Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle

General Information

(N)IMEV: 1916
Form: 6-line tail-rhyme stanza rhyming aabccb
Date of Composition: c. 1450
Place of Composition: East Midlands
Keywords: Bedchamber, Disguise, Forest, Friendship, Hunting, Marriage, Monster, Quest, Religious Spaces, Secular Spaces, Sexual Encounters, Supernatural

Plot Summary

Plot summary image

Arthur returns to Carlisle and tells Gawain about Sir Gromer’s challenge. At Gawain’s suggestion, the pair separates and rides through the country, collecting answers in a book. With a month to go, Arthur returns to Ingleswood and meets a monstrously ugly woman, Dame Ragnell. She promises to give Arthur the correct answer, on the condition that he marries her to Sir Gawain. Arthur reluctantly consults Gawain, who agrees because of his love for the king. Arthur returns to the forest once more, where Ragnell tells him that all women want ‘sovereignty’.

When the year is up, Arthur returns to Sir Gromer and gives him his answer. The knight curses Ragnell, his sister, for helping the king, but has to admit that he is right. Ragnell returns to Carlisle with Arthur and insists on a lavish marriage in front of the whole court. Everyone marvels at her ugliness as she devours the splendid wedding banquet. [The couple retire] and Ragnell rebukes Gawain for his lack of sexual desire. He turns to find his wife transformed into a beautiful woman. She offers him a choice: she can be beautiful either at night or during the day. Gawain cannot decide, and tells his wife to make the decision. Delighted, she informs him that he has broken an enchantment placed on her by her stepmother: now that the best knight in England has given her sovereignty, she can be beautiful all the time. The couple go to bed.

When Arthur checks on Gawain the next day, the knight shows him his beautiful wife. The king rejoices, and tells the court about Sir Gromer. Ragnell promises to obey Gawain in all things, and asks Arthur to be good to her brother; everyone agrees that she is the fairest lady at the court. She and Gawain have a son, Gyngolyn, and live in perfect harmony for five years until she dies. The poem concludes with a prayer that its author be released from prison.

From: Donald Sands, Middle English Verse Romances. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1986.
Manuscript: Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Rawlinson C. 86


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Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Rawlinson C. 86 (folio: 128v-140)Unique copy. Late fifteenth - early sixteenth century, London area. 853 lines, lacking at least on leaft after line 628 and a number of individual lines throughout.

Modern Editions

Bartlett J. Whiting, The Weddynge of Sir Gawen and Dame Ragnell in Sources and Analogues in Chaucers "Canterbury Tales", ed. W. F. Bryan and Germaine Dempster (New York: Humanities Press, 1958)Pp. 242-64. Reprint of Summer's edition.
D. B. Sands, ed., Middle English Verse Romances (Exeter: Exeter University Press, 1986)Pp. 323-347. Edited from Rawlinson C. 86.
David Geddes Hartwell, ed., The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell: An Edition (Columbia University Dissertation, 1973)Edited from Rawlinson C. 86.
Frederic Madden, ed., Syr Gawayne: A Collection of Ancient Romance-Poems by Scottish and English Authors Relating to That Celebrated Knight of the Round Table (London: Bannatyne Club, 1839)Pp. 297-298. Edited from Rawlinson C. 86.
G. B. Saul, ed., The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1934)Modernization.
J. Withrington, ed., The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell, Lancaster Modern Spelling Text 2 (Lancaster: Department of English, Lancaster University, 1991)Edited from Rawlinson C. 86.
James J. Wilhelm, ed., Romance of Arthur III: Works from Russia to Spain, Norway to Italy (New York: Garland, 1988)Edited from Rawlinson C. 86.
Laura Sumner, ed., The Weddynge of Sir Gawen and Dame Ragnell, Smith College Studies in Modern Language 5, no. 4 (Northhampton, Massachusetts: Smith College Departments of Modern Languages, 1924)Edited from Rawlinson C. 86.
Stephen H. A. Shepherd, ed., Middle English Romances (New York: Norton, 1995)Pp. 243-67. Edited from Rawlinson C. 86.
Thomas Hahn, ed., Eleven Gawain Romances and Tales (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1995)Pp. 47-80. Edited from Rawlinson C. 86.Available online at:
Thomas J. Garbáty, ed., Medieval English Literature (Lexington, Mass: Heath, 1984)Pp. 418-39. Edited from Rawlinson C. 86.