Ivanhoe: chapter 29-31
Rebecca is still at Ivanhoe’s side, and she is becoming very fond of him. Ivanhoe wants to watch the coming battle from a window, but he is still too weak to rise from his bed. So Rebecca stands at the window instead and describes what she can see. She reports that the attackers, led by the Black Knight, are advancing. A bugle gives the signal for the assault, and this is followed by a flourish of trumpets from the Norman defenders. There is a shower of deadly arrows fired by both sides, followed by hand-to-hand fighting. The Black Knight fells Front-de-Boeuf, who is dragged back within the castle walls by his men. Led by the Black Knight, the besiegers get the advantage, winning control of one of the outlying buildings of the castle. There is then a pause in the action. Ivanhoe says he wishes he could take part in the battle, and he and Rebecca debate the value of chivalry. Rebecca sees no value in it. Then the exhausted Ivanhoe sleeps, and Rebecca reproaches herself for being more concerned with his welfare than that of her father.
Front-de-Boeuf is mortally wounded, and De Bracy and De Bois-Guilbert discuss how to defend the castle. They know their position is dire, and De Bracy suggests surrendering the prisoners, but De Bois-Guilbert will not hear of it. They decide to defend the castle as best they can. Front-de-Boeuf is tormented on his deathbed by Ulrica, who tells him to remember all his sins. She also taunts him, saying that the Saxons will take over his castle. Then she tells him that she has set fire to it. She leaves him to die in the flames.
The attackers construct a long raft by which they cross the castle’s moat. The Black Knight and Cedric are the first to cross, and in spite of the shower of arrows from their men, they are in a precarious position. Then the attackers see a red flag flying from the castle and know it is time to press their assault. De Bois-Guilbert tells De Bracy that all is lost because the castle is on fire. Nevertheless, De Bois-Guilbert comes up with a plan to continue the fight. The Black Knight fights De Bracy and forces him to yield. As the castle burns, Ivanhoe urges Rebecca to flee, so that she can at least save her own life. Rebecca refuses, but then De Bois-Guilbert appears and carries her off. Then the Black Knight carries Ivanhoe to safety before returning to the castle to free the remaining prisoners. Cedric frees Rowena, and gives her to Gurth to be taken to safety. The battle intensifies. De Bois-Guilbert escapes on horseback with Rebecca, flooring Athelstane who tries to stop him. (Athelstane mistook Rebecca for Rowena, the one he loves.) The castle burns, and the flames can be seen for miles around. Ulrica stands on the turret chanting a wild song. The turret gives way to the flames and she goes to her death.
These action chapters, which bring part two of the novel to its conclusion, speak for themselves. The Black Knight and his band of Englishmen, as they assault the French (Norman) castle, resemble a charge out of Shakespeare’s patriotic play Henry V, in which the small English army defeats a much larger French force. At the same time, Scott brings the ideals of chivalry into question in the debate between Rebecca and Ivanhoe. Ivanhoe puts his case for chivalry eloquently, but for Rebecca it is all a sham—the ideals of glory and honor simply mask the reality of violence. The knight of chivalry, to her, has to sacrifice all his better feelings “for a life spent miserably that ye may make others miserable” (Chapter XXIX).