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Ivanhoe- A hero of both Norman and Saxon chivalry

In Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott has the eponymous hero represent a blend of Norman and Saxon values of chivalry during a time of political turmoil in England due to the absence of King Richard. This is apparent through the actions of Ivanhoe, when he follows the Norman king on the third crusade, angering his Saxon father in the process. It is further witnessed through Ivanhoe’s return as the Disinherited Knight. He returns to joust in the tournament for honor, exemplifying the goodness of Norman chivalry.

Through his actions on the field, he forces his father, Cedric, to begrudgingly accept the value of the Norman traits of chivalry; by displaying gallant and desirable traits of Saxon. While Ivanhoe fights in the Norman style, it is his fierce competitiveness, and the sheer strength in which he over-powers his opponents on the field that is viewed by Cedric as desirable traits of a heroic Saxon. These events make it perceptible that Scott is arguing for a stronger monarchy and a unified Great Britain through the presence of the king at home, as an answer for social strife.

While companying King Richard in the Holy Land Ivanhoe partook in such competitions as one Englishman among comrades – an Englishman being the eventual harmony between Norman and Saxon blood. Ivanhoe in these foreign tournaments is seen as a paramount figure showing the strength of a good Saxon knight while fighting with the honor and fortitude of a Norman. Ivanhoe has all the valiant aspects of the chivalrous Knight – strength, honor, and the protection of those below him, but must stay hidden because of the political turmoil between Prince John and King Richard.

[T]he marshals of the field, were the first to offer their congratulations to the victor, praying him, at the same time, to suffer his helmet to be unlaced, or, at least, that he would raise his visor ere they conducted him to receive the prize of the day’s tourney from the hands of Prince John. The Disinherited Knight, with all knightly courtesy, declined their request, alleging that he could not at this time suffer his face to be seen (Scott 85) Even before his enemies he shows nothing but the honesty and fortitude of a true knight of the Norman and Saxon era.

He joins the tournament as a point of honor, but must stay hidden because of the political rift between the rightful King and his brother. Through this we see the division in English society without the just rule of Richard the Lion Heart. A Chivalrous Knight, proven on a field of honor, cannot even show his face to those who are hosting the tournament. The simple action of hiding his face brings to light how deep the conflict between the Prince and his allies against the absent King Richard are; “It might be the King – it might be Richard Coeur de Lion himself!

” (Scott 86). “ ‘Over God’s forbode! ’ said Prince John, involuntarily turning at the same time as pale as death, and shrinking as if blighted by a flash of lightning; ‘Waldemar! -De Bracy! Brave knights and gentleman, remember your promises, and stand truly by me! ’” (Scott 87). Prince John is fearful that once his brother King Richard returns he will overturn the oppressive rule that Prince John currently enjoys. He calls upon his mercenaries and the Lord’s that profit from the subjection of the lower classes to stand by him against the King’s power.

From the very outset of Sir Walter Scott’s masterpiece he exemplifies the point that the King protects his subjects from the oppression of the Nobility. This refers to a period towards “[The]…end of the reign of Richard I. , when his return from his long captivity had become an event rather wished than hoped for by his despairing subjects, who were in the meantime subjected to every type of subordinate oppression” (Scott 15). The fore-mentioned statement shows how Scott saw the king as a protector of the lesser classes against the oppression of those in the higher classes of society.

It is clear from his language that he ‘rather wished than hoped for’ that the King was the only recourse the citizens looked too in which to solve their ‘subordinate oppression’”. In other words, once the King returned he’d bring with him justice and unity because he was a man not just for the Nobility but the buttress of English society as a whole. Sir Scott almost comes out of the pages and says to us – without a strong Monarch we have corruption, greed, and social unrest as the rulers of the land. Sir Scott emphasis the differences in English Society calling characters by their specific places – Templar, Saxon, Clergy, and Jew.

In contrast when he speaks of King Richard and those in his company they are simply Englishman – united and equal. “… [H]ad Richard of the Lion’s Heart been wise enough to have taken a fool’s advice, he might have staid at home with his merry Englishman…” (Scott 49-50). “[T]he English monarch did, indeed, bring to Palestine a host of gallant warriors…” (Scott 50). These warriors included Saxon and Norman, both being equal in the company of the King without one oppressing the other. Even Cedric the Saxon, an avid hater of the Norman Nobility, respected the Norman King Richard, “I forgive him his descent from the tyrant Duke William.

” (Scott 50). Cedric is a man who will not even touch or be more than three paces distance within the company of a Norman, but he obviously sees King Richard as an Englishman with Norman blood. Cedric forgives King Richard’s ancestry and accepts him as part of his society. Scott emphasizes this by the way he has Cedric describe his thoughts of the King’s actions in Palestine. This in turn kindles a national pride that trumps his hatred for his Norman countryman, “forgot, in part at least, his hatred to the Norman’s in the common triumph of the King of England and his islanders” (Scott 51).

Sir Scott is showing us how King Richard, a Norman, is a bridge between the discord of the Saxon and Normans. Again, when people are described in the company of King Richard, it is done so in a general sense. Not only does the King bridge the differences between Saxon and Norman, but he protects all his citizens from the unjust powers of the church. When the church uses its political power to unjustly oppress even the most loathed sect of society, for example the Jewess Rebecca, he takes swift action against the Knights Templar.

Who dares to arrest a knight of the Temple of Zion, within the girth of his own preceptory, and in the presence of the Grand Master? And by whose authority is this bold outrange offered? I make the arrest, replied the knight – I, Henry Bohun, Earl of Essex, Lord High Constable of England. And he arrests Malviosin, said the King, raising his visor, by order of Richard Plantaganet, here present. (392-393 Scott) Richard even takes direct action against this religious order that is using its power against his people.

“ ‘Proud Templar,’ said the King, ‘thou canst not- look up, and behold the royal standard of England floats over thy towers instead of thy Temple banner! -Be wise, Beaumanior, and make no bootless opposition- Thy hand is in the lion’s mouth” (Scott 393). In other words, the church has met its match –a strong King who’s not afraid to use his power. He uses the image of the church banner replaced by the King’s standard, amplifying Sir Scott’s principle argument for a society equal under the King’s law.

Works Cited

Scott, Sir Walter. Ivanhoe. London: Penguin Books; reprint edition, 1986.

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