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MonkeyNotes-Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
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Rowena

As Cedric's ward, Rowena is at his mercy in matters of marriage. Though Cedric wants her to marry Athelstane and though she is sought by De Bracy, she stands firm in her love for Ivanhoe. Rowena is beautiful both physically and morally; she is depicted as a truly noble heroine in all ways. She is as chaste and merciful. Though De Bracy has attempted to molest her, she resists his advances and says she will die before she succumbs to him. She then forgives him in a true Christian spirit. Although she realizes that Rebecca is also in love with Ivanhoe, she kindly and discreetly protects the other girl's feelings, expressing her graciousness when the two meet at the end of the novel. She is always patient with Cedric, never disrespectful, even when he tries to make her marry Athelstane. She understands his ambition but is not willing to sacrifice herself to fulfill it. In all ways, Rowena seems to be the perfect match for the noble Ivanhoe.

Rebecca

A lovely young Jewess, Rebecca is as indifferent to money as her father is attracted to it. She returns the money Ivanhoe pays for the use of a horse and armor and even adds a generous tip for Gurth. Rebecca is so beautiful that she attracts all the men who see her; even the faithful Ivanhoe recognizes her charm. So does the Templar Knight, Bois-Guilbert, who takes Rebecca prisoner and harbors wicked desires to defile her. Rebecca, however, stands firm against him and is even willing to face death rather than succumb to his advances. Her firmness of resolve only strengthens Bois-Guilbert's admiration for her.

Rebecca is known for her healing powers. When Ivanhoe is wounded, she volunteers to care for him and nurse him back to health. In the process, she realizes that she loves this noble man, but accepts that since she is a Jew, her love will not be satisfied. Ivanhoe, however, greatly respects Rebecca and comes to her aid at the end of the novel. When she is accused of witchcraft and is ready to be burned at the stake, Ivanhoe fights for her, defeats Bois-Gilbert, and wins Rebecca's freedom. Rebecca expresses her gratitude by calling upon Rowena; she is afraid of facing Ivanhoe and displaying her true emotions.


Isaac the Jew

Isaac is Rebecca's father and a wealthy moneylender. In the portrait of him, there are strong resemblances to Shakespeare's character of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. Both of them love money and resist parting from it. Ironically, they both loan money to people who instinctively hate them, but they both become more wealthy because of it. It is only Isaac's love for his daughter Rebecca that would cause him to part with his money. When he thinks he has lost Rebecca, he is a broken man and offers all his wealth to whomever can rescue her.

Isaac is hated for being both a Jew and a moneylender. During the Middle Ages, there is a strong prejudice against all Jewish people. The Jewish moneylenders are especially hated, for they are the only people who can charge interest on loans, for Christians are prohibited from it. Isaac, like most of the Jewish moneylenders, has considerable business acumen and holds power over those he lends money to, including some of the important Norman knights. As a result, he is hated and ostracized.

Isaac can be grateful. When Ivanhoe, disguised as the Palmer, tells the Jew about the plot against him, he repays the Palmer's kindness by arranging the loan of a horse and armor to use during the tournament. This trait, along with his love for Rebecca and his cruel treatment at the hands of Saxons and Normans alike, make Isaac a sympathetic character.

Richard Plantagenet, King of England

King Richard, also known as Richard the Lion-Hearted, is a good and brave Norman, who is respected by Normans and Saxons. Friar Tuck, Locksley and his men, and Ivanhoe pledge loyalty to him. Even Cedric, a Staunch Saxon, eventually recognizes the king's goodness and seems to accept his reign over England.

Richard is amiable and capable of forgetting his royalty, allowing himself to mingle with common people in good companionship. His feast with Friar Tuck and his good-natured exchange of insults and songs are proof of this. He is also merciful, especially in his banishing, rather than murdering, the traitors and the forgiveness of his shiftless brother John. Richard also proves his bravery and nobility, when he disguises himself as the Black Knight and comes to Ivanhoe's aid against the wicked Norman knights during the tournament.

There is a weakness in Richard's character, which Scott is quick to point out. He has spent most of his reign in the Holy Land, seeking personal glory in the Crusades, instead of looking after his people and his country. It is this weakness of character that allows his brother to seize power and rule with injustice. In spite of this weakness, Richard becomes a legendary king of English history.


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