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Sir, if you be Gawain, it seems a great wonder—
A man so well-meaning, and mannerly disposed,
And cannot act in company as courtesy bids,
Early in the morning, the host and his guests get out of bed and prepare to ride forth from the castle. They attend Mass, eat a small breakfast, and leave with their hunting dogs as dawn breaks. They ride through the woods, chasing after the deer and herding the does away from the bucks and harts. In the fields, they slay the deer dozens at a time with their deadly arrows. The hounds hunt down the wounded animals, and the hunters follow to kill them off with their knives.
Back at the castle, Gawain lingers in bed until daybreak. While still half asleep, he hears the door open quietly. Peeking out of his bed’s canopy, he sees the host’s wife creeping toward his bed. Gawain lies back down, pretending to be asleep. Stealthily, the lady climbs inside the bed curtains and sits beside Gawain. Confused but curious, Gawain stretches and pretends to wake up. Upon seeing the lady in his bed, he feigns surprise and makes the sign of the cross. The host’s wife smiles and greets him, teasing him for sleeping so deeply that he didn’t notice her entering his chamber. She jokes that she has captured him, and she threatens to tie him to the bed, laughing at her own game. Gawain laughs and “surrenders” to her, then asks her leave to get up and put on his clothes. She refuses, saying that instead she will hold him captive. She tells Gawain that she has heard many stories about him and wants to spend time alone with him. She offers to be his servant and tells him to use her body any way he sees fit.
The two continue bantering, and the lady tells Gawain that she would have chosen him for her husband if she could have. Gawain responds that her own husband is the better man. Until mid-morning, the lady continues to lavish Gawain with admiration, and Gawain continues to guard himself while still being gracious.
When the lady gets up to leave, she laughs and then sternly accuses her captive knight of not being the real Gawain. Alarmed and worried that he has failed in his courtesy, Gawain asks her to explain what she means. She responds that the real Gawain would never let a lady leave his chamber without taking a kiss. Gawain allows one kiss, and then the lady leaves. He dresses immediately and goes to hear Mass, then spends the afternoon with the host’s wife and the old woman.
Meanwhile, the lord has been hunting deer with his men all day. As evening comes on, the hunters begin to flay the animals, separating the meat and skin from the carcasses. The poet describes the dismembering of the deer in gory detail, from the removal of their bowels to the severing of their heads. After they finish their bloody task, the hunters return home with their meat.
The host greets Gawain and gives him the venison he won during the hunt that day. Gawain thanks him and in return gives him the kiss he won from the lady. The host jokingly asks where Gawain won such a prize, and Gawain points out that they agreed to exchange winnings, not to tell where or how they were acquired. Happy, the men feast and retire to bed, agreeing before they part to play the game again the next day.
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