Wilfred of Ivanhoe

– the eponymous character is strong-willed to the point of foolhardiness, exhibiting all the virtues associated with chivalry. He is a study in the rather characterless heroes of Chaucerian literature and the Arthurian legends (see Chaucer’s devout and serious Knight in The Canterbury Tales or Gawain in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight).


– descended from an old Saxon family, Cedric stands for the ancient order and the nobility of the English. He rebels against the ignominy of Norman rule and longs for a reestablishment of Saxon rule. He is representative of the frankness and straight talking which Scott sees as a traditional English characteristic in the face of the wily-tongued French whose wit with words often confounds Cedric.


– the female heroine. She has more character than her male counterpart, Ivanhoe. Cedric wishes her to marry the unappealing Athelstane (a member of an ancient Saxon clan). Rowena is pure and full of good humour and is rather surprised at the depth of her feeling for Ivanhoe.


– the daughter of Isaac the Jew. She is beautiful and passionately in love with Ivanhoe to the disgust of her admirer Brian de Bois-Guilbert. She is blessed with the gift of healing but uses it indiscriminately, causing her to be accused of witchcraft.

Isaac the Jew

– like Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Isaac is typical of the portrayal of avaricious Jews in literature until the twentieth century, but shows many sympathetic characteristics which make him more attractive than many of the gentile characters. He loves money and his daughter, much like Shylock, but does not show the latter’s ruthlessness. Like Shylock, he loses his money because of his love for his daughter.


– known as ‘the Unready’ (meaning ‘badly advised’), this patronym immediately alerts us to the fact that he is from an old Saxon family (calling to mind as it does Aethelred the Unready. Aethelstane represents all that is most upright and honourable about Saxons: for example their steadiness and solidity.

Prince John

– as in Shakespeare’s play King John, John is a manipulative and evil character, trusting and trusted by no one. Like Hitler, Prince John maintains power by playing on the ambition of those below him. He keeps himself at the head of his cronies by a ‘divide and rule’ policy.

King Richard

– the king is seen by all as a focus for their loyalty, as the ultimate aim of their chivalry. He is forgiving of his brother’s misdeeds and seems occasionally ill tempered and lacks judgement. He does, however, command the love and respect of his subjects and shows the ability to get along with all members of his realm, from the lower classes to the nobility.

Waldemar Fitzurse

– Prince John’s equally manipulative advisor, he is the ultimate spin-doctor, placating the people who are incensed by John’s cruel deeds.


– a repulsive character, deeply loyal to Prince John, he is as bovine as his name would suggest.

Lucas Beaumanoir

– the Grand Master of the Templars; it is his cruelty to the helpless Rebecca which condemns the entire Knights Templar order. He is shown as proud and noble. However, he lacks Ivanhoe’s humanity (necessary for true heroism).

Brian de Bois-Guilbert

– a brave but unscrupulous Knight Templar; he is the most noble of the Knights, showing an adherence to some of the chivalric code. Rebecca shows her own perceptiveness in her judgement of him: "There are noble things which cross over thy powerful mind; but it is the garden of the sluggard, and the weeds have rushed up, and conspired to choke the fair and wholesome blossom".

Maurice de Bracy

– an ambitious Norman nobleman, eager to gain the favour of Prince John.
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