About the Author
Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)
Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on August 15, 1771. His father, also called Walter, was a solicitor. An early childhood illness left Scott lame in his right leg. He was educated at Edinburgh High School and studied law at Edinburgh University.
Young Walter apprenticed to his father in 1786 and became a solicitor in 1792. In 1797 he married Margaret Charpentier, with whom he had five children.
Walter Scott was fascinated by the culture and traditions of the Scottish Borders, and in 1802 he published his first literary work, Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders. It was his second work which made his name, however; The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805) was an immensely successful poem. Scott followed this with further romantic poems, such as Marmion (1808) and The Lady in the Lake (1810).
In 1806 Scott launched a publishing business with his friend James Ballantyne. The business proved unsuccessful, and Scott spent the rest of his life paying off the debts incurred by Ballantyne.
In the decade between 1810 and 1820, Walter Scott published a succession of hugely popular historical novels, beginning with Waverly (1810), Guy Mannering (1815), and Ivanhoe (1819). These books, and others that followed in the 1820s, were published anonymously or under pseudonyms. It was not until 1826 that the author was revealed to be Sir Walter Scott.
Scott took on a wide variety of themes in his writing; works on Scottish history, such as Rob Roy and A legend of Montrose, stories of the medieval period, such as Ivanhoe, and Talisman, and biography, such as his Life of Napoleon.
Lady Margaret Scott died in 1826, and Walter Scott followed her in 1832. He was buried at Dryburgh Abbey. Though he struggled against debt his whole life, the proceeds from his writings eventually repaid his obligations in full. He helped popularize the historical novel as a literary genre and influenced generations of future writers.
One of Sir Walter Scott’s most popular and influential works, “Ivanhoe” is the story of one of the last remaining Saxon noble families. At the beginning of the novel we find its titular character, Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe, who has been disinherited by his father for his allegiance to the Norman king, Richard the Lionheart, and for falling in love with the Lady Rowena, returning from the Third Crusade. Wilfred’s father, Cedric, had planned to marry Lady Rowena to the powerful Lord Athelstane, in order to bolster the position of the Saxon nobility, whose power is being surpassed by the Normans. Wilfred is coaxed into participation in a tournament attended by Lady Rowena with whom he hopes to reunite. He quickly finds himself embroiled in a power struggle between Prince John, who oversees the tournament and is scheming with the help of knights of the Templar Order to control the throne, and the noble and rightful King Richard. “Ivanhoe”, which provides us with one of the most popular literary depictions of Robin Hood and his merry men, is a classic tale of the middle ages, filled with chivalry, adventure, and romance.
Questions for Ivanhoe
Contrast Ivanhoe with his main antagonist, Brian de Bois-Guilbert. What do the events of the story reveal about their characters?
Discuss the importance of heroism and the chivalric code in the novel. How do the precepts of chivalry inform the action that occurs throughout? How do these honorable practices reconcile with the Third Crusade and all of its attendant violence?
Why does Cedric forgive his disinherited son, Ivanhoe, after clinging for so long to the belief that the boy acted dishonorably?
Ivanhoe has two heroines, Rowena and Rebecca. Which seems more important? Why? Why do you believe Wilfred of Ivanhoe picks one over the other?
Why do Rebecca and Isaac decide to leave England at the end of the novel? Do you agree with their decision? Why or why not?
(Questions from Bookrags.com)
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