by Sir Walter Scott
Ivanhoe Identity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"There is none," replied [the Friar], "from the scissors of Delilah, and the tenpenny nail of Jael, to the scimitar of Goliath, at which I am not a match for thee – But, if I am to make the election, what sayst thou, good friend, to these trinkets?" (16.62)
We've noticed that there are a handful of characters who tend to swear all the time (not cursing, but swearing on something, like when people say, "I swear on my grandma's grave…") all the time. The Friar is one: he's constantly swearing oaths to various Biblical figures, as in this passage. Gurth also likes to swear to different Saxon saints, including Saint Withold and Saint Dunstan. Norman Maurice de Bracy can barely speak a single line without mentioning a different Catholic saint. Similarly, Isaac of York frequently calls out to the great Jewish patriarchs Abraham and Jacob, and King David.
These references become a way of identifying the social position of each of these men. Gurth and the Friar are both Saxons, so they swear to Saxon saints. They're also on the lower end of the social scale, so they tend to swear more often than higher-class characters. De Bracy is frequently criticized by his fellow Templars for his superstitious faith in the saints. He's less stern and tough than Bois-Guilbert or Beaumanoir, and his manner of speaking proves it. And Isaac's frequent oaths remind the characters of his Jewish faith, since he swears to Abraham rather than to a Christian saint. Oaths become another tool for characterization.
(For more on Delilah and Jael, check out our list of "Allusions: Biblical, Legendary, and Mythological References.")
And thus it is probable, that the Jews, by the very frequency of their fear on all occasions, had their minds in some degree prepared for every effort of tyranny which could be practised upon them; so that no aggression, when it had taken place, could bring with it that surprise which is the most disabling quality of terror. Neither was it the first time that Isaac had been placed in circumstances so dangerous. He had therefore experience to guide him, as well as hope, that he might again, as formerly, be delivered as a prey from the fowler. Above all, he had upon his side the unyielding obstinacy of his nation, and that unbending resolution, with which Israelites have been frequently known to submit to the uttermost evils which power and violence can inflict upon them, rather than gratify their oppressors by granting their demands. (22.3)
As Isaac is waiting to be threatened and tortured by Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, he seems calm and resigned to his fate. Scott claims that because Jewish people were so regularly abused during the Middle Ages, threats of torture didn't affect them as strongly as they might other people. What he's describing here is a kind of passive resistance to prejudice. None of the Jewish characters in Ivanhoe ever take up weapons or attack their oppressors, but neither do they simply give in to their demands. Instead, Rebecca and her father both do their best to maintain their pride amid all this abuse. What are the advantages of passive resistance to prejudice and racism? What are of the disadvantages?
"What wouldst thou have of me," said Rebecca, "if not my wealth? – We can have nought in common between us – you are a Christian – I am a Jewess. – Our union were contrary to the laws, alike of the church and the synagogue."
"It were so, indeed," replied the Templar, laughing; "wed with a Jewess? Despardieux! – Not if she were the Queen of Sheba! And know, besides, sweet daughter of Zion, that were the most Christian king to offer me his most Christian daughter, with Languedoc for a dowery, I could not wed her. It is against my vow to love any maiden, otherwise than par amours, as I will love thee. I am a Templar. Behold the cross of my Holy Order." (24.29-30)
Obviously Rebecca doesn't want to marry Bois-Guilbert – her heart belongs to Ivanhoe. But she voices her lack of interest in Bois-Guilbert as a problem of religion: neither Bois-Guilbert's Christian church nor Rebecca's Jewish synagogue would allow an interfaith marriage. Rebecca makes it sound like the two of them are different species – she claims they "can have nought in common between" them. Clearly, attitudes towards interfaith marriages have changed for the better since the 1190s – and even since the 1810s, when Scott was writing.