by Sir Walter Scott
Ivanhoe Duty Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"Good brother," replied the inhabitant of the hermitage [the Friar], "it has pleased Our Lady and St Dunstan to destine me for the object of those virtues, instead of the exercise thereof. I have no provisions here which even a dog would share with me, and a horse of any tenderness of nurture would despise my couch – pass therefore on thy way, and God speed thee."
"But how," replied the [Black Knight], "is it possible for me to find my way through such a wood as this, when darkness is coming on? I pray you, reverend father as you are a Christian, to undo your door, and at least point out to me my road."
"And I pray you, good Christian brother," replied the anchorite, "to disturb me no more. You have already interrupted one pater, two aves, and a credo, which I, miserable sinner that I am, should, according to my vow, have said before moonrise." (16.14-16)
When the Black Knight (also known as King Richard) stops by the Friar's broken-down chapel in the middle of the forest, the Friar is initially reluctant to talk to him or give him directions. The Friar claims this is because he is so caught up in his prayers that he can't spare the time to chat with a stranger. The real reason is because he wants to hide his stolen wine and poached deer meat. Characters like Friar Tuck don't seem too concerned with their religious duties. Do we have any counterexamples of true religious faith in the novel? Which characters appear to have real faith?
"What! is it Front-de-Boeuf," said the Black Knight, "who has stopt on the king's highway the king's liege subjects? – Is he turned thief and oppressor?"
"Oppressor he ever was," said Locksley.
"And for thief," said the priest, "I doubt if ever he were even half so honest a man as many a thief of my acquaintance." (20.67-69)
Traveling around his country in disguise gives King Richard information about the true behavior of his lords. Here, for example, he finds out that Reginald Front-de-Boeuf has been stealing from his subjects. This is news to Richard, even if everyone else seems well aware of Front-de-Boeuf's bad nature. And by the way, who is running the country while he's prancing around as the Black Knight? While Richard is clearly one of the heroes of Ivanhoe, it still seems irresponsible of him to spend so little of his time as king actually governing the country. No wonder Prince John was successful in his rebellion.
If, thought [De Bracy], I should be moved by the tears and sorrow of this disconsolate damsel, what should I reap but the loss of these fair hopes for which I have encountered so much risk, and the ridicule of Prince John and his jovial comrades? "And yet," he said to himself, "I feel myself ill framed for the part which I am playing. I cannot look on so fair a face while it is disturbed with agony, or on those eyes when they are drowned in tears. I would she had retained her original haughtiness of disposition, or that I had a larger share of Front-de-Boeuf's thrice-tempered hardness of heart!" (23.31)
As De Bracy watches Rowena cry at the idea of marrying him, he starts to feel guilty. It's difficult for him to turn back on his plan now that he's gotten all of Prince John's knights to help him kidnap her, Cedric, and Athelstane, but he doesn't actually want to harm Rowena or force her to marry him against her will. De Bracy reflects that he is "ill framed" for the part that he's playing; in other words, he's just not cut out to be the tough guy required to carry out this whole scenario.
What's interesting about this reflection is how complex De Bracy's feelings are. Yes, he's a shallow and greedy guy, but he's not a horrible person. He doesn't want to hurt Rowena. De Bracy's second thoughts about the whole kidnapping scheme demonstrate that he's a complex human being. He makes terrible mistakes (which have dire consequences) but he's not simply a villain. While at first the novel seems to set up this Saxon-good / Norman-bad split, it soon becomes clear that it's not as simple as that. There are plenty of vain, stupid Saxons (hi, Athelstane!), and the Normans have morals and regrets just like the rest of us. While Ivanhoe paints a really romanticized picture of medieval England, it's not as black-and-white in its depiction of heroes and villains as it could have been.