She is Gawain's wife from in early 16th century version of the Loathly Lady
story. The main emphasis in this version is on courtly shame and honor as
presented through this comedy of manners. Gawain marries the hideous woman
because she saved Arthur, and because he is loyal to Arthur as his king.
Gawain is the more interesting figure-a pleasant, youthful man who does
everything he can to make the best of the situation. In the end it is his
candor and courtesy that permit Dame Ragnell's transformation from an ugly hag
to a beautiful wife. She gives him the option to choose whether she shall be
beautiful during the day (her preference) or at night (his preference). He
chooses beauty in the day, and because she is given her preference she is
beautiful all the time.
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Arthurian Legends. Ed. Ronan Coghlan. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1993.
New Arthurian Encyclopedia. Ed. Norris J. Lacy. New York: Garland,1996.
For more information see:
An Excerpt from "The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell"
"The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell." Ed. James J. Wilhelm. In The Romance of Arthur: New and Expanded Edition. New York: Garland, 1994.
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