Wilfred of Ivanhoe
- Known as Ivanhoe. The son of Cedric; a Saxon knight who is deeply loyal to King Richard I. Ivanhoe was disinherited by his father for following Richard to the Crusades, but he won great glory in the fighting and has been richly rewarded by the king. Ivanhoe is in love with his father's ward, the beautiful Rowena. He represents the epitome of the knightly code of chivalry, heroism, and honor.
King Richard I
- The King of England and the head of the Norman royal line, the Plantagenets. He is known as "Richard the Lion-Hearted" for his valor and courage in battle, and for his love of adventure. As king, Richard cares about his people, but he has a reckless disposition and is something of a thrill-seeker. His courage and prowess are beyond reproach, but he comes under criticism--even from his loyal knight Ivanhoe--for putting his love of adventure ahead of the well-being of his subjects.
- The ward of Cedric the Saxon, a beautiful Saxon lady who is in love with Ivanhoe. Ivanhoe and Rowena are prevented from marrying until the end of the book because Cedric would rather see Rowena married to Athelstane--a match that could reawaken the Saxon royal line. Rowena represents the chivalric ideal of womanhood: She is fair, chaste, virtuous, loyal, and mild-mannered. However, she shows some backbone in defying her guardian by refusing to marry Athelstane.
- A beautiful Jewish maiden, the daughter of Isaac of York. Rebecca tends to Ivanhoe after he is wounded in the tournament at Ashby and falls in love with him despite herself. Rebecca's love for Ivanhoe is in conflict with her good sense; she knows that they can never marry (he is a Christian and she is a Jew), but she is drawn to him nonetheless. Still, she restrains her feelings; Rebecca is a strong-willed woman with an extraordinary degree of self-control. The novel's equivalent of a tragic heroine, she is among the most sympathetic characters in the book.
Cedric the Saxon
- Ivanhoe's father, a powerful Saxon lord who has disinherited his son for following Richard to the Crusades. Cedric is fiercely proud of his Saxon heritage, and his first priority is to the prospects of his people--hence his desire to marry Rowena to Athelstane rather than to Ivanhoe. Cedric's unpolished manners make him the butt of jokes among his Norman superiors, but he has a knack for making grand gestures to restore the balance--as when he shocks Prince John by toasting Richard at John's tournament feast.
- Richard's power-hungry and greedy brother, who sits on the throne of England in Richard's absence. John is a weak and uninspiring ruler who lets himself be pushed around by his powerful Norman nobles. But his tenacious desire to hold the throne makes a great deal of trouble for England; he aggravates tensions between the Saxons and the Normans, and does everything he can to keep Richard in his Austrian prison. John's chief adviser is Waldemar Fitzurse, and his allies include Maurice de Bracy and Reginald Front-de-Boeuf.
Brian de Bois-Guilbert
- A knight of the Templar Order, also known as the Knights-Templars. The Knights-Templars are a powerful international military/religious organization ostensibly dedicated to the conquest of the Holy Land, but in reality is often meddling in European politics. Brian de Bois-Guilbert is a formidable fighter, but he is a weak moralist and often lets his temptations take control of him. Among the most complex characters in Ivanhoe,
de Bois-Guilbert begins the novel as a conventional villain--he and Ivanhoe are mortal enemies--but as the novel progresses, his love for Rebecca brings out his more admirable qualities.
- The leader of a gang of forest outlaws who rob from the rich and give to the poor, Locksley is soon revealed to be none other than Robin Hood. Robin and his merry men help Richard to free the Saxon prisoners from Torquilstone and later save the king from Waldemar Fitzurse's treacherous attack. A gallant, witty, and heroic thief, Robin Hood adds an extra dash of adventure, excitement, and familiarity to the story of Ivanhoe
--after all, the character of Robin Hood was deeply enshrined in English legend long before Scott wrote his novel.
Maurice de Bracy
- A Norman knight who is allied to Prince John. John plans to marry de Bracy to Rowena, but de Bracy becomes impatient and kidnaps her party on its way home from Ashby, imprisoning them in Front-de-Boeuf's stronghold of Torquilstone. In most ways a cardboard villain, de Bracy experiences a strangely humanizing moment shortly after he kidnaps the Saxons: When he tries to force Rowena to marry him, she begins to cry, and he is moved by her tears. To his own surprise, he tries awkwardly to comfort her.
- The ugliest and most brutal villain in the novel, Front-de-Boeuf is a Norman knight allied to Prince John. He runs the stronghold of Torquilstone, where de Bracy brings his Saxon prisoners. Front-de-Boeuf threatens Isaac with torture unless the Jew coughs up 1,000 silver pieces. Front-de-Boeuf is killed in the fight for Torquilstone.
Isaac of York
- Rebecca's father, a wealthy Jew. Isaac is a thoroughly stereotypical literary Jew, cut after the pattern of Shylock in Shakespeare's ##The Merchant of Venice
# an avaricious, somewhat bumbling, but ultimately kind-hearted character who loves money more than anything in the world except his daughter.
- Prince John's chief adviser, who has no great love for the prince, but who has tied his political aspirations to John's success. Fitzurse is a cool, calculating, and treacherous power-seeker, who often reacts calmly to news that makes John panic. At the end of the novel, Fitzurse leads an unsuccessful ambush against King Richard and is banished from England forever.
- Cedric's swineherd, who becomes Ivanhoe's de facto squire. Gurth longs for nothing so much as his freedom, which he finally obtains from Cedric after he helps to orchestrate the attack on Torquilstone.
- Cedric's jester, a witty, incisive Saxon clown, whose barbed comments often mask nuggets of wry wisdom.
- The abbot of a monastery, the prior is nonetheless addicted to good food and pleasure. Used to represent the hypocrisies of the medieval church, Prior Aymer is a companion of Brian de Bois-Guilbert.
- Cedric's porter.
- A high-born Saxon nobleman whom Cedric hopes to see married to Rowena, thinking that their union could reawaken the Saxon royal line.
- A merry monk who befriends King Richard in Robin Hood's forest. He is soon revealed to be none other than the legendary Friar Tuck, a member of Robin Hood's band of merry men.
- The Saxon crone who has lived her life as a consort to the Norman rulers of Torquilstone. At the end of the battle for the castle, she burns it to the ground, taunting Front-de-Boeuf and singing a weird death song as the flames slowly engulf her.
- The stern, moralistic Grand Master of the Knights-Templars.
- The leader of the Templar stronghold of Templestowe. Malvoisin urges Brian de Bois-Guilbert to put aside his love for Rebecca and stay the course of his career with the Templars.
- A religious pilgrim who wears a palm emblem to indicate that he has made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. In reality, the Palmer is Ivanhoe in his first disguise.
The Disinherited Knight
- The name under which Ivanhoe fights in the great tournament at Ashby, using a disguise because he still has not revealed his presence in England.
The Black Knight
- The disguise King Richard uses during most of the novel, when he is still hiding his presence in England. As the mysterious Black Knight, Richard is involved in a spate of adventures: He fights with Ivanhoe (also in disguise) at the tournament, rescues the Saxon prisoners from Torquilstone, and meets Robin Hood and his merry men.