The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell

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The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell

Character Analysis

Sir Gawain is one of the more famous Knights of the Round Table in Arthurian legends. Various authors have written about Gawain including the anonymous author of "The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell." The reader gets to know Gawain’s character through its development throughout the story. Gawain shows his virtue and courteous manner through his words and also through his actions. His physical appearance and dress are never mentioned so there are no clues to his personality in this regard. Gawain’s steadfast manner in the face of adversity is further testament to his worthiness as a knight.

The first glimpse we have of Gawain in the story is shortly after King Arthur returns from his hunt. Gawain is the only person to whom Arthur confides his misadventure with Sir Gromer Somer Jour. Arthur’s apparent trust of Gawain to carry his burden proves that he trusts Gawain’s counsel and that Gawain will be discreet about the king’s troubles. Gawain enforces this belief when he says, "I am not that man that wold you dishonor / Nother by evin ne by moron"(329). In contrast to Arthur who breaks his oath to Sir Gromer that "I shold nevere telle it to no wighte"(331) by hoisting his problems on another, Gawain’s character exhibits a more honorable disposition by immediately offering his assistance. The juxtaposition of these two contrasting characters, namely Arthur and Gawain, serves to display each of their attributes in a clearer, more defined light. Even though Arthur does not necessarily act in a cowardly manner, neither does he measure up to Gawain’s virtuous nature.

After Arthur’s encounter with Dame Ragnell later in the story, he returns to his home even more discouraged than when he set out. Gawain, upon meeting with the dejected king, swears that "I had lever myself be dead, so not I thee"(335) when he hears Arthur’s foreboding prophesy that he will surely die. Gawain backs up his loyalty not only with mere words but with his actions as well. When faced with the prospect of taking a hideous wife to save his lord’s life, Gawain does not hesitate but says that he will "…wed her and wed her again, / Thoughe she were a fend, / Though she were as foulle as Belsabub, / Her shall I wed, by the rood, / Or ellses were not I your frende"(335).
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