What is Scott's judgment about King Richard's gallant behavior? What possible tension exists between the code of chivalry and the rules of behavior that govern kings?
Compare and contrast Rowena and Rebecca. What are the different difficulties faced by each of the women? How do those difficulties relate to their cultural differences--the fact that one of them is a Saxon and the other is a Jew?
One of the strange things about Ivanhoe as a hero story is that the hero plays such a small part in the story: Ivanhoe is out of commission with an injury for nearly two-thirds of the book, the narrative is almost never shown from his perspective, and he actually fails in the climactic battle at the end of the book. Why is he the hero? Why is he the title character?
With particular attention to the first chapter of the book, what has caused the conflict between the Saxons and the Normans? Who, if anyone, is to blame? What are some of the consequences of the conflict for each group?
Think about the novel's portrayal of religion in medieval English life. With particular attention to characters such as the Templars, Prior Aymer, Friar Tuck, and the palmer, what does Scott seem to say about the medieval church?
Many of the important characters in Ivanhoe spend time in various disguises, including Ivanhoe, Richard, Wamba, and Cedric. What role does the motif of disguise play in the novel as a whole? Why do characters take such pains to hide their identities?
"As a general rule, there is no character development in Ivanhoe; characters are the same at the end of the book as they were at the beginning." Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why?
Women play a decidedly limited part in the story, often discussed solely in terms of their marriageability. (There are three prospective suitors for Rowena alone.) But women, particularly Ulrica and Rebecca, are also among the most vivid, sympathetic, and believable characters in the novel. What exactly is the role of women in Ivanhoe? How does Scott portray them? In terms of social prejudice and psychological accuracy, do you think his portrayal is objectionable, acceptable, or admirable by the standards of his own time? What about by the standards of our time?
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