powered by AFI
In late twelfth century England, Saxons and Normans retain lingering hatred of one another. Unpopular Norman Prince John has ruled England since his brother, King Richard, left for the Holy Land to lead the Third Crusade, and many assume that Richard is now dead. During Saxon Ivanhoe's long journey back to England, however, he finds Richard in an Austrian prison, languishing because John will not pay his ransom. Once back in England, Ivanhoe disguises himself as a minstrel and goes to the castle of his father Cedric, with whom he became estranged when he left for the Holy Land. While Cedric offers hospitality in his banquet hall to both Norman and Saxon travelers, Ivanhoe is recognized only by his faithful servant, Wamba. Wamba takes him to see Rowena, Cedric's ward, whom Ivanhoe has loved since childhood. Ivanhoe returns to the banquet hall just as another traveler, a Jew named Isaac, seeks refuge for the night. Although the Normans present, including De Bois-Guilbert and Sir Hugh De Bracy, protest, Cedric offers hospitality to Isaac, insisting that everyone is welcome at his table. As they dine, the Normans discuss a tournament that will soon take place in Ashby, prompting Guilbert to recall a past tournament during which a masked Saxon knight named Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe bested him, then disappeared. Cedric then bitterly says that Ivanhoe was his son, but is now dead to him. Ivanhoe later reveals himself to Cedric and asks for money to save Richard, but Cedric is convinced the king is dead and refuses. Ivanhoe tells Rowena that he will see her after winning the tournament, then leaves with Wamba. Later that night, Norman soldiers attempt to rob Isaac, who has been forced to sleep in the barn, but Ivanhoe and Wamba interrupt the attack. A grateful Isaac then takes Ivanhoe and Wamba to his home in Sheffield, where Ivanhoe asks Isaac to help raise money for Richard's ransom. Isaac does not find Richard any more sympathetic to Jews than John, but because Isaac is in Ivanhoe's debt, he promises to supplement whatever money is raised. The next night, a young woman who says that she is the servant of Isaac's daughter Rebecca, approaches Ivanhoe at the inn at which he is staying and offers jewels to finance his kit in the tournament. Looking closely at her eyes, Ivanhoe recognizes her as the beautiful woman he noticed at the window of Isaac's house and deduces that she is Rebecca. On the day of the tournament, Prince John presides as well-outfitted Normans defeat ragged Saxon challengers. Then Ivanhoe rides onto the field, suited in black and identifying himself only as a Saxon. The Saxons cheer as he challenges, then bests, five Norman knights. Despite a wound in the shoulder, Ivanhoe stays on his horse and is declared the winner. As the victor, Ivanhoe selects Rowena as the tournament's Queen of Love and Beauty, then must fight Guilbert, who now recognizes him. After a fierce battle, Ivanhoe is knocked from his horse and carried off the field. Rebecca, who tells Rowena that she has learned the medical arts from a woman burned as a witch, attends to Ivanhoe's serious wounds. Although Rowena senses that Rebecca loves Ivanhoe, she knows that he will be well cared for by her and allows him to be taken to Isaac's house. Their departure is observed by a Norman who tells Guilbert. That night, Guilbert tells John about Ivanhoe's attempts to raise Richard's ransom money and the involvement of Isaac, who is a wealthy banker. Meanwhile, in Sheffield, Rebecca confesses her love to the unconscious Ivanhoe, but is gently warned by her father that her love is impossible because she is a Jew. When Ivanhoe awakens, Isaac tells him that money for the ransom is growing, just as Wamba and Locksley, a Saxon nobleman who lives in the forest, arrive to warn him that "Prince John's jackals" are after him. Wamba adds that Cedric and Rebecca have come to Sheffield to be near him, prompting Ivanhoe to ask Wamba to take Rebecca to Cedric while he hides in the forest with Locksley. By the time Guilbert and De Bracey arrive at Sheffield, Ivanhoe is gone, further angering Guilbert. He and his men soon find the caravan on which Rebecca and Rowena are traveling, and take the women, Cedric and Wamba prisoner. Hearing of their capture, Ivanhoe approaches Guilbert's castle and asks that he be allowed to take their place. Guilbert agrees, then Ivanhoe enters the courtyard and asks to speak to Cedric, with whom he reconciles. Instead of allowing Cedric and the others to leave, however, Guilbert breaks his word and puts both men in chains. Upstairs, the ambitious De Bracy proposes to Rowena, who is the last of the royal Saxons, but she slaps him. Later Guilbert, who desires Rebecca, tells her that he must possess her. She runs to the balcony and threatens to jump, but when he offers to free Ivanhoe if she returns his passion, she agrees. Just then Locksley and his archers surround the castle. Guilbert has Ivanhoe brought up from the dungeon and threatens to hang him, but Ivanhoe is able to escape when the archers fire arrows at his guards. As a battle ensues, Ivanhoe frees the men in the dungeon, but in doing so a fire erupts that envelopes Wamba. As more of Locksley's men storm the castle, Ivanhoe rescues Rowena from De Bracy, but Guilbert escapes by using Rebecca as a shield. When Guilbert brings Rebecca to Prince John's court, John and his advisors come up with a plan to use their captive. A few days later, Isaac tells Ivanhoe that the king's ransom money has been raised, but Ivanhoe reveals that John has demanded the same amount to free Rebecca or she will be burned as a witch. Isaac tells Ivanhoe that it is his responsibility to free Rebecca and insists that the money raised be sent to ransom Richard. Seeing Ivanhoe's concern, Rowena reveals her fears that he is in love with Rebecca, but he denies it. At Rebecca's trial, paid and coerced witnesses testify that she is a witch, and only Guilbert defends her. After Rebecca denies that she is a witch, Guilbert asks to speak with her privately and begs her to renounce her faith to save her life. After her refusal, the court sentences her to burn at the stake. Just then, Ivanhoe, who has secretly watched the trial, throws down his glove and challenges the court to determine her guilt by a battle with her champion. John accepts the challenge and chooses Guilbert as his champion for a fight to the death at Ashby. Moments before the tournament, Guilbert offers to default to Ivanhoe if Rebecca will only accept his love, but Rebecca answers that they are in God's hands. While Guilbert and Ivanhoe battle hand-to-hand with ball and chain, Richard and his men ride onto the field, forcing John to bow in submission. Ivanhoe finally defeats Guilbert, who dies after telling Rebecca he loves her and that fate made her love Ivanhoe instead of him. After Guilbert dies, Rowena questions Rebecca about Ivanhoe, but she insists that his heart belongs to Rowena.