Calidore returns to pursuing the Blatant Beast, not resting day or night as he chases after it. One day, while traveling across a plain, he runs into some shepherds playing the pipes and asks them if they’ve seen the beast. The shepherds haven’t but offer Calidore a drink, which Calidore accepts.
Like the protagonists of the prior books, Calidore’s journey is far from a straight line, although many of the stories that occur along the way (even ones without the protagonist) relate to the chapter’s main theme (in this case, courtesy).
Calidore and the shepherds go back to the shepherds’ home, where there is a fair damsel wearing a garland of flowers. Her name is Pastorella, and she is loved by all the shepherds, particularly by one named Coridon, although she doesn’t love him back. Calidore himself is so enchanted with Pastorella that he temporarily forgets about chasing the Blatant Beast.
Coridon (also spelled Corydon) was a frequently recurring character in a genre of ancient Greek and Latin poems called pastorals, which celebrated nature and rural life. As Pastorella’s name also hints, this canto and the next couple play with the genre of the pastoral (a genre that Spenser himself wrote in outside The Faerie Queene).
Melibee, the father of Pastorella, sees that Calidore is alone and invites him into his house. Calidore accepts and courteously thanks Melibee for the hospitality. They talk about the pastoral life of a shepherd, which they both agree is wonderful. But when Calidore says he'd like to become a shepherd, Melibee warns him that fortune knows best and perhaps fortune has already placed Calidore on another path. Calidore persists, however, and Melibee lets him stay.
Melibee is named after a character in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Chaucer is another writer who took inspiration from pastoral poetry. The courtesy and hospitality of a country man like Melibee are intriguing to a knight like Sir Calidore, who also values these virtues due to their importance in chivalry.
Calidore begins his new life as a shepherd, looking longingly at Pastorella in the fields. Pastorella, however, isn’t used to refined knightly ways and instead prefers the simple songs of the shepherd Colin Clout. Calidore notices this and decides to start dressing in simple shepherd’s clothes.
Calidore’s longing for Pastorella is a metaphor for his longing to give up the knighthood and live a simpler life out in the fields. Colin Clout is a character who first appeared in a different poem that Spenser wrote and published around the same time he was working on The Faerie Queene.
When Coridon sees Calidore trying to win Pastorella’s affection, he’s annoyed. He starts giving her lots of little presents, like squirrels and sparrows, but she continues to ignore him. One day the shepherds are playing with Colin Clout leading the music and Calidore, who is now most favored by Pastorella, leading the dancing. Calidore is courteous, however, and gives Coridon a chance to lead the dance, satisfying him for the moment.
Sir Calidore’s time as a knight has given him qualities that make him attractive to Pastorella even more so than a man like Coridon, who has lived a pastoral life since he was born. This section looks at how knightly and pastoral ideals both overlap and differ from each other.
Another time, Coridon challenges Calidore to a wrestling match, but he badly underestimates how strong Calidore is. Again, however, Calidore is courteous, and he gives the winner’s garland to Coridon. Calidore proves that he’s suited to the pastoral life after all and eventually wins the love of Pastorella.
Although wrestling is a pastoral tradition, Sir Calidore’s own experiences as a knight have made him even better prepared to compete at wrestling. Nevertheless, because Calidore is a courteous man, he tries not to wound Coridon’s pride any more than he has to.