gurth, and actually gives Gurth a small sum for himself.

On his way back to the Knight, Gurth strolls dreamily, thinking longingly of the day when he will be able to buy his freedom from Cedric. Suddenly, he is set upon by a group of robbers. The thieves ask him about himself and his master; they give him an opportunity to win his escape by fighting one they call the Miller with a quarterstaff. After an epic duel, Gurth defeats the Miller, and to his great surprise, the thieves honor their word and let him go uninjured without taking a single coin from his purse.

PARGRAPH On the second day of the tournament, the knights who are opposed to the Disinherited Knight, including de Bois-Guilbert, Athelstane, and Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, all attack him at once. He fights valiantly, and with the aid of a mysterious warrior called the Black Sluggard (or Black Knight), he forces Athelstane and Front-de-Bouef from the fray. He charges de Bois-Guilbert and unhorses him, winning the tournament in grand fashion. When Rowena, as the Queen of Love and Beauty, steps forward to crown him, she removes his helmet. The Disinherited Knight's identity is revealed: he is Ivanhoe.

Ivanhoe is triumphant, but he is also badly wounded. After being crowned champion, he loses consciousness, tumbling to the ground at Rowena's feet.

Commentary

These exciting and evocative chapters underscore the point that Ivanhoe is first and foremost a romance, an adventure novel. The dramatic combat scene in the tournament, in which the mysterious Black Knight saves the Disinherited Knight, is extremely cinematic in its presentation. And the scene in which the Disinherited Knight reveals himself as Ivanhoe, to the collective gasp of the crowd, is played for great dramatic effect (even though the reader is already certain of the identity of the Disinherited Knight).

The other main scene in these chapters is a kind of comical version of the dramatic combat of the tournament. Gurth's quarterstaff duel with the Miller is quite humorous; it adds symmetry to these chapters, and it also serves an important purpose in the novel as a whole. The enigmatic group of honorable thieves who kidnap Gurth in this section represent the reader's first glimpse of Robin Hood's merry men, who make an extended cameo later in the book.

The novel's main social theme--the conflict between the Normans and the Saxons--takes a backseat to the action in these chapters (and, indeed, throughout much of the rest of the book). But Scott does not let us forget the social context of his novel. The scene in which Ivanhoe chooses his Queen of Love and Beauty--the choosing of such a queen, a celebratory monarch chosen to "preside" over the next day of the tournament, was customary during twelfth-century combat tournaments--finds him bypassing the assembled Norman beauties in favor of Rowena, to the shock and displeasure of the Normans in the crowd. This is not only one of the only romantic scenes in the novel between its main love interests, it is also a subtle reminder of the tensions lurking beneath the surface of England as a whole.

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