by Sir Walter Scott
Ivanhoe Justice and Judgment Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"It matters not who I am," said Cedric; "proceed, unhappy woman, with thy tale of horror and guilt! – Guilt there must be – there is guilt even in thy living to tell it."
"There is – there is," answered the wretched woman, "deep, black, damning guilt, – guilt, that lies like a load at my breast – guilt, that all the penitential fires of hereafter cannot cleanse. – Yes, in these halls, stained with the noble and pure blood of my father and my brethren – in these very halls, to have lived the paramour of their murderer, the slave at once and the partaker of his pleasures, was to render every breath which I drew of vital air, a crime and a curse." (27.9-10)
This scene between Ulrica and Cedric is one of the ugliest in all of Ivanhoe. Essentially, Cedric tells Ulrica that she must be feeling guilty about living when she was supposed to have been murdered along with her father and seven brothers. In today's terms, we would say that Ulrica has survivor's guilt. Cedric also seems to hold her responsible for her own assault at the hands of Front-de-Boeuf Senior. He appears to think it's her fault for being brutally raped by the Normans. The idea that Ulrica is to blame for being victimized, or that she should have died rather than give in to Front-de-Boeuf Senior, seems appalling today. What do you think of Scott's portrayal of Ulrica?
"Bestow not on me, Sir Knight," she said, "the epithet of noble. It is well you should speedily know that your handmaiden is a poor Jewess, the daughter of that Isaac of York, to whom you were so lately a good and kind lord. It well becomes him, and those of his household, to render to you such careful tendance as your present state necessarily demands."
I know not whether the fair Rowena would have been altogether satisfied with the species of emotion with which her devoted knight had hitherto gazed on the beautiful features, and fair form, and lustrous eyes, of the lovely Rebecca; eyes whose brilliancy was shaded, and, as it were, mellowed, by the fringe of her long silken eyelashes, and which a minstrel would have compared to the evening star darting its rays through a bower of jessamine. But Ivanhoe was too good a Catholic to retain the same class of feelings towards a Jewess. This Rebecca had foreseen, and for this very purpose she had hastened to mention her father's name and lineage; yet – for the fair and wise daughter of Isaac was not without a touch of female weakness – she could not but sigh internally when the glance of respectful admiration, not altogether unmixed with tenderness, with which Ivanhoe had hitherto regarded his unknown benefactress, was exchanged at once for a manner cold, composed, and collected, and fraught with no deeper feeling than that which expressed a grateful sense of courtesy received from an unexpected quarter, and from one of an inferior race. It was not that Ivanhoe's former carriage expressed more than that general devotional homage which youth always pays to beauty; yet it was mortifying that one word should operate as a spell to remove poor Rebecca, who could not be supposed altogether ignorant of her title to such homage, into a degraded class, to whom it could not be honourably rendered. (28.23-24)
Okay, we know that Bois-Guilbert is generally a total jerk, but this is one case where we think he's better than Ivanhoe. When Ivanhoe first wakes up from his post-tournament fainting fit, he finds Rebecca looking after him. He thinks she looks absolutely lovely and is attracted to her. As soon as she tells him she's Jewish, though, he immediately becomes cold and distant – he is tainted by the prejudice of his people. Even though Rebecca expects this offensive response, she can't help but be disappointed by Ivanhoe's sudden lack of interest in her. Bois-Guilbert may be a proud, cruel man, but at least he's capable of appreciating Rebecca's worth. He doesn't let the empty prejudices of medieval Europe cloud his judgment entirely (though he is certainly still an anti-Semitic character). Ivanhoe's ungrateful interactions with Rebecca when she is trying to treat his injuries really lower our assessment of his character.
"In God's name, Diccon, an thou canst, aid me to recover the child of my bosom!" [said Isaac].
"Do not thou interrupt me with thine ill-timed avarice," said the Outlaw, "and I will deal with him in thy behalf." (33.66-67)
When Isaac and Prior Aymer both find themselves captives of the outlaws of the forest, the outlaws joke around, trying to get as much cash out of them as they can. But when one of the outlaws tells Isaac that Rebecca has been kidnapped by Bois-Guilbert, the outlaw captain (Locksley/Robin Hood/Diccon Bend-the-Bow) feels bad. It turns out Locksley owes Rebecca a favor, so he decides to help Isaac get Rebecca back.
Here's what we don't understand: later in the chapter, Locksley cuts Isaac a deal on his ransom – he'll only ask for 500 crowns instead of 1,000 so Isaac will have some left over to bribe Bois-Guilbert. But if Locksley were really being generous or noble, he wouldn't demand any ransom at all; he would just let poor Isaac go find Rebecca. What kind of justice is this? What does this say about Locksley/Robin Hood's character?