Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
Chapters 37 & 39
The scene is set for Rebecca's trial. The Grand Master sits opposite a pile of logs, which will form the stake at which Rebecca will be burned alive if she is found guilty. The charges against Bois- Guilbert are read first, but he is excused on the grounds that Rebecca's evil magic has taken away his power of reason. Others testify to the supernatural powers of Rebecca, her healing of Ivanhoe, and her presence and influence at the attack on Torquilstone. The common people are on her side, deeply affected by her beauty and her defense; but it is not a fair trial. Bois- Guilbert tries to save Rebecca by asking for a champion to fight him on her behalf; however, he suspects no one will come to her aid against him. He then tries in vain to convince Rebecca to run away with him.
Accusations of witchcraft were very common in the Middle Ages due to ignorance and superstition. The practice of witchcraft was greatly feared by the Christian Church, which treated all those convicted of sorcery with merciless punishment. Witches were normally burned alive at the stake, and many innocent women, whose only fault was their beauty or their skill with herbal medicine, were brutally killed. Not only is Rebecca accused of the terrible sin of witchcraft, she is also a Jewess; therefore, everything about her, especially her foreign ways, are viewed with suspicion. She stands no chance of having a fair trial amongst these Norman accusers.
Bois-Guilbert's wickedness is somewhat redeemed, for he offers to fight for Rebecca or to run away with her. His generosity, of course, is founded on the fact that he wants Rebecca for his own. The noble Rebecca, however, is full of contempt for him and would rather die than succumb to Bois-Guilbert. Not only is he the reason that she is in such a predicament, she also knows he is a total hypocrite who has broken his vows as a Templar. She accuses him openly, saying that his faith "is ever in thy mouth, but never in thy heart nor in thy practice."