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Stereotyping In Ivanhoe Essay, Research Paper

Stereotyping in Ivanhoe

Since the beginning of time, communication has been a huge part of the human race. One of the many ways to communicate is through literature. Authors use their words to express their ideas and feelings. There are many different types of literature that exist, and for almost any interest. Throughout the years, new and different types of literature were, are, used to entertain and educate the people of that time. One of the great types of literature is the romantic novel. The Romanticism Era began in the late 1700s and many of the works produced in it are still read and praised today. The romantic novel can usually be characterized by its use of fictitious content and passionate, adventurous, and idealistic attitudes. Many authors and artists, through the use of their works, felt a sense of freedom with the use of romance. One of the great examples of the romantic novel is a book named Ivanhoe. Sir Walter Scott, who was born in 1771, wrote the novel. Scott received his title and baronetcy from King George IV in the spring of 1820. Scott’s lifelong interest in literature led him to produce many interesting titles. Scott was married, in 1797, to Margaret Charlotte Carpenter, who bore him three sons and two daughters. Ivanhoe is set in the Middle Ages when chivalry and knights were everyday elements of the time. Ivanhoe is interesting, because it combines many characters and events, from several time periods, into one story. This is shown by the appearances of Robin Hood, Cedric and Athelstane, and Ulrica who were all part of separate centuries. Although he has several eras tied together, Ivanhoe can also be considered a historical and religious novel. This variety allows Scott to have more options in creating an overall spectacular book. For a long time, Ivanhoe was considered an adventure story that was primarily for young children. After critics began to look deep into the characters, plot, and moral values, they realized the book was more than just a children’s book. In Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, his use of setting, characterization, and symbolism substantiate the author’s view of stereotyping. Scott’s amazing use of setting allowed him to create an aura that fit his characters and their actions.

Setting is one of the most important elements in literature. Setting provides a lot of information to the reader. It sets the time, place, environment, and surrounding circumstances of an event, story, or play. It can also describe the actual physical surroundings or scenery whether real or, as on a stage, artificial (Compton). Scott created a magnificent setting for Ivanhoe. Ivanhoe was written and published in 1820. This time period is right in the middle of the Romanticism Era. Many of the works that came out of this era are very bright colorful stories that rely heavily on emotions. Ivanhoe is not any different. The story can actually be classified as a historical romance, because of Scott use of many historical events. The story is set to take place in the year 1194. This is actually part of the Middle Ages, or mediaeval, time period. Scott uses his stereotypical view of this time to create a setting that will appeal to the reader. The story opens with a view of the old English forest which in those days covered the West Riding of Yorkshire, and in the midst of which the residence of Cedric the Saxon is situated (Blackwood 3). Scott also shows that his view of the old time castles is also a stereotypical one. Cliff’s Notes says the furnishings of Cedric’s house, though crude, suggest wealth and power and an attempt to preserve the flavor of existence before the Norman conquest. The seating arrangement shows the caste system of the feudal manor. Cedric, himself, epitomizes the unconquerable spirit of the Saxon lord (Cliff 15). The dining hall is an important part of Scott’s stereotypical views, because he spent a lot of time creating a room that fit its inhabitants. Scott describes some of the basic, general, characteristics of the dining hall. Most of which give the reader the view of a “normal,” stereotypical, castle. He wrote:

There was a long oaken table formed of planks rough-hewn from the forest, and which had scarcely received any polish. The roof, composed of beams and rafters, had nothing to divide the apartment from the sky excepting the planking and thatch; there was a huge fireplace at either end of the hall, but, as the chimneys were constructed in a very clumsy manner. The floor was composed of earth mixed with lime (Ivanhoe 49-50).

Scott then goes into the more detailed parts of the dining hall. He uses things such as seating, roofing, and other furnishings to show the importance of that section of the room. Scott writes:

For about one quarter of the length of the apartment the floor was raised by a step, and this space, which was called the dais, was occupied only by the principal members of the family and visitors of distinction. Massive chairs and settles of carved oak were placed upon the dais, and over these seats and the more elevated table was fastened a canopy of cloth, which served in some degree to protect the dignitaries who occupied that distinguished station from the weather. In the centre of the upper table were placed two chairs more elevated than the rest, for the master and mistress of the family. The walls of this upper end of the hall, as far as the dais extended, were covered with hangings or curtains, and upon the floor there was a carpet, both of which were adorned with some attempts at tapestry or embroidery, executed with brilliant, or rather gaudy, colouring (Ivanhoe 50-51).

