Arthegall leaves Florimell and Marinell’s wedding festivities. As he travels, he meets two handsome squires who are twin brothers. In front of them is a treasure chest that is tightly closed. The two brothers are fighting with each other, which Arthegall watches at first before asking what the cause of their disagreement is.
The beginning of this canto resets the action and introduces a new scenario where Arthegall will be able to enact his version of justice by acting as the arbiter in a dispute.
The elder brother (Bracidas) begins to explain the problem. Their father, Melesio, divided his lands up equally between each brother, with each getting an island of the same size. But as time passed, the seas took land from the elder brother’s island and gave it to the younger brother’s island.
Disputes over land and inheritance come up often in the poem, showing how wealth can drive people apart, even people who are related to each other by blood.
This land dispute causes Bracidas’s fiancée, Philtera, to leave him and marry his younger brother (named Amidas), who has more land. This in turn causes Amidas’s former fiancée, Lucy, to throw herself into the sea to kill herself. Lucy soon regrets this decision, but luckily, she finds the chest floating in the sea, which she grabs onto.
Despite some parallelism between the status of the two brothers, the story clearly sets Bracidas and Lucy up to be the more sympathetic characters, since Philtera in particular is fickle and only motivated by wealth.
Bracidas happens to find Lucy after she washes ashore on his island with the chest. They marry and eventually find out that the chest is full of treasure. Philtera claims that she was on a boat that wrecked and that before it wrecked, she was on her way to deliver that treasure to her new husband, Amidas, but Lucy doubts this is true.
Bracidas and Lucy are seemingly rewarded for enduring their misfortunes by the chest that Lucy discovered, and Philtera’s claim that the chest is hers is hypocritical, since her new lover Amidas benefited from having land carried to him on the sea, just like the chest.
Amidas confirms that parts of Bracidas’s story about the land are true. But he says he can prove the treasure belongs to Philtera, just like she said. Arthegall says he’ll mediate the argument to help them reach a decision.
Although Bracidas comes across as the more sympathetic character in the story, Amidas remains equally convinced that his position is correct, which is why they both feel comfortable putting the decision about justice to Arthegall.
Arthegall starts by asking Amidas what right he has to keep the land that the sea stole from Bracidas. He then turns to Bracidas and says the treasure is clearly the dowery of Philtera, so by what right is he keeping it from Amidas? Arthegall concludes, however, by saying that the sea works randomly, and whoever benefits from this randomness has a right to it. He says Amidas can keep the land, and Bracidas can keep the treasure. Amidas and Philtera are upset by this judgment, while Bracidas and Lucy are pleased. Arthegall, however, believes justice has been carried out, and so he leaves to continue his adventure.
Arthegall’s version of justice is logical and consistent. He treats the sea as an impartial force that doesn’t intentionally favor one brother or the other, and so the sea’s random fluctuations should be respected. This reflects the role that chance can play in human lives and in justice: Arthegall believes that good or bad fortune does not necessarily have a role in determining justice.
Arthegall comes across a knight who has his hands tied behind his back, a noose around his neck, and a covering over his face. Around him, tyrannical women are taunting him. Arthegall doesn’t like fighting women, so he sends Talus to disperse them. The women go home. Talus then frees the knight, whose name is Sir Turpine.
Many knights in the poem are tricked or otherwise trapped by women, but this is perhaps the most literal case of a knight being harassed by women. Arthegall’s refusal to fight the women himself makes him a sort of God-like figure who executes his will through Talus, so that he can render impartial judgment at a distance.
Arthegall asks Sir Turpine how he ended up in this situation. Sir Turpine explains that he heard about the queen of the Amazon warrior women (named Radigund) who was in love with a knight named Bellodant but got rejected. As revenge, Radigund now takes out her anger on all knights. Arthegall is disturbed by this and goes to the Amazon capital of Radegone (named after Radigund).
Radigund provides an interesting contrast to Britomart, who is also a warrior woman but who is portrayed much more positively. Radigund’s main flaw is that she didn’t respect the rules of chaste love, and as a result of being rejected, she decided to scorn knightly values and torment brave knights.
When Radigund sees the unhurt Sir Turpine in front of her at the capital, she’s full of rage. She throws him to the ground and steps on his head. This causes Arthegall to interfere, and he attacks Radigund with a stroke that would have killed her if she hadn’t been prepared.
Radigund’s rage also separates her from the composed Britomart. Though Radigund is strong, she is too passionate and doesn’t know how to properly direct her strength.
Radigund and Arthegall fight until evening, with her Amazon warrior women joining the battle, but their arrows are unable to pierce Talus’s iron body. That night both sides withdraw, with Talus keeping watch for Arthegall and Sir Turpine. Meanwhile, an angry Radigund calls her maid Clarinda over and asks her to send a message to Arthegall. She wants to face him in one-on-one battle.
Despite rebelling against the role a woman should play in chaste love, Radigund nevertheless respects certain knightly rituals, such as the tradition of settling disputes in one-on-one combat. Like many villains in the poem, she follows certain rules because she seems to believe that she is in the right.