Study Guide

Ivanhoe Chapter 37

By Sir Walter Scott

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Chapter 37

  • This chapter's epigraph is another poem from Scott, this one on the subject of justice in the Middle Ages. The poem says that the toughest courts of the time were those that justified their domination and cruelty in the name of God.
  • At Rebecca's trial, Lucas Beaumanoir and his attendants and priests are all sitting on a raised platform looking down at her.
  • The lower part of the hall is filled with local people coming to stare at the "Jewish sorceress" (37.4).
  • The Grand Master of the Order of the Knights Templar (Beaumanoir) is also there.
  • Bois-Guilbert has left his usual place among the leaders of the Knights Templar. He's leaning against a wall of the room looking uncomfortable.
  • Beaumanoir thinks this is further evidence of Rebecca's enchantments.
  • He calls the trial to order.
  • First he reads out a list of Bois-Guilbert's crimes in both Latin and English:
  • (a) he broke the rules of the Templars;
  • (b) he spoke to someone outside the Church;
  • (c) he spoke to – and even tried to kiss – a woman.
  • If Bois-Guilbert did these things <em>willingly</em>, the Templars would have to punish him.
  • But since he is probably under the spell of Satan, cast by Rebecca, it's not Bois-Guilbert's fault.
  • The first round of witnesses testifies to Bois-Guilbert's heroic risk of his own life when he ran into the burning castle to save Rebecca.
  • Albert testifies that when Bois-Guilbert arrived at Templestowe with Rebecca, he seemed almost <em>crazed </em>with love for her.
  • Beaumanoir is pleased with Albert's testimony and barely punishes him for letting a woman into the building: he sentences Albert to a few extra prayers and says he cannot eat meat for the next week.
  • One of the Templars asks what Bois-Guilbert thinks of his own crimes.
  • Bois-Guilbert refuses to answer such ridiculous charges against him.
  • Beaumanoir says he's possessed, and they move on with the trial.
  • Next Beaumanoir wants to hear more about Rebecca.
  • They bring out a crying Saxon peasant, Higg, who testifies that Rebecca gave him an ointment to help heal his sickness.
  • Higg thinks there was no harm in it, but Beaumanoir shuts him up.
  • Higg shows Beaumanoir the ointment.
  • It has Hebrew words written on it, which, to the ignorant and bigoted audience, is proof that there is something wrong with it.
  • Two doctors appear in court to say they can't tell what's in the ointment; it's a complete mystery.
  • Beaumanoir then demands that Rebecca appear before the court.
  • Two guards who were at Torquilstone with Bois-Guilbert testify that Rebecca frequently muttered to herself in strange languages and that her rings are covered with mystical symbols.
  • One adds that she cured a man using magic spells (an exaggerated reference to Ivanhoe himself).
  • The other claims that he saw her transform into a swan and fly three times around the main tower.
  • All of this "evidence" is enough to convince the Templars that Rebecca is a witch.
  • Rebecca stands up and says all of these claims against her are absurd.
  • She demands that Bois-Guilbert tell the court what really happened between them.
  • But Bois-Guilbert only says one thing: "The scroll – the scroll!" (37.43).
  • Beaumanoir takes this as proof that Rebecca has used a magical scroll to keep Bois-Guilbert silent.
  • Rebecca opens the message that was stuffed in her hand before the trial.
  • It says, in Arabic, "Demand a champion!" (37.45).
  • Rebecca has no hope of winning in a trial this biased, so she demands a trial by combat to prove her innocence.
  • Rebecca believes God will provide her with a champion.
  • So she throws her glove down in front of Beaumanoir as a symbol of her challenge.

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