Along with the elegant area for the important “upper” class, Scott also describes an area for the “lower” class. The domestics and inferior persons fed, down towards the bottom of the hall. Over the lower range of table, the roof, as we have noticed, had no covering; the rough, plastered walls were left bare, and the rude earthen floor was uncarpeted. Rude massive benches supplied the place of chairs (Ivanhoe 50-51). Ivanhoe’s setting displays a stereotypical view of mediaeval times and provides an aura and color that appeal to many people. The setting not only provides Ivanhoe with its background information, but it also helps the story’s characters and their lifestyles.

Almost every story in literature contains a set of characters. These characters may have an important role in the story, or may appear only once. Ivanhoe contains many characters and many lifestyles. Scott takes advantage of his characterization to show his stereotypical view of his mediaeval characters. Characterization is another important element in literature. It is the process that describes or portrays the particular qualities, features, or traits of someone (Compton). The story is mostly centralized around its main character, Ivanhoe. Ivanhoe is a typical hero who has loyalty to God and his country, honor, and a love for his lady. Along with the main character, there are many other characters with roles less important. Several of these characters have something odd about them. Their history and time periods were mixed up. John Buchan explains that the customs of three centuries have been confused; Robin Hood if he ever lived, belonged to a century later; Cedric and Athelstane are impossible figures for that time, and Edward and Confessor left no descendants; Ulrica is some hundreds of years out of date and her gods were never known to any Saxon pantheon (Buchan 307). Scott displays his stereotypical views through his characters’ behavior toward each other. Cliff’s Notes points out that Rotherwood, Cedric’s home, its furnishings, the clothing, and rank of the occupants, are described in great detail. When the Templar and the Prior arrive, they are treated with hospitality. The Palmer, inconspicuous by his dress, is scarcely noticed (Cliff 14). During this time period, King Richard, of England, is thought to be kidnapped. Scott describes Richard as a saint and the stereotypical perfect king. Bruce Reeves recalls that Richard possesses a native humanity and a love of life, as well as the heroic chivalric qualities. He is always ready to act as a protector of others (Reeves 2962). While King Richard is illustrated as a hero, Prince John is made out to be the typical “bad guy.” John takes over, forcibly, while Richard is away, and nobody likes him. Reeves comments that John, by contrast, is an ineffectual ruler whose own followers despise him. He is a petulant, stupid man, incapable of inspiring loyalty (Reeves 2962). One of the characters, Brian de Bois-Guilbert, is a gung-ho military man. He is that type of stereotypical soldier who lives “by the book.” An example of this comes from Cliff’s Notes. It says Brian de Bois-Guilbert represents the military aspect of the church. He is arrogant and stern, and relies upon strict discipline to maintain his superiority. He uses Norman-French, the language of the “superior classes,” and he would not ask for hospitality of Cedric, but demand it (Cliff 14). Another one of the characters, Wamba, is portrayed as the stereotypical fool. Wamba is intelligent, loyal to his ruler, Cedric, and has a good knack for humor; he is the court jester. Buchan says Wamba’s jests are for the most part clowning out of the old playbooks (Buchan 307). Another critic adds that:

The character of the Jester in Ivanhoe, is one of the most interesting in the Tale; strange to say, however, it is an interest of an heroic kind, arising from the touching display of his fidelity to his master, and his other very singular good qualities. His appropriate excellence as a professed humorist, is very tolerably vindicated by the occasional sallies of his wit; yet, in spite of his best efforts, he is, take him altogether, an exceedingly less amusing and less comic personage than either Captain Dugald Dalgetty, or Dousterswivel, or Dominie Sampson (Eclectic 2).

Probably the most stereotypical characterization in Ivanhoe, is the reference to the Jews, Isaac and Rebecca. Isaac is described as a typical Jew, in the literary sense, and loves two things, his daughter, Rebecca, and his money. Rebecca is the daughter of Isaac and is very beautiful. Scott’s stereotyping of Isaac comes more in the form of prejudices. Cliff’s Notes clarify that in Ivanhoe, the hatred for the Jews infects everyone, both Saxon and Norman, from the lords and knights to the lowest menial. Even the Palmer, who shows mercy, is not without prejudice (Cliff 16). There was a point in the story where Isaac was protected from prejudice, but Scott still carries over his stereotypical view of the wealthy Jew. Cliff’s Notes recalls Isaac, protected by the general law of England, and more particularly by those who owe him money, or like Prince John, are in the act of negotiating a loan, exhibits a different mien and appearance than when he was the recipient of Cedric’s hospitality. Only the yeoman outlaw, who knows no law, causes him anxiety (Cliff 17). Along with Scott’s use of characterization he combines symbolism to get his ideas across.

