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Sir Walter Scott's Treatment of Jews in Ivanhoe

by Ibn Warraq (July 2009) 


It was argued by Leon Poliakov and others
[1] that the portrait of Isaac the Jew in Ivanhoe is generally an unfavourable one, indeed an unflattering stereoptype derived from The Merchant of Venice and Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta of the Jew as a contemptible or comic miser. Scott introduces Isaac in chapter five which bears the well-known words from The Merchant of Venice as its motto, “Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is?” However, it seems highly unlikely that an author would choose just such a passage from Shakespeare if he meant to solely denigrate Jews, or that he picked this particular passage at random. One has to feel the fine tone of the entire novel, and its moral nuances before dismissing Scott’s portrait of the Jew as an anti-semitic stereotype. more>>>