The day of Florimell and Marinell’s wedding arrives. It’s a glorious feast where everyone eats until they’re full. There is a three-day tournament where seven knights compete for Florimell’s hand. Marinell is the winner on the first two days, but he gets taken prisoner on the third day.
Even though Marinell and Florimell have chosen each other, Marinell still has to prove his worth in a tournament, showing just how essential knightly displays and reputation are in the poem.
Arthegall arrives in the courtyard, and with him is Braggadochio, who met up with Arthegall along the way. Arthegall sees the hundred knights imprisoning Marinell, and so as a disguise, he swaps shields with Braggadochio. He then defeats all the knights and frees Marinell, before swapping shields back to Braggadochio. Meanwhile, Braggadochio has been hiding false Florimell.
The fact that Braggadochio can fool people into thinking he’s Arthegall just by stealing his shield shows how deeply a knight’s shield is connected to his identity. It makes sense that shields would be such essential objects for a knight, since good knights are protectors and shields are the perfect symbol of this.
Real Florimell comes to greet all the knights. Braggadochio then comes forward with his shield (which Arthegall used) and everyone cheers Braggadochio’s name. When Florimell comes to congratulate him, however, Braggadochio brags that he has his own, even better lady. His squire Trompart brings out false Florimell, covered with a veil, which shocks and confuses the crowd. Even Marinell wonders if the false Florimell might be the true one.
Even after false Florimell was exposed in a prior beauty contest, knights like Braggadochio continue to value her over the real thing. Even Marinell is tempted for a moment, showing how powerful and seductive false things can be.
Arthegall can no longer stand to watch Braggadochio lie, so he steps forward to tell everyone that he was the one using Braggadochio’s shield in the tournament. He shows his wounds as proof, then bets that Braggadochio’s Florimell is not the real one.
Arthegall once again steps into the role of judge, revealing to the crowd that Braggadochio is a liar. In carrying out justice, he often uses symbolic displays, and he begins to do one here to prove how false Florimell is a fake.
Arthegall calls real Florimell forward. But as soon as real Florimell stands next to the false one, the false one vanishes into nothing, leaving behind an empty gold belt. Braggadochio is shocked and dismayed. Then Arthegall takes the golden belt and puts it around the waist of the real Florimell, where it fits well.
The gold belt, with its power to help its owner commit to chaste love, also acts as a judge of character, almost like the glass slipper in the story of Cinderella (a story that wasn’t recorded until after The Faerie Queene but which has ancient roots).
Just then, Sir Guyon reveals that he’s in the crowd, and he confronts Braggadochio about stealing his horse (which happened back in Book II). Arthegall is moved by the story but asks Guyon to prove his claims. Guyon describes a black spot shaped like a horse’s shoe in the horse’s mouth. The horse doesn’t even open its mouth until Guyon calls its name—Brigadore. This is enough to convince Arthegall.
Arthegall’s presence in the story signals an end to many of the injustices that have been going on, including the long separation of Sir Guyon from his horse. Guyon’s knowledge of the horse’s hidden blemish proves that he owned the horse, and also shows that he took care to learn all about it (something that Braggadochio apparently didn’t do).
Arthegall wants to slay Braggadochio, but Sir Guyon says that Braggadochio’s shame is punishment enough. Talus carries Braggadochio off, shaving his beard and taking away his shield. Braggadochio is disgraced, and the other knights and ladies soon resume celebrating.
Both Braggadochio’s shield and his beard are symbols of his masculinity as well as his knightly status, and so Talus takes away these things to humiliate him, since status was important for knights.