[ About Sir Walter Scott | About the Novel | About the Setting ]

 

About Sir Walter Scott
From what little I have learned about Sir Walter Scott himself, I can see that he was a man that promoted tolerance, openness, and generosity. His sense of honor was strong, as was his sense of modesty and gregariousness. I have also heard from other sources that he was well-liked and admired, and given to throwing large parties at his estate in Scotland. Definitely one of the people I would like to model myself after.

Abbotsford
Sir Walter Scott's Scottish Estate

 

The Novel
Ivanhoe is not an easy book to read by our modern standards. It was, after all, written nearly 200 years ago, so the language necessarily takes some getting used to. The plot seems fairly straightforward, but there are a number of interesting turns and twists that are unexpected (though others might, admittedly, seem somewhat trite these days; however, I am certain that they were unprecedented in Sir Walter Scott's day). I am most fond, however, of Scott's portrayal of his characters, particularly the Jewess Rebecca. Though Scott depicts in scorching detail the horrific treatment of Jews in medieval England (I occasionally got the sense that Scott approved of such treatment, though it is obvious in many places that his portrayal is satiric in nature), the way he portrays Rebecca is wonderful. She is a deeply-realized and complex character, as are most of the other characters in this book.

 

The Setting
Ivanhoe takes place in England, about two hundred years after the Battle of Hastings. Tensions between the Normans and the Saxons are still quite high, and that tension is the basic force which drives the plot of the novel. I am not, unfortunately, a medievalist or anything like one, so I am unfamiliar with the history and setting of the novel. I've been trying to track down websites and books which might help familiarize me, but haven't been too successful so far.

  • Medieval Sourcebook (Everything medieval!)