Athelstane is a Saxon nobleman and a descendant of the last Saxon king of England. Cedric hopes to marry Rowena to Athelstane as a way of continuing the line of Saxon nobles. While Athelstane, generally a sluggish man more interested in drink and food, wants to marry Rowena, she has no interest in him.
Aymer is the prior of the monastery at Jorvaulx. He is one of de Bois-Guilbert’s associates. He is more interested in the finer things in life than in religion.
Beaumanoir, a sternly moral man, is the grand master of the Knights Templar and one of the characters who orchestrates the trial of Rebecca on charges of practicing witchcraft.
See Richard I
Brian de Bois-Guilbert
De Bois-Guilbert is a Norman knight and the primary villain of the novel. He is a member of the Knights Templar, an order of knights originally formed to protect Christian pilgrims visiting the Holy Land during the Crusades that later acquired secular power and wealth. De BoisGuilbert is struck by Rebecca’s beauty and character, so he tries to force himself on her and, later, to persuade her to elope with him. In this way he offends his superiors in the Knights Templar, who are disgusted that he could even consider a relationship with a Jew. Although de Bois-Guilbert is a villain, he is the one character who undergoes change and development. Initially, he lusts after Rebecca and wants simply to possess her. As he gets to know her better, his love for her becomes more genuine, and he seems to care about her welfare. Nevertheless, he abducts her and carries her away to the Templar stronghold. When she is being tried for witchcraft, he is torn, knowing that her life is in danger. Though willing to take part in a trial by combat that, it is believed, would prove her guilt or innocence, de Bois-Guilbert recognizes that if he wins the combat, Rebecca will be found guilty of witchcraft and sentenced to death. If he loses, he will pay with his own life. His admiration for Rebecca’s strength of character in resisting him is presented as a positive trait.
Maurice de Bracy
De Bracy is a Norman knight and an ally of Prince John. He is one of the novel’s villains and is attracted to Rowena, whom he abducts and carries off to Front-de-Boeuf’s castle, Torquilstone. He is not entirely evil, though. When he tries to force himself on Rowena and she begins to cry, he feels sympathy for her plight and tries to give her comfort.
Cedric, a Saxon noble, is the father of Ivanhoe and the protector of Rowena. He is representative of Saxons in general by his fierce pride and his resentment of the Normans, whom he regards as arrogant and who, in turn, regard him as coarse and unsophisticated. This resentment caused him to disinherit Ivanhoe, who serves the Norman king, Richard I. He opposes any marriage of Rowena and Ivanhoe, preferring instead to give his ward’s hand to Athelstane, a Saxon, thus resurrecting the Saxon royal line. Cedric is good at heart, though, as suggested by his granting freedom to the swineherd Gurth and his eventual acceptance of Ivanhoe.
Fitzurse is one of Prince John’s closest advisers. He has little admiration for John, but he believes it is to his advantage to connect his fortune with John’s. He is calculating and calm, particularly in the face of news that panics John. He leads the raid to capture Richard in the forest, for which he is banished from England.
Front-de-Boeuf is the novel’s most villainous character. He is an ally of Prince John, and it is to his castle that the Saxon prisoners are taken. He threatens Isaac with torture unless his captive turns over a thousand pieces of silver. He is killed in the battle at his castle.
Gurth is a swineherd who longs for his freedom, which he gains as a reward for helping to organize the attack on Torquilstone. Along with Wamba, he provides a note of comedy in the novel. In time, he becomes a virtual squire to Ivanhoe.
Isaac of York
Isaac is a Jew who comes from the city of York and is the father of Rebecca. He is depicted as ultimately kind-hearted, and he deeply loves his daughter. However, he is also depicted in a way consistent with stereotypes of Jews both at the time of the novel’s action and at the time when Scott wrote. The chief stereotype is that he is overly concerned with money and that he is something of a bumbler.
