At Faerie Court, where there are many knights and ladies with good manners, there is no knight more courteous than Calidore, who is loved by all. Calidore heads out from court on an adventure and runs into Arthegall, returning from his victory over Grantorto (at the end of the previous book). Arthegall asks what Calidore is doing, and Calidore replies that he is on a quest to find a creature from the underworld called the Blatant Beast. Arthegall has in fact seen this many-tongued beast (also at the end of the previous book), and so he wishes Calidore well on his quest to slay it.
Even in the sixth out of six completed books, the poem is still introducing new protagonists like Calidore, reinforcing the narrator’s point from the proem that variety is an important quality. The Blatant Beast is related to the monster from earlier that spread slander and lies about good knights and ladies, and so it makes a logical antagonist to a courteous protagonist like Calidore.
Calidore continues down the road and comes across a squire who seems upset and is tied to a tree. Calidore asks what happened, and the squire tells of the castle of Briana up ahead, where knights and ladies can’t pass because the guards there lock away the ladies and charge the knights a toll. Briana loves a knight named Crudor who is proud and refused her love, unless she could give him a mantle made from the beards of knights and the hair of ladies.
Charging a toll to pass was the same crime that Pollente the pagan committed in Book V. Refusing to let knights pass on a certain road is the opposite of hospitality and courtesy. Briana ends up hurting innocent knights, all for the sake of her personal dispute with Crudor.
To win Crudor’s love, Briana enlists the help of a guard named Maleffort. While Calidore and the squire are talking, they hear a noise and realize that it is Maleffort carrying off the squire’s lady. Calidore runs after Maleffort, and the two fight. Calidore gains the upper hand, so Maleffort runs away.
Maleffort’s name suggests that he is someone who is up to no good (since “mal” means “bad”). Maleffort has no grudge of his own, but his willingness to carry out orders for Briana’s unjust grudge makes him just as guilty.
Calidore chases after Maleffort, catching up with him and chopping his head off. He then kills the castle porter as he breaks in. Briana sees Calidore and calls him a traitor knight for murdering her men. Calidore is a little ashamed but maintains he’s done nothing wrong. Briana sends her dwarf off to fetch Crudor, saying he must save her from an evil knight.
Calidore may be the knight who represents courtesy, but that doesn’t mean he won’t chop someone’s head off. Maleffort may just be following orders, but the orders he follows are so offensive to typical knightly courtesy that Calidore sees no choice but to kill him.
Calidore and Crudor fight the next morning. Crudor immediately charges at Calidore without even verifying his identity and the two knock each other off their horses. Calidore gets up quickly, disappointing Briana, who thinks Crudor might be dead. She wails in disappointment, looking like she’s about to throw herself over the castle wall. Crudor, however, eventually recovers and gets up.
Crudor (whose name is like “crude”) very rudely attacks Calidore before even verifying who he is. As the knight of courtesy, Calidore is Crudor’s opposite while also being his equal, given that they both knock each other off their horses at the same time.
The fight begins anew, with both Calidore and Crudor attacking forcefully. Eventually, the two of them decide to put all their power into a strike at the same time. Calidore gets the upper hand, knocking Crudor on the helmet and making him kneel. Crudor pleads for Calidore to spare his life. Calidore stays his hand, but he scolds Crudor for his pride. Calidore makes Crudor pledge to be loyal to Briana, and he agrees.
Although Crudor fought against Calidore, Calidore chooses to spare him, an opportunity he didn’t give Maleffort. This inconsistency might seem strange: one possible explanation is that Crudor is of higher birth and so more capable of redemption, at least in Calidore’s view. Another possibility is that Calidore shows mercy for Briana’s sake.
Briana is delighted to finally have Crudor. His love and courtesy help to restore Briana, who shows her thankfulness by holding a big feast. She wants to give Calidore a gift, but he refuses to accept land or money in exchange for his good deeds. He leaves the castle to continue on his quest.
The happy ending for Briana and Crudor is a little surprising, given how rudely they behaved earlier, but Briana’s generosity in throwing a feast and offering gifts suggests that she truly has been reformed by finally having Crudor’s love.