Prejudices In Ivanhoe Essay Research Paper Prejudice

Prejudices In Ivanhoe Essay, Research Paper

Prejudice, a very powerful word, can be best defined as preconceived judgment or opinion. Many times prejudice targets various religious affiliations, such as people of the Jewish faith. In Sir Walter Scott s Ivanhoe, the many prejudices show strong abomination and hatred towards the Jews.

After the Battle of Hastings and the Norman s conquest of England, much hostility lingers in the air. Three basic groups still exist: the Normans, Saxons, and Jews. The Normans and Saxons do not accept each other s presence. Both the Normans and the Saxons, however, despise the Jews. In the story of Ivanhoe, the Normans and Saxons take advantage of the Jews because they believe Jewish people are very wealthy. The Normans think the Jews increase, multiply, and accumulate large sums, then transfer it on to the next Jewish descendent. In Ivanhoe, when the Saxons meet at the Saxon home of Rotherwood, the Templar first meets Isaac the Jew and exclaims his impression of wealth: and to gull women and boys with gauds and toys: I warrant thee store of shekels in thy Jewish scrip (43). Isaac heatedly replies that he is an impoverished wretch and borrows even his clothing from fellow Jew Reuben of Tadcaster. The Templar then accuses Isaac of being a false-hearted liar. Obviously, the stereotype towards Jews leads to the Templar s harsh accusations. Later on in the story, Front-de-Boeuf, or Reginald, tries his hand at gaining money from Isaac. While holding him captive, Reginald offers a ransom: a thousand silver pounds, after the just measure and weight of the Tower of London (188). Once again, Isaac denies his wealth and asks the knight to have mercy on him. The Normans and Saxons repeatedly stereotype that the Jews are wealthy throughout the story.

In addition to the belief that Jews are wealthy, the Normans and Saxons also show prejudice by simply disliking and disapproving of the Jewish people. They obviously possess different feelings towards Jews because of their religion. For example, Isaac the Jew is referred to as a dog in several occasions: this dog of a Jew (297), and Back, dog! (330). Another character who despises Jews is Cedric the Saxon. Cedric is not a gentleman to Rebecca, daughter of Isaac, simply because she is a Jew. In the castle of Front-de-Boeuf, Cedric resents Rebecca s mere presence: A Jewess! Let me pass, woman! (226). He goes on to state her presence as a pollution: I am fresh from my holy office, and would avoid pollution (226). Another instance in which Jews are seen differently is shortly after Rebecca meets Ivanhoe. Even though he recognizes her beauty and charm, Ivanhoe claims to be too good a Catholic to retain affectionate feelings toward a Jewess. However, at one time, Rebecca is defended while retaining the Jewish faith. After each knightly tournament, a queen of the fair Sovereign of Love and Beauty is pronounced. When Prince John suggests the lovely Rebecca, the Prior immediately attacks the odds. However, Prince John defends her: Saxon or Jew, dog or hog, what matters it! I say, name Rebecca (69).

The third and final prejudice towards the Jews is when the Saxons and Normans take advantage of the service of the Jews. At the tournament, Ivanhoe is wounded. Like always, the town turns to the Jews to heal them. It is known that the Jews, both male and female, practice the medical science extensively. Even though the Normans and Saxons normally treat Rebecca harshly, they turn to her and anticipate her help. However, Isaac expresses concern upon the healing of Ivanhoe: what if the youth perish! If he die in our custody, shall we not be held guilty of his blood, and be torn to pieces (244). But Rebecca refuses to let Ivanhoe suffer and tends him well. Isaac is also expected to serve the Normans and Saxons without fair compensation or even appreciation. Isaac argues that only when knights, priests, or priors need his service or hospitality, they consider him a great friend and are very kind to him. Isaac recalls once when a knight needed his service: kind Issac, if ever you served man, show yourself a friend in this need! (305). Isaac once again faces prejudice because if he were to ask of hospitality or service for himself, he would hear nothing but Damned Jew!

Jews are obviously a highly stereotyped class in this medieval society. Normans and Saxons expose the wealth, opinions, and services of the Jews with much discrimination. Luckily, today s society does not include these harsh religious prejudices.


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