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Ivanhoe is a historical novel by Sir Walter Scott published in 1820 and set in 12th-century England. Ivanhoe is sometimes credited for increasing interest in romance and medievalism; John Henry Newman claimed Scott "had first turned men's minds in the direction of the middle ages," while Carlyle and Ruskin made similar assertions of Scott's overwhelming influence over the revival based primarily on the publication of this novel.
Ivanhoe is the story of one of the remaining Saxon noble families at a time when the nobility in England was overwhelmingly Norman. It follows the Saxon protagonist, Wilfred of Ivanhoe, who is out of favour with his father for his allegiance to the Norman king, Richard I. The story is set in 1194, after the failure of the Third Crusade, when many of the Crusaders were still returning to their homes in Europe. King Richard, who had been captured by Leopold of Austria on his return journey to England, was believed to be still in captivity.
The legendary Robin Hood, initially under the name of Locksley, is also a character in the story, as are his "merry men". The character that Scott gave to Robin Hood in Ivanhoe helped shape the modern notion of this figure as a cheery noble outlaw.
Other major characters include Ivanhoe's intractable father, Cedric, one of the few remaining Saxon lords; various Knights Templar, most notable of which is Brian de Bois-Guilbert, Ivanhoe's main rival; a number of clergymen; the loyal serfs Gurth the swineherd and the jester Wamba, whose observations punctuate much of the action; and the Jewish moneylender, Isaac of York, who is equally passionate about his people and his beautiful (Jewish) daughter, Rebecca. The book was written and published during a period of increasing struggle for the emancipation of the Jews in England, and there are frequent references to injustices against them.
About the Author
Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet, FRSE (15 August 1771 – 21 September 1832) was a Scottish historical novelist, playwright, and poet.
Scott was the first English-language author to have a truly international career in his lifetime, with many contemporary readers in Europe, Australia, and North America. His novels and poetry are still read, and many of his works remain classics of both English-language literature and of Scottish literature. Famous titles include Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, The Lady of the Lake, Waverley, The Heart of Midlothian and The Bride of Lammermoor.
Although primarily remembered for his extensive literary works and his political engagement, Scott was an advocate, judge and legal administrator by profession, and throughout his career combined his writing and editing work with his daily occupation as Clerk of Session and Sheriff-Depute of Selkirkshire.
A prominent member of the Tory establishment in Edinburgh, Scott was an active member of the Highland Society and served a long term as President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1820–32).
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