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Sir Walter Scott

Chapters 41-44

Summary Chapters 41-44


Ivanhoe and Gurth approach Richard and his men in the forest; Richard tells Ivanhoe that all the men now know his identity. Ivanhoe criticizes the king for embarking on silly adventures when the nation desperately needs him, but Richard replies that he cannot yet reveal himself to the nation; he is waiting for his allies to raise a formidable force. The companions feast at Robin Hood's camp--for Locksley is now openly declared to be Robin Hood--and then hurry to Coningsburgh Castle for Athelstane's funeral.

To the shock of all present, Athelstane himself appears at the castle, saying that he was only comatose, and not dead, after de Bois-Guilbert's blow. He relates the story of his escape from his own coffin and urges Cedric to grant Rowena to Ivanhoe, saying that he himself is unworthy of her. But as Athelstane tries to join Rowena's hand with Ivanhoe's, the whole assemblage is shocked to see that Ivanhoe and Richard have disappeared.

At Templestowe, a large crowd has gathered for Rebecca's trial-by-combat. De Bois-Guilbert has, against his will, been made the champion of the Templars, so that he will have to fight against Rebecca's champion--if a champion for Rebecca even appears. Friar Tuck and Alan-a-Dale argue about the stories now surrounding Athelstane--he was buried, he rose from the grave--as the crowd waits breathlessly to see what will happen.

At the last possible moment, as de Bois-Guilbert paces his horse impatiently, Ivanhoe charges onto the scene to defend Rebecca. He attacks de Bois-Guilbert, who is forced to defend himself even though if he wins, Rebecca will be killed. Ivanhoe is so exhausted from his hard ride that he falls from his horse at the very first pass. But de Bois-Guilbert tumbles to the ground as well. He is dead, having been killed by the intensity of his own conflicting passions. Ivanhoe wins a curious victory, and Rebecca is saved.

Ivanhoe and Rowena are married at last. Rebecca visits Rowena to congratulate her and to thank her for Ivanhoe's role in saving her life. She and her father are leaving England forever; they plan to resettle in Granada. She does not visit Ivanhoe, who, Scott says, does not think of her more often than Rowena would find acceptable. Over the years to come, Ivanhoe distinguishes himself in the service of King Richard, but his career is cut short by the early death of the king in battle near Limoges, after which perish all the projects Richard had undertaken in his lifetime.


To readers raised on conventional hero stories, the conclusion of Ivanhoe is very peculiar indeed. The beginning of the scene of Rebecca's trial-by-combat builds tension in a very familiar way, as the crowd waits to see whether a hero will arrive to save her, and de Bois-Guilbert begins to despair. At last, a heroic knight charges onto the scene to rescue Rebecca. This is where things become bizarre: When the combat begins, the hero is so tired from hurrying to the scene that he actually loses the fight, only to find himself suddenly victorious when his enemy spontaneously dies. This conclusion may seem unsatisfying to a reader today, and it certainly does not fit the pattern of most medieval stories otherwise similar to Ivanhoe. In fact, it is fairly safe to say that the conclusion of Ivanhoe would not have been possible in any period other than the Romantic era; as it often seems throughout the story, Ivanhoe is more a product of the time during which it was written (1819) than the time during which it is set (1194).