by Sir Walter Scott
Ivanhoe Principles Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
The champions were therefore prohibited to thrust with the sword, and were confined to striking. A knight, it was announced, might use a mace or battle-axe at pleasure; but the dagger was a prohibited weapon. A knight unhorsed might renew the fight on foot with any other on the opposite side in the same predicament; but mounted horsemen were in that case forbidden to assail him. (12.14)
This is only a small part of the rules for the second day of the tournament, when two opposing teams of knights fight together in a mock battle. All of these rules and regulations work together to make the violence of the fights manageable and fun for the spectators. In fact, except for the small-scale siege of Torquilstone, Front-de-Boeuf's castle, there aren't any true battles in this novel. There are tournaments, duels and tussles, but the violence of both the Crusades and of the Norman invasion happens off-screen, before the novel even takes place. These large-scale events serve as a backdrop to Ivanhoe, but the action of the book is mostly personal and even anticlimactic (in the case of Bois-Guilbert's sudden stroke during his joust with Ivanhoe). Why might Scott choose to focus on tournaments rather than real wars? How would this novel be different if Scott had tried to represent the Crusades or the Norman invasion directly?
[The interest of the men in the audience] showed itself in loud acclamations upon every change of fortune, while all eyes were so riveted on the lists that the spectators seemed as if they themselves had dealt and received the blows which were there so freely bestowed. And between every pause was heard the voice of the heralds, exclaiming, "Fight on, brave knights! Man dies, but glory lives! Fight on; death is better than defeat! Fight on, brave knights! for bright eyes behold your deeds!" (12.22)
The fact that people used to fight each other with swords to amuse an audience is proof of how savage the Middle Ages were, according to the narrator. Have things really changed all that much, though? It's a shame Scott didn't live long enough to see a mixed martial arts tournament.
It's also striking that the heralds encourage the knights to fight for two concepts: glory and "bright eyes" – i.e. ladies. Ideals of honor and courtly love are both extremely important to the codes of chivalry. Among the knights fighting in this scene (Bois-Guilbert, Ivanhoe, Front-de-Boeuf, etc.) who would you say is most chivalrous? Who best fits your image of an ideal knight? Why?
"I did injustice," he said, "to the thieves and outlaws of these woods, when I supposed such banditti to belong to their bands; I might as justly have confounded the foxes of these brakes with the ravening wolves of France. Tell me, dogs – is it my life or my wealth that your master aims at? Is it too much that two Saxons, myself and the noble Athelstane, should hold land in the country which was once the patrimony of our race? (21.25)
Arriving at Front-de-Boeuf's castle, we're treated to one of Cedric's typical anti-Norman rants. Cedric gets into a grey area, though, when he starts talking about England as "the patrimony of [the Saxon] race." A patrimony is an estate that has belonged to a particular family or people since ancient times. That's not really right, though. The Saxons were not the native people of England. When they arrived in the 5th century, they conquered the Celtic people who lived there before them. Looks like Cedric's Saxon nationalism is at least a bit hypocritical.