Spensers opening verse is about how the praise of beauty and the praise of 'armes and chevalrie' are often joined. he thinks because great beauty should be served by him 'That can her best defend from villanie;'.
Then we lean about the girdle of Florimell, taken from her body by that weird, I think it was a cat monster, then taken by Satyran and made the prize in this tournemant.
This was once the girdle of Venus, made by her husband Vulcan;
"That girdle gave the virtue of chast love,
And wivehood true, to all that did it beare;
But whosoever contrarie doth prouve,
Might not the same about her middle weare,
But it would loose, or else a sunder teare,
Whilome it was (as Faeries wont report)
Dame Venus girdle, by her steemed deare,
What time she used to live in wively sort;
But layd aside, when so she usd her looser sport."
Which, if you know any of the legends of Venus, was probably about fifteen seconds after the marriage.
So its a hot golden chastity belt of a sort. As I read, the more I come to think that by creating a field for virtues to be tested, Spenser has essentially maybe-accidentally, maybe on-purpose, created a book for weirdos and fetishists.
(Which I'm fine with BTW, my favourite parts.)
He is making a field for very precise virtues to be tested, and that necessitates very, veeery specific challenges. At that means loads and loads and loooooads of hot girls, fights, monsters, wizards, sex-golems, generally-sexy situations, at least two pleasure palaces and a bunch of demon stuff.
I'm reminded a bit of Batman Returns, another straight-edge character endlessly challenged by pervs and hotties, and of the Hunger Games where, we all hate child murder, but its ok if they win.
I'll move on.
The Knights move down to the 'Martian field' to decide who the real, ultiamte winner is.
Satyrane won day one. Triamond won day two. The Savage knight was winning day three and knocked everyone about.
But, Britomart then beat the Savage knight, and also knocked everyone about. So she is declared the winner as 'the Knight of Hebene speare'.
(Arthegall is very upset by this and storms off;
"But inly thought of that despightfull deede
Fir time t'awaite avenged for to bee.")
The knights then decide on the Fairest Lady. They all get a look in a scene quite reminiscent of a 1950's beauty parade, with Spenser as the cheesy MC;
"Him needeth sure a golden pen I weene,
To tell the feature of each goodly face.
For since the day that they created beene,
So many heavenly faces were not seene
Assembled in one place:"
Britmart favours 'lovely Amoret', but then Blandamour brings out False Florimell;
"The sight of whom once seene did all the rest dismay.
For all afore that seemed fayre and bright,
Now base and contemptable did appeare,"
Spenser explains why in this very 21st century verse;
As guilefull Goldsmith that by secret skill,
With golden foyle doth finely over spred
Some baser metall, which commend he will
Unto the vulgar for good gold insted,
He much more goodly glosse thereon doth shed,
To hide his falsehood, then as it were trew:
So hard, this Idole was to be ared,
That Florimell her selfe in all mens vew
She seem'd to passe: so forged things do fairest shew."
False Florimell gets the magic chastity belt.
I'm sure you saw this one coming.
"But by no meanes they could it thereto frame.
For ever as they fastened it, it loos'd
And fell away, as feeling secret blame."
Not only will it not stay on False Florimell, they try it on the other Ladies;
"But it would not on none of them abide,
But when they they thought it fast, eftsoones it was untide.
Which when that scornefull Squire of Dames did vew,
He lowdly gan to laugh,"
But, there is one person they haven't tried;
"Till that at last the gentle Amoret
Likewise assayd, to prove that girdles powre;
And having it about her middle set,
Did find it fit, whouten breach or let."
False Florimell does not like this and snatches it back;
"But Britomart would not thereto assent,
Ne her owne Amoret forgoe so light"
Since Britomart refuses False Florimell, every other remaining knight decides they want her, they begin to argue furiously with each other, with Ate stirring the pot.
To solve this problem before (unofficial) violence breaks out, Satyrane devises a fool-proof scheme.
You know the scene in movies where people find a lost dog? And multiple people claim it, and they do a little dog-calling competition? Well lets get everyone in a big circle...
"First in the midst to set that fayrest Dame,
To whom each one his challenge should disclame,
And he himselve his right would eke releasse:
Then looke to whome she vouluntarie came,"
She chooses Braggodocio.
"Which when they all beheld they chaft and rag'd,
And woxe night mad for very harts despight,
That from revenge their willes they scarse asswag'd:"
Braggodocio sees this and sneaks off quietly. When they realise he is gone, the Knights follow after him.
All except for Britomart, who has clearly had enough of this bullshit;
"For soone as she them saw to discord set,
Her list no longer in that place abide;
but taking with her lovely Amoret,
Upon her first adventure forth did ride,
To seeke her lo'd, making blind love her guide.
Unluckie Mayd to seeke her enemie,
Unluckie Mayd to keeke him farre and wide,
Whom, when he was unto her selfe most nie,
She through his late disguizement could him not descrie."
But "great comfort in her sad misfare
Was Amoret, companion of her care:"
Amoret of course, is also seeking a loved on who hates Britmoart, Sir Scudamore, and it is to him we now turn.
Scudamore is still wandering with the nurse Glauce, presumably still in disguise as an old man, and he still has thorns pricking his jealous heart;
"And through his soule like pysned arrow perst,
That by no reason it might be reverst,"
For the last part of the Canto, a storm drives Scudamore and Glauce to shelter in the home of another literalised moral and emotional state; a 'little cottage', by a little brook of 'muddie water' with the sound 'Of many yron hammers beating ranke'.
This is the home of Care, "a blacksmith by his trade,
That neither day nor night, from working spared,
But to small purpose yron wedges made;
Those be unquiet thoughts, that carefull minds invade."
You were probably wondering where those came from weren't you? Well they come from here.
Care stands impassive, like a giant, surrounded by six string servants beating the iron in time 'Like belles in greatnesse orderly succeed,'. Scudamore tries talking to them but they will not respond 'Ne let his speeches come unto their eare.'
Scudamore lies down to sleep on the floor;
"(Whylome for ventrous Knights the bedding best)"
And the end of the Canto is Spensers excellent description of trying to sleep while Care beats his iron wedges into your brain, it's worth a listen or close read;
"Oft chaunging sides, and oft new place electing,
Where better seem'd he mote himselfe repose;
And oft in wrath he thence again uprose;
And of in wrath he layd him downe again."
Eventually he sleeps;
"yet in his soundest sleepe, his dayly feare
His ydle braine gan busily molest,
And mad ehim dreme those two disloyall were:
The things that day most minds, at night doe most appeare."
Care nips him with red hot tongs. Eventually he wakes;
"Then up he rose like heavie lumpe of lead,
That in his face, as in a looking glasse,
The signes of anguish one mote plainely read,
And ghesse the man to be dismayd with gealous dread."
(Spenser ends on another 'apology' verse;
"The end whereof and daungerous event
Shall for another canticle be spared.")