Jeaste of Sir Gawain

General Information

(N)IMEV: *306.5
Form: 6-line tail-rime stanza, rhyming aabccb
Date of Composition: Second half of the fifteenth century
Place of Composition: South Midlands
Keywords: Animal, Ekphrasis, Familial Discord, Forest, Heraldry, Hunting, Sexual Encounters, Tournament

Plot Summary

Plot summary image

[While hunting in the forest, Gawain meets a beautiful lady in a pavilion. She warns him about her father and brothers] but he dismisses her concerns and embraces her. She succumbs to his advances, but they are soon interrupted by her father, Sir Gilbert. Furious at the loss of his daughter’s virtue, Gilbert challenges Gawain, refusing his offer of peaceful resolution. They joust and Gawain overthrows Gilbert. He spares his life on condition that he does not harm his daughter and does not challenge Gawain again. Gilbert rides off, threatening vengeance. He meets one of his sons, Sir Gyamoure, and relates the shame that Gawain has caused him. Ignoring his father’s warnings about the knight’s prowess, Gyamoure promises to avenge him.

He travels to his sister’s pavilion, where he finds her with Gawain. Rejecting his offer of peace, Gyamoure insists that they fight. Gawain unhorses his opponent but spares his life, ordering him not to challenge him again. Gyamour returns to his father and as they commiserate, Gilbert’s second son, Sir Terry, approaches. After hearing their grievances, he rides to the pavilion and confronts Gawain, again refusing his offer of amends. After Gawain has defeated him, Terry praises his prowess and warns him about the third brother, Sir Brandles, who is a great knight. Gawain spares him and he returns to his father and brother, comparing Gawain to a devil.

Sir Brandles arrives, richly armed, singing loudly and carrying a branch in his hand. Hearing what has befallen his family, he pledges to fight Gawain to the death. He rides to the pavilion, where his sister warns Gawain of his strength. Gawain’s attempts at peace are rejected for a fourth time and his pleas of exhaustion are ignored. The two knights fight until the daylight fades. Brandles suggests that they abandon the fight, but swear an oath to resume next time they meet. Gawain complies, asking Brandles to be kind to his sister. He departs on foot, abandoning his wounded horse and heavy armour. When he has gone, Brandles calls his sister a harlot and beats her violently before returning home with his father and brothers. The maiden runs away, wandering in the forest and never returning home. Gawain eventually reaches Arthur’s court, where he recounts his adventures. To the joy of the knights, he never meets Brandles again.

From: Thomas Hahn, ed. Sir Gawain: Eleven Romances and Tales. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 2000.
Manuscript: Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 261


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Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 261 (folio: 15r-25v)1564. Copied from a now lost print by John Kynge of 1557 or 1558? 541 lines. Lacks beginning.

Early Editions

1528? London: John Butler. STC (2nd ed.) 11691a.3. Fragment. 4 leaves. London, Lambeth Palace Library.
1530-32. London: J. Mitchell for John Butler. STC (2nd ed.) 11691a.5. Fragment. 2 leaves. London, Westminster Abbey.
1540? London: Thomas Petyt. STC (2nd ed.), 11691a.7. Fragment. 1 leaf. London, British Library.

Modern Editions

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. 207-223. Edited from Douce MS.
Thomas Hahn, ed., Eleven Gawain Romances and Tales (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1995)Pp. 397-418. Based on Douce MS and prints.


Anonymous Old French Conte du Graal, twelfth century