The story opens in Cedric's hall at Rotherwood where Isaac of York, a Jew, with his
daughter Rebecca, seeks shelter for the night. They are followed by De Bracy and Sir Brian,
the Templars, who boast of their prowess at the Crusade. Sir Brian wishes to win the
affections of Rebecca, whereas De Bracy longs for Rowena, Cedric's ward, who arrives at
the feast. Ivanhoe, Cedric's disinherited son, has also arrived disguised as a palmer
and he taunts Sir Brian who swears vengeance. As the feast ends, Sir Brian and De Bracy
plot to abduct Rowena after the coming tournament.
Rowena meditates on her lover, Ivanhoe. Her ladies introduce the holy palmer to her presence and she asks him all about Ivanhoe. When she leaves, Ivanhoe calls for Isaac and tells him the he has overheard the Templars planning to seize him with his daughter after the lists at Ashby-de-la-Zouche.
King Richard, disguised as the Black Knight, has been winning the prizes at the lists.
Prince John arrives and attempts to have Isaac and his daughter sit with Cedric and
his party. As the tournament continues an unknown knight appears and challenges Sir
Brian. The duel commences and the unknown knight, although seriously injured, is
declared the winner. As his helmet is removed so that he can receive the crown,
he is revealed as Ivanhoe and collapses at Rowena's feet.
Rowena and Cedric have been captured by De Bracy and imprisoned
in Torquilstone. De Bracy informs them that Ivanhoe, Rebecca and Isaac have also
been captured and as the two prisoners are taken out, Sir Brian arrives to extol
the virtues of the captured Rebecca.
King Richard visits Friar Tuck in the forest and the two of them feast
together, exchanging songs. In the midst of the fun, Locksley arrives to inform them
of Ivanhoe's capture, and the outlaws all leave to attack Torquilstone.
In a turret chamber an old hag, Ulrica, recites her terrible history to Rebecca.
When Ulrica leaves Sir Brian appears and forces his attentions on Rebecca who
threatens to throw herself from the parapet. A bugle sounds, summoning Sir Brian
to duty and Rebecca is saved - in the meantime.
Ivanhoe, imprisoned in the castle, dreams of Rowena. Rebecca enters
to tend him,
just as the castle comes under siege from the outlaws. At the height of the battle
the castle is set on fire by Ulrica and Sir Brian absconds with Rebecca.
King Richard and the outlaw band rescue Ivanhoe, Rowena, Cedric and Isaac.
The outlaws relax after the battle. King Richard affects a reconciliation between Ivanhoe
and his father and Ivanhoe is left alone to declare his love to Rowena. Isaac appears and
begs Ivanhoe to rescue Rebecca, who has been accused by the Grand Master of the Templars
of bewitching Sir Brian, and who is to be tried and burned at the stake.
Rebecca's trial is taking place in the preceptory of the Templars.
At the last moment Ivanhoe appears as her champion and fights Sir Brian.
However, just as Sir Brian is about to strike the fatal blow he suffers a heart
attack and falls dead. The people all take this sign as a judgement and the opera
ends with general rejoicing.
Plot summary from the program of the Ivanhoe production by The Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Edinburgh on the occasion of their 75th Anniversary in February 1999.