Ivanhoe’s formal name isWilfred of Ivanhoe. He is the son of Cedric, a Saxon noble. Before the novel begins, he joined King Richard I in fighting the Third Crusade (1189–1193), earning a reputation as a courageous and chivalric knight. Although he is the novel’s title character, he plays a somewhat limited role, as he is injured for much of the time. His role is largely symbolic, for although he is a Saxon, he is loyal to the Norman king Richard. He thus represents the inevitable blending of the Norman and Saxon cultures and a bridge between England’s Saxon past and its future. He also symbolizes knightly honor, in contrast to the villainy of the novel’s antagonists. In the end, he marries Rowena, Cedric’s ward, and continues to serve King Richard. Ivanhoe makes his first appearance in the novel disguised as a palmer, a term used to describe pilgrims who indicate that they have been to the Holy Land by wearing crossed palm leaves. Later, he competes in the tournament at Ashby as, appropriately, the Disinherited Knight.
Prince John, brother of Richard I, occupies the throne of England while Richard is fighting in the Crusades and, later, while Richard is being held for ransom by the Austrians. He is a weak and villainous ruler so eager to retain the throne that he does all he can to ensure that Richard remains a captive. He is terrified when he learns that Richard has returned to England.
Locksley is the name by which Robin Hood is known in the novel, possibly because some legends held that he came from the town of Loxley. He and his band of ‘‘merry men,’’ including Friar Tuck and Alan-a-Dale, were forest outlaws who robbed from the rich and gave the money to the poor. Locksley and his men play a key role in freeing the Saxon prisoners from Front-deBoeuf’s castle, Torquilstone. Beyond that, Locksley and his band add comedy, adventure, and action to the novel by appearing at key moments, seemingly out of nowhere, to help the sympathetic characters.
Albert de Malvoisin
Malvoisin leads the Templar forces at the order’s stronghold at Templestowe. He strongly opposes de Bois-Guilbert’s relationship with Rebecca, arguing to the knight that such a relationship could ruin the knight’s career.
Rebecca is Isaac’s beautiful and strong-willed daughter, and a Jew. She was based on Rebecca Gratz, a Jewish woman from Philadelphia whom Scott briefly met. After Ivanhoe is injured during the tournament at Ashby, she nurses him, and in the process falls in love with him. She knows that they can never marry because Ivanhoe is a Christian. She plays the part of the medieval damsel in distress after she catches the attention of Brian de BoisGuilbert, a Norman villain who initially lusts for her but in time falls in love with her and urges her to elope with him. Rebecca steadfastly resists his advances. After de Bois-Guilbert abducts her and carries her away to the stronghold of the Knights Templar, his superiors in the order, believing that he is disgracing the order by his relationship with a Jew, accuse her of witchcraft. Her guilt during her trial for witchcraft is a foregone conclusion, but she is saved when Ivanhoe arrives as her champion and fights de Bois-Guilbert. Rebecca is treated with great sympathy and thus becomes to some degree symbolic of Scott’s belief that Jews in England should be treated with greater acceptance.
Richard is the king of England and a Norman. He is at the head of the Norman royal line of succession, the Plantagenets. He won glory on the field of battle during the Third Crusade (1189–1193), but as he was returning to England, he was captured and held for ransom by the Austrians. He initially appears in the novel disguised as the Black Knight and plays a key role in defending the heroic characters against the plots of the villains. Although he is a good king who cares about his people, he is depicted as a bit of an adventurer who sometimes puts his desire for adventure and martial glory over the good of his people.
Rowena is Cedric’s ward; that is, she lives under his protection. She is depicted as the ideal of medieval womanhood by being submissive and virtuous, as well as beautiful. Her beauty attracts the unwanted attentions of Maurice de Bracy, who kidnaps her. Rowena is in love with Ivanhoe, but until the end of the novel, she cannot marry him because Cedric wants her to marry Athelstane. She stands up to Cedric on this matter, however, and ultimately gives her hand in marriage to Ivanhoe.
After she is captured, Rebecca is imprisoned with Ulrica, an old, haggard Saxon woman whose castle was been taken from her by the Normans. During the battle at Torquilstone, she sets the castle ablaze and sings an eerie death song as the flames surround her. Ulrica assumes the name Ulfried during part of the novel.
Wamba represents the stock character of the jester who makes wry, witty, and sometimes wise comments about the events and people around him. Together with Gurth, he also provides comic relief in the novel.
Sara Constantakis (Editor), Novels for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Novels, Volume 31, Sir Walter Scott, Published by Gale, Cengage Learning, 2010.