Phantom Banquet in Act 3 Scene 3 : The Tempest Long Answers Act 3 scene 3

 Phantom Banquet:  Act 3 Scene 3


           Question: Describe the Phantom Banquet  scene (Act 3 scene 3). What purpose is it intended to serve ?

  Answer:   The banquet is an illusionary offering just lie the values the courtiers and Antonio, Sebastian and Alonso are pursuing:  power, nobility and fame. Being of little moral insight,they pursue the circumstance and outer appearance of their things, instead of their actual attainment. For instance, Sebastian and Antonio would kill Alonso for his kingdom – yet even if they did, they would not have gained it, (being so far from Naples) but only an illusory grasp on it.
    The banquet scene is quite important as it provides the climax of Prospero’s plan and denouement of Antonio’s many plots.
    In this scene, Alonso, exhausted by his wanderings  in search of his missing son, and finally gives up all search and hope of seeing him alive. 
    Antonio and Sebastian whisper that now the others are so tired, this would help them to carry out their plan to murder Alonso in his sleep. They decide to carry put their plan later in the evening.
     While they are plotting to commit the murder, some strange music is heard. Prospero enters the scene invisibly, amidst the music. Along with him enter several shapes. These shapes are supernatural spirits acting under the command of Prospero. They are carrying with them a banquet of food. 
     They dance about with proper salutation and invite the king and others to eat. Before they could touch the food, the strange shapes disappear leaving the food behind.  Everyone is taken aback by surprise. Sebastian remarks that after having seen these shapes he has begun to believe in the existence of unicorns and the phoenix. Antonio too agrees with him says that it seems the reports of fantastic creatures brought by travellers are true.
     Just as Alonso and others are about to touch the food, the roar of thunder is heard. Flashes of lightening are seen in the sky. Then Ariel enters the scene in the guise of the harpy – a monster with the face of a woman and the body and claws of a bird  – vulture.
      Suddenly the harpy hits the table with its wings and immediately, the banquet vanishes through a  “quaint device”.
     Ariel, accuses Alonso, Sebastian and Antonio for their sin. Though Ariel’s speech is in presence of others, it is heard only by the three men whom he accuses. 
    The three men draw their swords to attack, but Ariel as  harpy warns them not to draw their swords against the      “ministers of Fate”, for they may well be stabbing the waves or using their swords against the wind.
     Harpy tells them that it is their destiny that brought them to the island to be punished for their sin of usurping the dukedom from Prospero and abandoning him on the wild sea. He also tells them that Alonso’s son is dead, which they must consider to be the beginning of their sorrows. He adds that unless Alonso repents in time in time, further punishment will follow. Then Ariel vanishes amidst thunder. 
   The actual purpose of this banquet is meant to awaken in Alonso, Sebastian and Antonio and to remind their sins by supernatural terror and then to lead them to repentance. 
    Alonso’s despair at having lost  his son may help him empathise with Prospero, who has also suffered great losses. 
    The sudden appearance of the banquet with strange shapes dancing and inviting the royal party to have food remind the  men of how hungry and desperate they are. This gesture of these strange spirits enhance their temptation for lavish food.
     The banquet’s sudden disappearance show the courtiers how powerless they are. Ariel’s rebuke forces them to realise that everything they have lost is a result of their own sinful actions. Prospero uses magic to manipulate and humiliate the men as a way to gain power over them.
    Alonso seems to be most shaken by supernatural warning, which brings his sin into his conscious. Antonio and Sebastian are distracted with terror. At the end of the scene all the three sinners disperse in a wild and desperate mood.

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