"The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell" is a medieval romance poem written by an anonymous author. Sir Gawain is one of the major characters in the poem. He is a very likable personality. Sir Gawain represents an ideal knight of the fourteenth century. Throughout the story, we see Sir Gawain portrayed as a very courteous and noble knight, always trying to help King Arthur. The characteristics of Sir Gawain like kindness, generosity and firmness are revealed from his actions.
Sir Gawain is a very gentle and noble knight, always willing to help people, particularly his king. King Arthur is in a bad predicament, as he has killed a deer while hunting in the woods. To save his life, King Arthur has a period of twelve months to find the answer to the question: What is it that women most desire? Of King Arthur's knights, Gawain is the only one who can help King Arthur: "Sir, me marvailithe right sore, Whate thing that thou sorrowist fore." (329). King Arthur is depressed about the entire situation, and needs a friend to understand him and help him. Sir Gawain being a noble and gentile knight is willing to help King Arthur with his problem. Sir Gawain suggests that the two of them ask everyone for the answer:
He travels to different places to find the answer to the question, in order to help King Arthur.
Sir Gawain is a noble and loyal knight. The test of his loyalty to King Arthur comes into play when King Arthur asks Gawain to marry the ugly woman named Dame Ragnell. The author describes Dame Ragnell as the ugliest and the foulest of all creatures. In reply to Dame Ragnell's marriage proposal, Gawain shows his loyalty to King Arthur by saying:
Here, Sir Gawain follows the code of comitatus and helps King Arthur by agreeing to marry the old and ugly Dame Ragnell. Sir Gawain tells King Arthur that even though Dame Ragnell is as foul as Belsabub, he will marry her to keep King Arthur's honor. The honor and friendship of King Arthur mean a lot to Sir Gawain. According to comitatus, Sir Gawain has a duty and obligation to help his king. Sir Gawain's willingness to throw away his life, for the friendship and honor of King Arthur, proves that Sir Gawain is a very noble and loyal knight. He treats Dame Ragnell in a proper manner, in the same way that he would if she was young and beautiful. During the fourteenth century women were praised high in the society. It was a duty of the knight to treat his wife or lady in a gentile and graceful manner. On the wedding night, when Ragnell asks for his embrace he says to Dame Ragnell: "I wolle do more. Then for to kisse, and God before!" (343). Gentleness and nobility are gifts from God, and Sir Gawain seems to posses these gifts. Sir Gawain decides to kiss Dame Ragnell even though she is ugly. He is treating Dame Ragnell in a very gentle and noble manner.
Many clues about the personality of Sir Gawain can be found from what other characters have to say about him. The way King Arthur responds to Sir Gawain for agreeing to marry Dame Ragnell provides clues about the character of Sir Gawain. King Arthur thanks Sir Gawain for his deed:
King Arthur tells Gawain that he is the finest knight that he has ever seen, and that he loves him even more for saving his life. Sir Gawain is a likable personality, who is always willingly doing good deeds for other people. At the sight of Sir Gawain and impressed by the willingness to marry her, Dame Ragnell instantly falls in love with him: "Godhavemercy, For thy sake I wold I were a faire woman, For thou art of so good wille."(339). Dame Ragnell demands to marry Sir Gawain in a ceremony. She is very happy that she is going to be marrying one of the finest and noblest knights of King Arthur's court.
During the Middle Ages honor meant a lot. Sir Gawain definitely understands the value of honor. To keep his king's honor, Sir Gawain decides to marry the old and ugly Dame Ragnell. Sir Gawain is also a confident person. Knowing the consequence of their failure Sir Gawain doesn't panic and is rather calm. He even calms King Arthur down, who is worrying about the entire situation. Dame Ragnell offers Sir Gawain the choice: "to have me fair by day and foul by night or foul by day and fair by night" (325). If Gawain accepts his wife fair on day then she will be adulterous on nights. The wife will have adulterous relationships with men at night rather than in the day and vice versa. Sir Gawain is smart enough to realize that he would be losing her either way. Therefore he makes right the choice by allowing his wife, Dame Ragnell, to make the decision for him.
"The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell" was written by an unknown author. Sir Gawain is the noble, gentle knight in the story. His qualities are revealed by his actions and by what other characters say about him. He comes across to the audience as a real person who cares about other people's feelings. At the end of the story, the audience comes away having more respect for Sir Gawain than for King Arthur.