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Sir Walter° Scott

SCOTT, SIR WALTER° (1771–1832), Scottish poet and novelist. Ivanhoe (1819), one of his "Waverley Novels," set in 12th-century England, introduces Isaac of York and his daughter Rebecca. The juxtaposition of these two, as well as many incidental features of the book, recalls the story of Shylock and Jessica in *Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. However, Scott's characters are, in their ethical intention, the opposite of their Shakespearean prototypes. Though a usurer, Isaac is a basically noble character, while Rebecca is the true heroine of the novel. She nurses the eponymous hero back to health and, when she falls into the hands of the villainous Knight Templar Bois-Gilbert, gives expression to the moral virtues of her race and fiercely condemns the false code of honor of medieval chivalry. Rebecca was apparently inspired by Rebecca *Gratz of Philadelphia, of whom Scott had heard from his friend, Washington Irving.

Toward the end of his life, Scott drew another set of Jewish characters in The Surgeon's Daughter (1827). These are far less sympathetic than the Jews in Ivanhoe. Richard Middlemas, the half-Jewish rogue, is ambitious, violent, and treacherous. The novel ends somewhat theatrically with his being crushed to death by an elephant in India.


E.N. Calisch, The Jew in English Literature (1909), 117, 123–6, 141; D. Philipson, Jew in English Fiction (1911), 70–87; E. Rosenberg, From Shylock to Svengali (1960), 103–14, index. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: ODNB for recent biographical references; A.A. Naman, The Jew in the Victorian Novel (1980).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.