Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
The beautiful Rebecca had been heedfully brought up in all the knowledge proper to her nation, which her apt and powerful mind had retained, arranged, and enlarged, in the course of a progress beyond her years, her sex, and even the age in which she lived. Her knowledge of medicine and of the healing art had been acquired under an aged Jewess, the daughter of one of their most celebrated doctors, who loved Rebecca as her own child, and was believed to have communicated to her secrets, which had been left to herself by her sage father at the same time, and under the same circumstances. The fate of Miriam had indeed been to fall a sacrifice to the fanaticism of the times; but her secrets had survived in her apt pupil.
Rebecca, thus endowed with knowledge as with beauty, was universally revered and admired by her own tribe, who almost regarded her as one of those gifted women mentioned in the sacred history. (28.13-14)
One of the things that makes Rebecca so interesting as a character is that she has a job. She has studied medicine, and she frequently practices her healing gifts. It's rare for a 19th century English novel to feature a major female character with a profession, let alone medicine. Because Rebecca is an outsider to both Norman and Saxon societies, though, the rules about wealthy and well-born women not working don't apply to her. Rebecca's freedom to study medicine is one way in which her position on the edges of English society works in her favor.
"Pardon my freedom, noble sirs," [Locksley] said, "but in these glades I am monarch – they are my kingdom; and these my wild subjects would reck but little of my power, were I, within my own dominions, to yield place to mortal man." (32.5)
An outlaw is a person who is literally outside the laws and customs of his time and place. This outsider status seems like it should be a position of relative freedom from rules and regulations, but the odd thing about Locksley/Robin Hood's merry band of misfits is that they don't actually ignore regular social hierarchies. Instead, they copy the feudal, lord-and-subject relationships of law-abiding citizens. Locksley's men even have their own version of a legal system.
Even though Locksley is an outlaw and Cedric is a landed nobleman, the major difference we see between them is that Locksley has to keep defending his authority. He doesn't hold power in the forest by right or by birth. Locksley tells the Black Knight that he can't be seen to obey any other man while he's in the forest, or else his men might think him weak. How does Locksley's ruling style compare to King Richard's or Prince John's? What does he use his authority over the outlaws to achieve? What codes of honor do the outlaws appear to obey? How do these honor codes compare to those of the other, more law-abiding characters?