The Tempest

A feast usually suggests celebration and welcome. Why is an interrupted feast especially suitable for prosperos purposes?

Act 3 scene 3

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Some interesting magic appears in scene 3 with Prospero's spirits laying out a banquet for Alonso and his companions to take part in. The display does not seem to have much point‹perhaps it is meant so when Ariel is introduced, they focus on his words and not the device of his appearance, or perhaps to lull them temporarily, so that when Ariel starts speaking, his serious words have a bigger impact. Or, maybe the show of magic is a ploy by Prospero to keep them quiet about events on the island, meant to make the "fools at home condemn Œem" if they ever dare to tell the story (III.iii.27). Indeed, the sight makes Sebastian and Antonio drop their droll aloofness, and draws them into the action; they declare, probably sarcastically, that they are willing to believe in other legendary magic, and make allusions to the mythical unicorn and phoenix.

Though so many of the characters in this play openly show contempt for the natives on the island, Gonzalo is probably the only exception. He does describe them as being of "monstrous shape," which is hardly complimentary and also recalls Trinculo taunting Caliban as being a monster. However, Gonzalo is more open-minded in his appraisal of the natives than this statement would suggest; "their manners are more gentle-kind than of our human generation you shall find," he says of them, noting the nobility that "savages" like Caliban are capable of displaying (III.iii.33-34). Colonial attitudes toward native peoples are an important theme of the work, and Shakespeare's treatment of caliban is marked by the prejudices of his time. But, what is strange about Gonzalo's remark is that Prospero is moved to call him an "honest lord" because of it, though Prospero himself has a negative view of the natives, and does not question the correctness of his own view. That Gonzalo is considered good because of it, despite the author's and many of the characters' contradictory views is ironic, and also difficult to understand.

Another parallel with The Aeneid appears in this act; in The Aeneid, a feast is prepared for Aeneas and his party, but is suddenly swept away by harpies who give him a dire prophecy. Almost the same events happen here, with the banquet disappearing also, and Ariel, "like a harpy," descending upon them with a very serious speech (III.iii.53). Ariel's speech also recalls the language of The Aeneid in its tone and syntax, but yet is still the work of Prospero, and he takes credit for it in lines 85-86.

Ariel declares Alonso and his brothers "most unfit to live" because of their conspiracies on the island, and despite the fact that Ariel and Prospero set traps for them and caused them to form these murderous plans. This is also parallel to Prospero's account of his history, and his confession of causing Antonio's corruption through his own actions. Prospero again acting the part of the author from within the work.