Long after Florimell is safe from the foster, she keeps fleeing. Her white horse continues to carry her as fast as it can go for a while, but eventually it reaches a point where it can go no further. As she gets off and continues on foot, she sees smoke coming out over the trees and goes to investigate, coming across a little cottage.
Florimell’s white horse signifies her own purity. Just as a white horse carries her around the world physically, her virtue is what carries her through life metaphorically.
Inside the cottage is an old hag. The hag asks angrily why Florimell is there, and she begins to cry. The evil hag gets the idea for a scheme. Soon after, the hag’s son comes home and is shocked to see the beautiful Florimell there. Despite immediately falling in love with Florimell, however, the son can’t vocalize his desires. Instead, he brings her little forest animals and garlands of flowers as gifts.
Like many chaste female characters (besides Britomart and Belphoebe), Florimell is helpless on her own and at times a little naïve. She doesn’t seem to grasp that the old hag and her son pose a danger to her.
Eventually, Florimell feels she’d like to leave the cottage. She knows the hag or the hag’s son might try to stop her, so she tries to sneak off on her white horse. When the son realizes she’s gone, he is distraught, scratching and biting himself, so the hag tries, unsuccessfully, to cure his broken heart with charms and herbs.
The hag’s son is yet another character in Book III to experience a physical lovesickness. But unlike the pure loves of Britomart or Timias, the love the son feels is a wilder, more corrupt love, as shown by his biting and scratching.
Eventually, the hag summons forth a hideous beast that looks like a deformed hyena, which feeds on women’s flesh. It goes chasing after Florimell. Florimell sees the ugly creature and fears for her life. The monster slays and eats her white horse. Florimell flees towards the sea, feeling that she’d rather drown herself than get caught. Luckily, when she gets to the shore, she finds a boat there and climbs aboard.
The ugliness of the beast that the hag conjures up symbolizes the ugliness of her son’s lust for Florimell. This wild lust destroys whatever gets in its way, and unfortunately for Florimell, her horse becomes an innocent victim.
The hyena-like monster can’t follow Florimell in her boat, but it stands on the shore watching. While the monster is there, Sir Satyrane happens to come wandering by on his own adventure. Seeing Florimell’s situation, he begins attacking the monster.
Sir Satyrane shares Belphoebe’s connection to the forest, and so it makes sense that he returns in Book III (where Belphoebe and nature are recurring topics) to continue his adventures.
The beast is fearsome and won’t go down. Finally, Sir Satyrane manages to restrain it with a gold belt taken from Florimell’s waist (which Satyrane found lying in the forest earlier). After tying the beast up, Satyrane sees a giantess (Argante) riding off on a horse with a bound squire (the Squire of Dames) as her prisoner, pursued by a knight (Britomart). Satyrane leaves the beast to chase the giantess.
Satyrane’s adventure is just beginning. After restraining the beast that was attacking Florimell, he finds another helpless victim (whose identity is later revealed as the Squire of Dames) in need of assistance.
As Sir Satyrane approaches the giantess, she prepares for battle with her heavy iron mace. She strikes hard and hits Satyrane on the helmet, stunning him. The giantess grabs Satyrane and is going to take him away, but when the knight pursuing her gets closer, she decides to drop Satyrane instead.
Giants are fearsome opponents in the poem—one defeated the Redcross Knight and now the same nearly happens here to Sir Satyrane. They represent how sometimes the overwhelming brute power of evil is too much for righteous knights to overcome.
Sir Satyrane wakes on the ground, disappointed about how the battle went. It turns out that the giantess also dropped the squire she was holding. The handsome squire tells how he fell into the hands of the giantess, whose name is Argante. The giantess is so lusty that she has sex with beasts, and she roams the country for young men to quench her desires. The giantess captured the squire with the intention of forcing him to serve her.
The lusty, hungry giantess is similar to the hyena-like monster that was just chasing Florimell earlier in the canto. With the exception of heroic characters like Belphoebe and Britomart, powerful women in the story most often use their strength as a way to oppress men.
The squire, who asks to be called the Squire of Dames, goes on to explain how the knight chasing Argante is actually a virgin woman paladin (meaning Britomart). He explains that he got his nickname because in order to win the love of his lady, she asked him to “do service unto gentle Dames.” The squire did just that, finding favor in the hearts of 300 different dames. But when the squire goes back to his own dame, she is angry and punishes him to instead find 300 chaste dames who will refuse his advances.
The Squire of Dames may not have deserved to be eaten by Argante, but he is also potentially a morally dubious character. The phrase “do service unto gentle Dames” could have a sexual connotation, suggesting that perhaps the squire was using his lady’s orders as an opportunity to be unfaithful to her.
The Squire of Dames tells about how he’s tried to find 300 dames who will refuse him, but so far, he’s only found three. Sir Satyrane listens to the squire’s plight before heading back to where he left the hyena-monster, which has broken free and gone back to tell the hag about Florimell.
The fact that the Squire of Dames has only found three women to refuse him so far suggests that perhaps he is not trying all that hard to finish his lady’s assigned task.