Florimell’s gold belt gives its owner the virtue of chaste love, but it can only be worn by a worthy woman. The belt once belonged to the goddess Venus herself.
Florimell’s gold belt is like the enchanted shields and weapons that knights bring into battle, except because she doesn’t need to fight, it instead gives her the power to love better.
At the tournament, everyone judges that Sir Satyrane won the first day, Triamond won the second, and Britomart won the third, as well as winning overall. Arthegall is unhappy about this outcome and vows vengeance one day.
Arthegall’s pledge of vengeance is ironic because in fact, Britomart is not his enemy and will eventually become his wife.
Next up is a contest to judge the beauty of all the ladies present. Cambina (who is with Cambell), Canacee (who is with Triamond), Duessa (who is with Paridell), and Amoretta (who is with Britomart) are all in contention, but the most impressive participant is false Florimell (who is with Blandamour), who looks even fairer than the real Florimell some of them know. She is awarded the gold belt.
The humorous part of this contest is that out of all the available women, a sprite disguised as a woman wins the top prize. This section is perhaps a commentary on how sometimes falseness can be more appealing than even the real thing, at least on a superficial level.
When false Florimell tries to wear the gold belt, however, it keeps slipping off her. She gets embarrassed. Other ladies also try to fasten the belt on themselves with no luck. This causes the Squire of Dames to laugh, since it means all these ladies are unvirtuous. At last, Amoretta manages to successfully wear the belt.
False Florimell’s inability to wear the belt suggests that she is unsuitable for it and the belt is rejecting her. The failures of so many other ladies at the tournament suggests that perhaps chaste love is rare indeed and so should be valued.
Fake Florimell has nevertheless been voted most beautiful and awarded to Britomart. But since Britomart doesn’t want her, she is awarded to Arthegall, who has apparently already left in anger. She’s then passed to Triamond, who stays loyal to his wife, and finally ends up with Sir Satyrane, who happily accepts her because he believes that this fake Florimell is the real one he lost earlier.
The Faerie Queene celebrates the rituals of medieval knights, but in sections like this, it also parodies them. Fake Florimell is passed down from knight to knight, all of whom don’t want her, suggesting that many knights were fighting only for the glory, or perhaps without even realizing what they were fighting for.
Blandamour, Paridell, and Braggadochio are not happy with this outcome, however, and start arguing, their anger fueled in part by Ate. Wishing to avoid more violence, Satyrane suggests placing Florimell (really false Florimell) in the center of all of them and letting her choose who she wants to be with. They do so, and Florimell ends up going to Braggadochio.
Satyrane’s willingness to give up fake Florimell shows that he is more devoted to the spirit of competition than to the prize at the end. It also shows how little agency many women had at the time, as fake Florimell is literally passed around like a prize.
Braggadochio takes false Florimell away in the middle of the night, and some of the other knights pursue him. Britomart continues on her own adventure seeking her love but not realizing that it’s Arthegall and that she’s already made him an enemy. Though Britomart is glad to have a virtuous companion like Amoretta, Amoretta still longs to be reunited with Scudamore.
As the tournament ends, each of the characters gets back to what they were doing before the tournament. Britomart’s dedication to Arthegall and to helping Amoretta stands in contrast to Braggadochio’s cowardly sneaking away at night with fake Florimell.
Scudamore himself, however, seeks vengeance against Britomart because he jealously believes that she has made Amoretta unfaithful (despite Glauce’s insistence that that’s not the case). Scudamore and Glauce travel together until a terrible storm forces them to seek shelter in a little cottage by some steep hills. Inside the cottage, they meet a blacksmith named Care who works night and day.
Scudamore remains mistaken about Britomart, still misled by the strength of his own love for Amoretta. Glauce tries to talk sense into him, as she successfully did once in the past, but Scudamore is too determined to listen to her.
Care has six servants in his workshop, including one who is a giant. Scudamore admires all the work he sees and asks what’s going on, but no one will answer him. Eventually Scudamore realizes he’s exhausted after so much adventure and lays down to sleep in his armor. He doesn’t get much rest, however, because he keeps hearing hammers on anvils or the bellows flaring up.
Care, the blacksmith who always bangs around and doesn’t let guests sleep, is a personification of how the emotional state of caring also sometimes interrupts people’s sleep.
At last, even the noise isn’t enough to keep Scudamore awake. He drifts into sleep, only to dream about Care burning him in the side with red-hot tongs. His heart quakes with pain. He spends the whole night restless like this before getting onto his horse the next day and riding off for more adventure with Glauce.
Even in his dreams, Scudamore can’t escape Care, providing a visual demonstration of how cares can haunt people even in the seeming safety of their dreams.