Many pieces of literature contain some form of symbolism, especially the pieces with a deeper meaning, or ones that appeal to a highly educated group of people. Symbolism is the representation of something by use of symbols, especially in art or literature (Compton). Symbolism, in Ivanhoe, comes in many forms. A good example comes with the whole king issue. Reeves explains that in Ivanhoe, the symbolic contrast is between Richard the Lion-Hearted and his brother John (Reeves 2961). He is saying that the two are complete opposites. Richard lives by the code of chivalry, helping his people, while all John is concerned with is his own self-image and wealth. King Richard’s stereotypical chivalry, courage, honor, and readiness are brought out again when he helps Ivanhoe during the tournament. An anonymous author writes, a knight in black armour bearing a fetter-lock on his shield, who very singularly disappears immediately afterwards – thus leaving the prize and honours of the field to the disinherited son of Cedric, and the Lover of Rowena (Blackwood 8). Scott displays the stereotypical power of the Normans over the Saxons through the use of a dog. Cliff’s Notes says, the dog, Fangs, whose fore claws have been clipped by the ranger of the forest in accord with the Forest Laws enacted by the ruling Normans, symbolizes by his name and description the stripping of power from the Saxons (Cliff 13). Scott’s use of symbolism allows him to create a stereotypical social status. His first example is through the use of two types of languages. The Normans, the “upper” class, uses the educated language of French, while the lower Saxons use a form somewhat different from French. Cliff’s Notes describe the time when Wamba refers to the language: specifically, the word “swine” is of Saxon origin and used when the animals are being tended and fed, but becomes “pork,” a French word, when it is ready for the table. “Alderman Ox” is a Saxon term, which becomes “beef,” a French word, when it is ready for consumption (Cliff 13). Scott also used symbolism when he created some of his character’s names. Cliff’s Notes explain that:

Whatever Scott’s intention, the Spanish term, “Desdichado” for Disinherited, serves to symbolize Ivanhoe’s alienation from the father who had disowned him from the Normans from whom he was alienated by birth. Also, the names, Malvoisin (bad neighbor) and Front-de-Beouf (Ox-face) help to characterize the unpopular barons (Cliff 18).

One of the great symbolisms used in Ivanhoe is associated with Wamba. He is Cedric’s fool, and of course, is owned by Cedric. So, in order to show ownership, Cedric uses a collar around the neck. Scott wrote:

One part of his dress only remains, but it is too remarkable to be suppressed; it was a brass ring, resembling a dog’s collar, but without any opening, and soldered fast around his neck, so loose as to form no impediment to his breathing, yet so tight as to be incapable of being removed, excepting by the use of the file. The inscription on the collar read: “Gurth, the son of Beowulph, is the born thrall of Cedric of Rotherwood (Ivanhoe 33).”

Scott’s use of symbolism allowed him to show is stereotypical view of things, especially with the “lower” class of society.

In conclusion, Ivanhoe’s use of setting, characterization, and symbolism substantiate the author’s view of stereotyping. Sir Walter Scott uses his stereotyping with things such as, houses that were mad to fit their inhabitants, Jews, and even with the social classes. When he combines these stereotypes along with his brilliant story line, he creates a story that is appealing to many people. Scott was extremely successful with his literature career. Ivanhoe was published during a period in Scott’s life when he was very popular. Ivanhoe is an excellent example and one of the great books that came out during the Romanticism Era. It was filled with exciting attitudes, many emotions, and contained a great love relationship. Ivanhoe is among many of Scott’s great publications. After a wonderful and successful life, Scott died in 1832. His works, especially Ivanhoe, left great marks in the world of literature, and will be read and enjoyed for years to come.

Works Cited

“A review of Ivanhoe; A Romance.” The Eclectic Review. Vol. XIII (June, 1820): 526-40 (10 February 2000).

“Dictionary.” Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia Deluxe. CD-ROM. Novato, CA: The Learning Company, Inc., 1999.

“Ivanhoe.” Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. Vol. VI, No. 33 (December, 1819): 262-72 (10 February 2000).

“Ivanhoe/ Scott, Sir Walter.” Reeves, Bruce D. Masterplots. Vol. 5 (1976).

“Scott, Sir Walter.” Buchan, John. Nineteenth – Century Literature Criticism. 1998.

Scott, Sir Walter. “Ivanhoe.” Signet Classic. 1983.

“Scott’s Ivanhoe.” Cliff’s Notes. 1967.

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