by Sir Walter Scott
Ivanhoe Principles Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"Answer me not," said the Templar [Bois-Guilbert], "by urging the difference of our creeds; within our secret conclaves we hold these nursery tales in derision. Think not we long remained blind to the idiotical folly of our founders, who forswore every delight of life for the pleasure of dying martyrs by hunger, by thirst, and by pestilence, and by the swords of savages, while they vainly strove to defend a barren desert, valuable only in the eyes of superstition. Our Order soon adopted bolder and wider views, and found out a better indemnification for our sacrifices. Our immense possessions in every kingdom of Europe, our high military fame, which brings within our circle the flower of chivalry from every Christian clime – these are dedicated to ends of which our pious founders little dreamed, and which are equally concealed from such weak spirits as embrace our Order on the ancient principles, and whose superstition makes them our passive tools." (24.58)
Finally, all the masks come off. Bois-Guilbert may pose as a high-and-mighty Christian, but only because he gets more power that way. In fact, he regards Jerusalem itself as "valuable only in the eyes of superstition." He believes that underneath all the propaganda, the Knights Templar is a nonreligious organization dedicated to gaining world power with its fighting forces. He promises Rebecca that he and his soldiers will be seizing the thrones of Europe before too long. How can she turn down a man with this kind of ambition? But Bois-Guilbert's ambition is also terrifying. He's talking about literally revolutionizing the world and overturning religions and governments alike. If you were in Rebecca's position, what would you think of Bois-Guilbert's ambitions? How does his ambition affect your sense of him as a character?
"Alas!" said the fair Jewess, "and what is it, valiant knight, save an offering of sacrifice to a demon of vain glory, and a passing through the fire to Moloch? – What remains to you as the prize of all the blood you have spilled – of all the travail and pain you have endured – of all the tears which your deeds have caused, when death hath broken the strong man's spear, and overtaken the speed of his war-horse?"
"What remains?" cried Ivanhoe; "Glory, maiden, glory! which gilds our sepulchre and embalms our name."
"Glory?" continued Rebecca; "alas, is the rusted mail which hangs as a hatchment over the champion's dim and mouldering tomb – is the defaced sculpture of the inscription which the ignorant monk can hardly read to the enquiring pilgrim – are these sufficient rewards for the sacrifice of every kindly affection, for a life spent miserably that ye may make others miserable? Or is there such virtue in the rude rhymes of a wandering bard, that domestic love, kindly affection, peace and happiness, are so wildly bartered, to become the hero of those ballads which vagabond minstrels sing to drunken churls over their evening ale?" (29.61-63)
As Rebecca describes the battle of Torquilstone to Ivanhoe, they get into a deep philosophical argument about the morality of warfare. Ivanhoe is on the pro-violence side – he thinks dying for a glorious cause leads to lasting fame and greatness. Rebecca thinks war disrupts families and destroys useful lives.
We'll leave it up to you guys to decide which is more important, glory or peace. However, we do think it's interesting that Scott stops the action at Torquilstone to consider what all of this violence really means. After all, Ivanhoe is the early 19th century version of an action movie, and not many action movies would stop in the middle to discuss whether the action is moral. Why do you think Scott includes this discussion between Rebecca and Ivanhoe? How does it contribute to the tone of the Torquilstone battle scenes?
"And a brave addition to the kingdom of Satan," said De Bracy; "this comes of reviling saints and angels, and ordering images of holy things and holy men to be flung down on the heads of these rascaille yeomen."
"Go to – thou art a fool," said the Templar; "thy superstition is upon a level with Front-de-Boeuf's want of faith; neither of you can render a reason for your belief or unbelief." (30.4-5)
De Bracy blames Front-de-Boeuf's violent death on his frequent anti-Christian curses and blasphemies. Bois-Guilbert thinks both De Bracy and Front-de-Boeuf are fools – De Bracy for his unthinking attachment to religion and Front-de-Boeuf for his equally thoughtless disrespect. Bois-Guilbert seems to think both belief and unbelief should be equally based on rational thought. He believes that if you can't provide a reason for your beliefs, what's the point of having them?
But here's a question we frequently think about at three in the morning: can you reason your way to true religious faith? Aren't faith and reason two different (maybe even opposing) things? In a debate over religious belief, would you side with De Bracy's unquestioning faith, or with Bois-Guilbert's rationality?