Calidore is troubled because he wants to abandon his old quest of pursuing the Blatant Beast to continue his new quest of loving Pastorella. One day, he is walking and comes across a lovely hill called Mount Acidale that overlooks a tranquil vale. The place is so lovely that supposedly Venus herself relaxed there.
This pastoral interlude raises important questions about knightly duty. While Sir Calidore’s quest to stop the Blatant Beast is important, the pastoral life also seems worthwhile and would perhaps be more pleasurable.
As Calidore goes up Mount Acidale, he hears a shepherd playing pipes and see 100 pale naked maidens dancing. They are the Graces, the handmaidens of Venus. The shepherd playing for them is the famous Colin Clout. In the middle of the circle is one unnamed lady, and she’s the one Colin Clout is playing for. Calidore is amazed by what he sees, but as soon as the Graces spot him, they all disappear.
This strange scene brings to life the wonder and splendor of pastoral living. Colin Clout’s pipe-playing is so beautiful that it literally summons servants of Venus down to dance for him. Nevertheless, there is a melancholy underneath all the celebration, as Colin Clout is unable to reach the one woman he’s playing his song for.
Calidore tells Colin Clout he is lucky to be playing for such dainty damsels, but Colin replies that he isn’t because once the damsels disappear, they can never be called back again. Colin explains that the damsels—the Graces—are daughters of Jupiter. But he doesn’t know the identity of the woman in the center of the circle, who was the most chaste and beautiful of all the Graces. Colin calls this woman Gloriana.
The disappearing damsels illustrate how some of the most beautiful aspects of pastoral life are also the most ephemeral. Surprisingly, Colin Clout’s pipe-playing seems to be able to put him in contact with the Faerie Queene herself, Gloriana, suggesting yet another connection between knightly life and the pastoral life.
Calidore apologizes to Colin Clout for interrupting him. His heart aches for Pastorella, so he returns to her and continues doing whatever he can to serve her. Coridon, however, continues to be a rival for Pastorella’s affection and tries to outdo Calidore’s good deeds.
Sir Calidore continues to face a difficult decision. While loyalty to a lady is one of a knight’s highest purposes, by staying with Pastorella, Calidore won’t make any progress on stopping the Blatant Beast.
One day, Calidore, Coridon, and Pastorella are gathering strawberries in the woods when a tiger runs at Pastorella. Coridon runs to the rescue first but cowardly gives up. Calidore then runs forward and hits the tiger so hard with his shepherd’s staff that its head flies off. He places the decapitated tiger head at the feet of Pastorella, and from then on, she loves him much better than Coridon.
The tiger is an early warning sign that the beautiful idyllic life can be suddenly torn apart at a moment’s notice. Calidore’s quick beheading of the tiger with only a shepherd’s staff gives evidence that he’s lost none of his knightly prowess, even after all his time living pastorally.
Calidore joyfully woos Pastorella, but one day the shepherds’ peaceful life is interrupted by the arrival of some brigands who ransack the place. They take everything Melibee has and kidnap Pastorella as well as Coridon. The brigands take Pastorella, Coridon, and Melibee to their cave on a little island, which is hidden by overgrown grass. The brigands intend to sell their captives as slaves.
Like the tiger, the brigands (a type of thief) come out of nowhere and interrupt the pastoral life with shocking violence. For all its charms, the pastoral life is fragile, and its residents are vulnerable to violent attackers, since they aren’t strong knights like Calidore.