In everybody’s life there is something that makes him strive for success. That something can be money, women, fame, or many other incentives.. To the medieval knights, victory renown and glory are the ambitions they strive for. Breaking a law in this code would be considered a disgrace, and would bring a dishonor that was worse than death itself. However, by applying the Code of Chivalry, the knights in the medieval time displayed certain character traits which would secure success and honor in both battle and morality. In the book Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott, a knight named Ivanhoe illustrates this by devoting his attention to keeping the rules of the Code of Chivalry, which consisted of love of adventure, integrity, and loyalty to the king, to name a few. These character traits of Ivanhoe coupled with strong characters and a realistic setting allow the reader to understand the importance of a strong set of moral guidelines to all individuals of all time periods in spite of Scott’s excessive detail and confusing subplot.
Respect and loyalty are two of the character traits that Ivanhoe not only possesses but also helps the reader to see their importance for a successful life. For example, in the beginning of the book Ivanhoe is known as the Disinherited Knight because his father, Cedric of Saxon, disinherits him; however, even though he is abandoned, he still respects his father and is loyal to him. His respect is shown in the book when the castle burns and someone asks his father whether defeat is visible. Cedric responds by saying, “Not so, by the soul of Hereward.” He then denounces Ivanhoe’s beliefs. Instead of getting angry at Cedric, Ivanhoe shows respect, and brushes the comments off, and leads a successful life as a result. This is a very good example to today’s reader that comes from generations of children having relationship problems with their parents.
Ivanhoe is not only loyal to his real father but to King Richard the Lion Heart as well. When Ivanhoe is disowned by his father, King Richard steps in and adopts him. Ivanhoe attaches himself to the King and follows him into battle for the Crusades. When the King is captured, Ivanhoe has loyalty and sets his eye on freeing him.
Ivanhoe is not the only character that demonstrates loyalty. The reader can also learn a thing or two about having too much loyalty and pride in family. Cedric the Saxon shows extreme pride and loyalty to his heritage. In fact, it is because of this that Ivanhoe is kicked out of the home. He has more interest in re-establishing Saxon rule than in running his household. He is so proud of the Saxons that he hates the Normans with all his heart. Everything he does reflects his bias towards the Saxons. Cedric’s pride is far too extreme; the reader can learn to not let his or her pride in heritage take control.
In addition to loyalty towards heritage, the novel contains loyalty towards religion. The problem with this is that the society has loyalty to only religion and but God. These characters actually insult true Catholics (their religion) by the way they practice their religion. It seems like Scott is trying to obuse the Catholic Church by portraying its members as people that are not concerned with God but rather, people that are only loyal to the religion itself. Christians can learn an important lesson from this society. We as believers should never just focus on the religious practices of the church. Instead, our main attention should be directed towards God alone because he is the reason for our religion.
Glory is also something that Ivanhoe uses to lead him on. His step-father, King Richard the Lion Heart, was imprisoned by Austrians on his way back from the crusades. Ivanhoe put his effort towards freeing him and glorifying his country of England. He courageously goes to battle to fight for England in the Crusades. Because of his bravery England is saved.
Glory and Bravery are not the only things Ivanhoe is demonstrating by fighting for England. He is also showing a fear of disgrace. If his home country of England is to lose the battles, he and his country would be disgraced. His fear of disgrace helps lead him on. Having a fear of disgrace shows the reader that having this motive can lead one on to success.
People can learn a lesson not only about glory, but of bravery also. Besides glory, bravery is used throughout the novel also. An example of this is when Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert dies for Rebecca. Ivanhoe demonstrates bravery when he fights Brian to repay Rebecca for her care when he is hurt. He is also very brave when he fights for his Saxon image. Even though he is not a major character in this book, Robin Hood also shows bravery. He robs from the rich and gives to the poor which breaks certain parts in the Code of Chivalry. Through his actions, he fulfills part of the Code. He is brave and has a love of adventure in doing so, but his integrity and respect to the king is taken by his criminal actions. People can learn from these examples that sometimes being brave is not pretty. Both Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert and Robin Hood had to suffer consequences for being brave.
Bravery is very important to knights. If they are not brave they are disgraced, which is something they fear the most. Ivanhoe’s motto is “Death is better than defeat,” this shows his fear of disgrace. Likewise, in are society there are certain people that are looked at as being a disgrace.
In society today there is a fear of disgrace. Becoming a failure is not anyone’s desire. Breaking the Code of Chivalry was a disgrace in the Medieval time period. Likewise, breaking laws and being arrested is considered a disgrace today. Through the use of chivalry, the author shows our society the importance of maintaining dignity as opposed to disgrace.
The setting is very important to this novel. The general setting is in England, where the way of life is medieval. There are four settings throughout the book. The first is in Rotherwood, which is the home of Cedric. It is here where Ivanhoe saves Isaac’s life. The second setting is at the site of the tournament, which is in Ashby. Here Ivanhoe wins the tournament under the name Disinherited Knight. When traveling, the Norman knights capture Ivanhoe, Rebecca, Cedric, Rowena, and Athelstane and take them to Torquilstone, which is the third setting. During a battle, Brian de Bois-Guilbert takes Rebecca to Templestone, the home of the Templars. This is the fourth setting. Here Rebecca is tried for witchcraft, but Ivanhoe comes and saves her by defeating Brian de Bois-Guilbert. This setting is so important because it shows the society’s moral guidelines. This particular time period is known for this Code of Chivalry. In fact many Christians say we should still have a code like this to uphold the moral standard.
To show the medieval life Sir Walter Scott uses certain characters to draw the reader in. Ivanhoe, of course, is the ideal representation of the medieval society. He illustrates their strong beliefs in the Code of Chivalry. King Richard also illustrates this time period. He performs many deeds of chivalry, such as uniting his loyal followers and destroying Prince John’s plot to take the throne. He is the only Norman character that epitomizes chivalry. Even though Scott uses good characters to show this time period, he went a little too far. He uses so many characters throughout the novel that it becomes very confusing.
Not only did the ridiculously large amount of characters make this book confusing, but the relationships between them also hindered the clarity. For example, Athelstone is arranged to marry Rowena, but Rowena doesn’t love him. Rowena really loves Ivanhoe, but Rebecca loves Ivanhoe as well. Ivanhoe loves Rowena but does not love Rebecca. As one can see, this triangle of love seems like a kinky sitcom on NBC.
Adding to the confusion, the author gives double names to a couple of the characters. Ivanhoe is known as the Disinherited Knight and Wilfred. King Richard the Lion Heart is called the Black Knight after he returns from the Crusades. I became very confused while reading this book because of these double names. I had trouble figuring out who Scott was talking about.
In my opinion the weaknesses of the double names and far too many characters makes this book unappealing. Yes, it does portray the society’s obsession of the Code of Chivalry very well, but it doesn’t make the book interesting. The plot is hard to follow, and the names of all the characters get jumbled together. I would not recommend this book to anyone without a firm grasp of how society was at that time. I think even people with a high education will find this book to be challenging.
In spite of the weaknesses, Ivanhoe and King Richard demonstrate true chivalric characteristics. They exemplify integrity, loyalty to the king, a love for adventure, and bravery. Through this book the reader learns the meaning of moral guidelines due to the examples set by King Richard and Ivanhoe. These examples challenge us to search for our own moral guidelines. Without these we have nothing to strive for.