Study Guide

The Faerie Queene Book 4, Canto 5

By Edmund Spenser

Book 4, Canto 5

  • Our narrator tells us how knights and their brave acts of chivalry are always accompanied by lovely and virtuous women, so now it's time to turn from the competition of knights to the competitions of ladies to see who will win the girdle of Florimell.
  • The girdle is magical and will make its owner both virtuous and a good wife; but it can only be worn by a virtuous woman.
  • It used to belong to the goddess Venus, made by her husband Vulcan to prevent her from being unfaithful.
  • But one day when Venus went off to visit her lover, Mars, she left the girdle behind and Florimell, who was at the time being raised there by the Graces (three lovely, nature-dwelling goddesses), snagged it.
  • Anyway, it's clearly a special girdle so it's understandable that so many women would desire to have it.
  • Before they judge the beauty of the women, they first established that the three best knights were Satyrane, Triamond, and Britomart, and Britomart was voted the very best of all.
  • The last made Arthegall angry, since he was still bitter about being knocked off his horse, and he vowed vengeance.
  • But meanwhile, it was time for the contest of beauty and each knight brought their lady: Cambell with Cambina, Triamond with Canacee, Paridell with Duessa, Ferramont with a lady named Lucida, Britomart with Amoret, and finally, Blandamour with the False Florimell, who pretty much stopped the show.
  • After everyone agrees that she is most beautiful—possibly because fake things can look more beautiful than real ones—they decide to award her the girdle.
  • However, no one could fasten it to her, and she is extremely angry and embarrassed.
  • Soon many other women try to wear it, but it would not stay fixed to any of them, and the Squire of Dames began to laugh at how few virtuous women there actually appeared to be.
  • But finally Amoret came up and fastened the girdle with no problem, which made all the other women jealous, especially the False Florimell, who snatched it and kept trying to get it on.
  • Regardless of whether she could wear it, she had been voted the most beautiful, and was thus awarded to Britomart, who had been voted best knight.
  • But Britomart was uninterested in taking Florimell. She liked Amoret, and didn't really find Florimell as pretty as everyone else did.
  • So, Florimell went next to Arthegall, but he wasn't there, and then to Triamond, who stuck with his wife Canacee, and finally, to Satyrane, who was pleased to have her (as he thought) back.
  • But Blandamour was not happy about this, nor was Paridell, nor Braggadochio and soon all the knights were complaining bitterly, driven to conflict by the sneaky Ate.
  • Satyrane finally was fed up and offered this solution: Florimell would be put in the middle of all the knights and the one whom she chose to go to would be the one to win her.
  • They all agree and in the end Florimell chooses, of all of them, Braggadochio.
  • This makes everyone extremely upset, but Braggadochio doesn't care and sneaks off in the night with the False Florimell while the other knights pursue them.
  • Meanwhile, Britomart decides to leave with Amoret to seek Arthegall, not realizing she's made him her enemy.
  • Even though Britomart is sad without Arthegall, she is happy to have Amoret as her companion, who is also hoping to find Scudamore.
  • Scudamore is still tortured by jealousy, believing, despite Glauce's insistence, that Britomart has taken Amoret as her own.
  • The two are traveling in search of them and one night are caught in a terrible storm and must seek shelter.
  • They come to a cave under a hill. It's not very welcoming, but better than nothing and inside find a blacksmith working. He's wearing tattered rags, and is filthy.
  • His name is Care and he makes metal wedges that disturb people's thoughts with the help of six servants. One of his servants is a huge, terrifying giant.
  • Scudamore tries to find out what everyone is up to, but when no one answers him, he gives up and tries to go to sleep.
  • This, however, proves difficult with the constant noise and clamor of the blacksmiths, some who even come up and wake him as soon as he starts to doze, driving poor Scudamore crazy.
  • Finally, when he actually gets to sleep, he is tormented by bad dreams in which the blacksmith Care comes over and burns with his iron tongs.
  • Scudamore awakes in pain, only to find no one there, and eventually he and Glauce leave the cave to continue their search.