Florimell (who, you might recall, loves Marinell, who doesn't love her and is currently recuperating with his mother) is fleeing. It took me a while to figure out that she wasn't running, but riding a horse, and symbolically speaking, she's emotionally out of control. The exhausted horse stops and Florimell finds a cottage, but the residents are a witch and her oafish son. The witch is afraid at first, and then angry, but is moved by Florimell's plight and lets her rest. The son lusts after the maiden and brings her treats, but once she is well she sneaks away. The son is mad with despair and frustrated desire, so the witch plots to bring her back. She calls up a monster hyena (symbol of debasement and lust), which chases Florimell to the seashore. Florimell plans to jump into the sea and drown rather than be caught, but finds a little fishing boat and gets away. The monster has caught her girdle, and eats the horse.
|Florimell, fleeing as usual|
Meanwhile, the witch is happy that Florimell is dead (as she thinks), but her son is worse than ever, so she makes him a false Florimell out of snow, run by sprites. He's happy, but as they walk in the forest, old Braggadocio shows up, beats the oafish son, and grabs False Florimell. Another knight comes along and challenges him, so he runs off and the new knight takes the girl, not knowing she isn't Florimell. The real maiden is in a boat, and there's an old fisherman asleep in it. When he awakes, he is filled with lust and tries to rape her. Her screams attract Proteus, the sea god, and he rescues her and takes her to his home...where he won't let her go. He woos her, but she rejects him, so he tries to scare her into submission and throws her into a dungeon. Poor Florimell is an eternal victim, never able to defend herself properly and so always suffering. -- Meanwhile, Satyrane and the squire meet Sir Paridell, who is seeking Florimell along with many knights of Faerie. Satyrane breaks the news of her death, but they resolve to look for more proof before really declaring her dead. So they go to a nearby castle for the night...and are refused shelter!
The castle is Malbecco's (bad goat/cuckold), a rude, greedy churl who keeps his wife Hellenore locked up. She is young and sweet, and they are 'unfitly yoked.' Still, that doesn't excuse her behavior. Malbecco is so jealous that he doesn't let knights come in. A storm breaks upon the knights, so they take shelter in a shed. Another knight arrives, seeking shelter--and they are churlish and unwelcoming themselves, so they all have a fight out in the storm. Satyrane makes peace and they plan to attack the castle, and Malbecco lets them in. As they disarm, the knight turns out to be Britomart, who is very beautiful but also intimidatingly powerful. She scares them. All sit down to a feast, and since Malbecco only has one eye to keep on his wife, Paridell finds it easy to flirt with her. (You may now notice that Paridell and Hellenore are a lot like Paris and Helen.) They flirt outrageously and lewdly. After dinner, Paridell claims descent from Paris and claims that he is one of the Nine Worthies (which he isn't). Britomart gets all excited at this Trojan history; she is descended from Aeneas and asks for more stories. Paridell talks about Rome, but Britomart reminds him about England and its founding by Trojans.
|Paridell and Hellenore flirt|
(A favorite line:
And awfull terror deepe into him strooke,
That every member of his body quooke.)
|Hellenore parties with satrys|
|Amoret, tormented by Busirane as Britomart sneaks up|
Bam! With lots of special effects, the Masque of Cupid starts. There's lots of stage language here, an audience, and everything. A long parade of figurative characters marches by as hypnotic music plays--there are Fansy and Desire, Doubt and Daunger, Feare and Hope, and it goes on and on. Despight and Cruelty lead a beautiful lady with a stab wound in her breast and her heart in a dish, just before Cupid himself, riding a lion and gloating over poor Amoret, who is the lady. Soon there is a confused rout of figures as the whole production breaks down, and they exit through the iron door, which locks. Britomart tries to follow, but she must wait another day. She disguises herself and joins the procession, but on the other side of the door everyone has disappeared except Busirane and Amoret, chained. He writes his spells in her dripping blood, but she will not yield to him (although he is also a version of Scudamore; things must be done righteously or not at all). Seeing Britomart, he tries to kill Amoret. Britomart stops him, so he stabs her--but not deeply. She is ready to kill him, but only he can heal Amoret, so she forces him to do that. The whole house shakes and finally Amoret is freed from her chains and healed of her horrible wound. Busirane is then chained up and the two maidens leave together through a decayed castle. The porch flames are quenched. Amoret and Scudamore are reunited in an ecstatic embrace--they are "grown together quite" like a tree or one being, in an image of true loving marriage.
|Britomart rescues Amoret from Busirane|
|Grateful Amoret and detached Britomart|
Wow, what a storm of weird events and symbolism about chaste love vs. lust! I did not even get in to all of it. There is a lot of fun stuff in here. I really wonder what Book IV will bring.