Foreignness and 'The Other' Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
"Submit to my fate!" said Rebecca – "and, sacred Heaven! to what fate? – embrace thy religion! and what religion can it be that harbours such a villain? – thou the best lance of the Templars! – Craven knight! – forsworn priest! I spit at thee, and I defy thee. – The God of Abraham's promise hath opened an escape to his daughter – even from this abyss of infamy!" (24.39)
When Bois-Guilbert demands that Rebecca convert to Christianity, she steadfastly refuses. As she points out, he’s is not making a very strong case for Christianity by being such a jerk to her. Her loyalty to the Jewish faith is one of Rebecca's strongest character traits.
By portraying Rebecca as a Jewish woman who never converts or changes her faith, Ivanhoe differs from a number of the texts Scott refers to in his chapter epigraphs. Christopher Marlowe's Jew of Malta (Chapter 10 epigraph) and William Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice (Chapters 5 and 22 epigraphs) both feature Jewish women characters who wind up converting to Christianity. The strength of Rebecca's faith is a more honest and positive portrayal of a Jewish woman than you might see in some of the English novels and plays that preceded Ivanhoe.
"Pax vobiscum!" said the pseudo friar, and was endeavouring to hurry past, when a soft voice replied, "Et vobis – quoeso, domine reverendissime, pro misericordia vestra."
"I am somewhat deaf," replied Cedric, in good Saxon, and at the same time muttered to himself, "A curse on the fool and his Pax vobiscum! I have lost my javelin at the first cast."
It was, however, no unusual thing for a priest of those days to be deaf of his Latin ear, and this the person who now addressed Cedric knew full well. (26.50-52)
While Cedric hurries through Torquilstone disguised as a monk, he pretends to speak Latin. Unluckily for him, someone addresses him who actually does speak Latin: Rebecca. Rebecca's skill with languages is worth thinking about. While characters like Cedric and Bois-Guilbert express their sense of national identity through the languages they speak, Rebecca speaks Hebrew, Saxon, Norman, and even Latin with equal ease. Her linguistic dexterity shows that she can move through many different social and cultural contexts. But the flip side of this is that Rebecca has to learn multiple languages, since her religious identity as a Jewish woman means that both the Saxons and the Normans exclude her. In a sense, her fluency only emphasizes her lack of belonging and the secure sense of homeland that the other characters take for granted.
The peasant, fumbling in his bosom with a trembling hand, produced a small box, bearing some Hebrew characters on the lid, which was, with most of the audience, a sure proof that the devil had stood apothecary. Beaumanoir, after crossing himself, took the box into his hand, and, learned in most of the Eastern tongues, read with ease the motto on the lid, – "The Lion of the tribe of Judah hath conquered." "Strange powers of Sathanas." said he, "which can convert Scripture into blasphemy, mingling poison with our necessary food! – Is there no leech here who can tell us the ingredients of this mystic unguent?" (37.24)
Beaumanoir is biased and trying to convince the peasants in the courtroom to fear Rebecca by drawing attention to her "foreign" ways. She makes medicine (ooh, how terrifying). She reads Hebrew – which many of the people at her trial seem to think is a sure sign of devil-worshipping and magic spells. Beaumanoir uses the power of his position to present Rebecca in the worst possible light, and he plays on the ignorance and prejudice of his audience to do it.