by Sir Walter Scott
Ivanhoe Identity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Oswald, the cupbearer, modestly suggested, "That it was scarce an hour since the tolling of the curfew" – an ill-chosen apology, since it turned upon a topic so harsh to Saxon ears.
"The foul fiend," exclaimed Cedric, "take the curfew-bell, and the tyrannical bastard by whom it was devised, and the heartless slave who names it with a Saxon tongue to a Saxon ear! The curfew! he added, pausing, "ay, the curfew; which compels true men to extinguish their lights, that thieves and robbers may work their deeds in darkness! – Ay, the curfew; – Reginald Front-de-Boeuf and Philip de Malvoisin know the use of the curfew as well as William the Bastard himself, or e'er a Norman adventurer that fought at Hastings." (3.13-14)
This explosion of bad temper from Cedric perfectly illustrates his identity. Above all, Cedric is a Saxon – not a Norman. Here he is irritated that both Gurth and Rowena are holding up his evening meal. One of his servants reminds him that it's only just past curfew, and Cedric explodes: it's all the tyrannical Normans' fault! They're the ones who started the curfew in the first place so they could rob innocent Saxons! Even something as ordinary as a delayed dinner reminds Cedric that the Normans are jerks. Cedric's readiness to jump to conclusions about Norman evil calls into question how realistic or objective his anti-Norman position is.
"Good Father Aymer," said the Saxon, "be it known to you, I care not for those over-sea refinements, without which I can well enough take my pleasure in the woods. I can wind my horn, though I call not the blast either a recheat or a mort; I can cheer my dogs on the prey, and I can flay and quarter the animal when it is brought down, without using the new-fangled jargon of curée, arbor, nombles, and all the babble of the fabulous Sir Tristrem."
"The French, said the Templar, raising his voice with the presumptuous and authoritative tone which he used upon all occasions, "is not only the natural language of the chase, but that of love and of war, in which ladies should be won and enemies defied." (5.19-20)
Language is a major part of a person's identity. This language difference matters particularly to Cedric, since he associates Norman French with "over-sea refinements" and elaborate, newfangled ways. Saxon, on the other hand, is the language of time-honored tradition. For Bois-Guilbert, French is the best language for "love and [for] war." Saxon has no importance for him at all – he refuses to learn or to speak it, even when he is a guest at Cedric's hall at Rotherwood.
Of course, this whole squabble seems irrelevant in the 21st century. The language you're reading now is a true mixture of both Norman French and Anglo-Saxon Old English. Modern English contains both, without any cultural distinction between the two. Cedric and Bois-Guilbert's pride appears pointless now, which may be part of Scott's point.
Whether from love of form or from curiosity, the marshals paid no attention to his expressions of reluctance, but unhelmed him by cutting the laces of his casque, and undoing the fastening of his gorget. When the helmet was removed, the well-formed yet sun-burnt features of a young man of twenty-five were seen, amidst a profusion of short fair hair. His countenance was as pale as death, and marked in one or two places with streaks of blood. (12.42)
At last, a quarter of the way through the novel that bears his name, we finally see Ivanhoe unmasked. This book has a ton of people in disguise: first Ivanhoe, as the Pilgrim or the Disinherited Knight, then King Richard, as the Black Sluggard or the Knight of the Fetterlock, and then Robin Hood, as the Captain of the outlaws or Robert Locksley. Why do you think Ivanhoe makes so much use of hidden or mistaken identities? Did you catch on to any (or all) of these characters' true identities before their big reveals?