Awntyrs off Arthure

General Information

(N)IMEV: 1566
Form: 13-line stanza, rhyming ababababcdddc (nine alliterative lines followed by a four-line wheel)
Date of Composition: Late fourteenth century
Place of Composition: Northern England, Carlisle ?
Keywords: Animal, Disease, Education, Ekphrasis, Forest, Friendship, Heraldry, Hunting, Monster, Other-world, Penance, Religious Figures, Religious Spaces, Sacrament, Secular Spaces, Sexual Encounters, Supernatural, Tournament

Plot Summary

Plot summary image

While staying at Carlisle, Arthur, Guinevere and his knights set out to hunt in Inglewood. While the king pursues the deer through the forest, Gawain remains with the richly dressed queen beside the Tarn Wathelene. At mid-morning the sky darkens and a storm rises. A hideous apparition approaches Gawain and Guinevere across the lake, emitting a terrible wail. Identifying herself as Guinevere’s mother, the ghost describes the torments she suffers for her former sins, particularly lust and pride. She warns her daughter that she must be virtuous, chaste and charitable or suffer the same fate. The prayers of the living can assuage her pains, however, and she asks for thirty Trentals to be said. Guinevere promises to arrange these masses, and Gawain asks about the broader fate of the Round Table. As she departs, the ghost replies that Arthur will fall from Fortune’s wheel and lose his lands: his crown will be usurped and his knights destroyed by one of their own number.

The sun returns and the knights reassemble. After Guinevere has related the events to Arthur, they all return to the court and dine lavishly. As they eat, a handsomely armed knight enters the hall, led by his lady. Introducing himself as Galeron of Galloway, he complains that Arthur has unjustly taken his lands and given them to Gawain. Refusing to surrender them without a fight, he asks to joust with a knight of the court. Gawain himself makes sure that Galeron is lodged in a lavish pavilion and accepts the challenge. The next day the lists are set up and the two knights fight fiercely for the whole day, wounding each other badly and shedding ornaments from their rich armour. Just as Gawain is about to win, Galeron’s lady pleads Guinevere to intervene. At her request, Arthur stops the fight and Galeron yields to Gawain, granting him the disputed lands. In return, Gawain returns some of the lands to his opponent, and invites him to stay. The court returns to Carlisle, where the two knights are healed and made dukes. Galeron marries his lady and is made a knight of the Round Table. Guinevere writes to all the clergy in Britain, asking them to perform masses for her mother.

From: Thomas Hahn, ed. Sir Gawain: Eleven Romances and Tales. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 2000. Manuscript: Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 324.


Click a title below to search for all romances in that manuscript.

Lincoln Cathedral Library, MS 91 (Thornton Manuscript) (folio: 154r-161r)c. 1440, North Yorkshire.
London, Lambeth Palace Library, MS 491 (folio: 275r-286v)First quarter of the fifteenth century, London area (LALME LP 6030)
Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 309 (folio: 1r-11v)19th C. transcript of Douce 324 by Francis Douce
Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 324 (folio: 1r-11v)Third quarter of the fifteenth century, Northwest Midlands.
Princeton University Library, MS Taylor 9 (Ireland Blackburn MS) (folio: 1r-15v)1450-60, Lancashire.

Modern Editions

F.J. Amours, ed., Scottish Alliterative Poems, Scottish Text Society Publications 27, 28 (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1897)Pp. 115-171. Parallel texts of Thornton and Douce MSS.
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. 95-128. Edited from Thornton MS, with variants from Douce 324.
H. Phillips, ed., The Awntyrs of Arthure, Lancaster Modern Spelling Texts, 1 (Lancaster: Lancaster University Department of English, 1988)
John Robson, ed., Three Early English Metrical Romances, Camden Society 18 (London, 1842)Pp. 1-26. Edited from Ireland Blackburn MS.
Maldwyn Mills, ed., Ywain and Gawain, Sir Percyvell of Gales, The Anturs of Arther (London: Everymans Library, 1992)Pp. 161-82. Critical edition.
Ralph Hanna, ed., The Awntyrs off Arthure at the Terne Wathelyn: An Edition Based on Bodleian Library MS. Douce 324 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1974)Uses Douce MS as base text.
Robert J. Gates, ed., The Awntyrs off Arthure at the Terne Wathelyne: A Critical Edition (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1969)Critical edition.
Stephen H. A. Shepherd, ed., Middle English Romances (New York: Norton, 1995)Pp. 219-42. Uses Douce 324 as base text with emendations from the other MSS.
Thomas Hahn, ed., Eleven Gawain Romances and Tales (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1995)Pp. 178-226. Uses Douce MS as base text.Available online at:


Legend of the Mass or Trental of Saint Gregory ?