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Ivanhoe

Ivanhoe

by Sir Walter Scott

Family Quotes

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Quote #1

"Palestine!" repeated the Saxon – "Palestine! How my ears are turned to the tales which dissolute crusaders or hypocritical pilgrims bring from that fatal land! I too might ask – I too might inquire – I too might listen with a beating heart to fables which the wily strollers devise to cheat us into hospitality; but no – the son who has disobeyed me is no longer mine; nor will I concern myself more for his fate than for that of the most worthless among the millions that ever shaped the cross on their shoulder, rushed into excess and blood-guiltiness, and called it an accomplishment of the will of God." (3.28)

This scene is the first hint we get of Cedric's terrible relationship with his son, Wilfred of Ivanhoe. Cedric has disinherited Ivanhoe because he disobeyed him and went to join King Richard to fight in the Middle East. He still wants to know what's going on with his son, but he refuses to admit that Ivanhoe's fate still affects him.

Politically, Cedric represents the extreme pro-Saxon position in the novel. Emotionally, he is a distant and often unreasonable man. Does his harsh attitude toward his son influence your understanding of or sympathy for his politics? How do his politics affect his compassion?

Quote #2

"We shall cheer [Rowena's] sorrows," said Prince John, "and amend her blood, by wedding her to a Norman. She seems a minor, and must therefore be at our royal disposal in marriage. – How sayst thou, De Bracy? What thinkst thou of gaining fair lands and livings, by wedding a Saxon, after the fashion of the followers of the Conqueror?"

"If the lands are to my liking, my lord," answered De Bracy, "it will be hard to displease me with a bride; and deeply will I hold myself bound to your highness for a good deed, which will fulfil all promises made in favour of your servant and vassal." (13.13-14)

Ivanhoe is a romance, which means it focuses on people's feelings. Bois-Guilbert considers betraying his beloved Knights Templar for the love of Rebecca. And Ivanhoe returns to Rotherwood and reconciles with his father out of love for Rowena. But one of the obstacles to all of this lovey-dovey stuff is an alternative vision of marriage: the political marriage. Here De Bracy wants to marry Rowena because she has lots of land, and Cedric hopes Rowena will marry Athelstane so they can have royal Saxon children. These convenient partnerships have nothing to do with feelings and everything to do with the money and social position of the potential bride and groom. While the romance in Ivanhoe makes a good story, it's much more historically accurate to think of medieval marriage as a political transaction between families, especially among the nobility.

Quote #3

The Saxon had been under very intense and agonizing apprehensions concerning his son; for Nature had asserted her rights, in spite of the patriotic stoicism which laboured to disown her. But no sooner was he informed that Ivanhoe was in careful, and probably in friendly hands, than the paternal anxiety which had been excited by the dubiety of his fate, gave way anew to the feeling of injured pride and resentment, at what he termed Wilfred's filial disobedience.

"Let him wander his way," said he – "let those leech his wounds for whose sake he encountered them. He is fitter to do the juggling tricks of the Norman chivalry than to maintain the fame and honour of his English ancestry with the glaive and brown-bill, the good old weapons of his country."

"If to maintain the honour of ancestry," said Rowena, who was present, "it is sufficient to be wise in council and brave in execution – to be boldest among the bold, and gentlest among the gentle, I know no voice, save his father's --" (18.4-6)

After Ivanhoe's injury and collapse, Cedric freaks out, like any concerned father would. But when Cedric is reassured that Ivanhoe is being well cared for by someone else, he gets all mad again, annoyed that his son has apparently deserted him again, probably for the Normans. Rowena reminds Cedric that Ivanhoe has maintained the "fame and honour of his English ancestry" through his bravery and noble manners. In fact, the pretext for Cedric's resentment of Ivanhoe seems very thin. Yes, he hates the Normans, but come on – his son just defeated five of them right in front of him!

We don't know about you guys, but we feel like Cedric's hatred of Ivanhoe is pretty contrived. It seems like a convenient plot point to keep Ivanhoe in disguise for a while rather than a genuine or believable piece of characterization. How would Ivanhoe be different if Ivanhoe and Cedric were not estranged? What plot points would change or disappear? Would such a change alter the tone of the book?

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