Topic: The Tempest by William Shakespeare

The Tempest: Act 3, Scene 3 Summary

Plot Summary / The Story-line

Act three scene three of “The Tempest” is strewn with the magical tricks of Prospero who presents Ariel as a harpy. Alonso, Sebastian and Antonio are all dog-tired after prolonged wandering through “Forth-rights and meanders!” Troublesome weariness engulfs Alonso who decides to put off hope and thinks Ferdinand is drowned. It is Ferdinand for whom they strayed everywhere but all efforts go in vain.

Prospero’s magic charm is at work. He creates a puppet show and a magic banquet by his magic spell. Alonso and his company are fooled by these scenes made by Prospero. When they approach the banquet, they find no one there. Mere nothingness is visible everywhere. After a little while, Ariel starts its moral discourse saying that they are all evil-doers and as the dire consequence of their sin, destiny has stranded them in such a land of magic. They will be tormented until they atone for their sins.

Alonso leaves his companions and proceeds to search for his dead son, as he is convinced that Fardinand must have been dead. On the other hand, Antonio and Sebastian go along intending to fight against the spirits who have been playing pranks on them. Alonso becomes befuddled musing on the disappearance of the spirits:

“I cannot too much muse
Such shapes, such gesture, and such sound, expressing, –
Although they want the use of tongue, — a kind
Of excellent dumb discourse.”

Ariel rebukes them saying —

“You fools! I and my fellows
Are ministers of fate: the elements
Of whom your swords are temper’d…”

In the words of Ariel, Alonso, Sebastian and Antonio are —

“three men of sin, whom Destiny –
That hath to instrument this lower world…”

Prospero praises Ariel saying that it has thoroughly performed all his instructions. Thus Prospero’s high charms work upon Alonso and his companions. The scene ends with Gonzalo’s speech:

“All three of them are desperate; their great guilt,
Like poison given to work a great time after.”

Commentary on Act III, Scene iii

Firstly, what strikes our attention in this scene is the puppet show and the magical banquet organised by the artful magic of Prospero. It is through this stratagem that Prospero allures Alonso and his company. Ariel’s mischievous pranks quite efficaciously torment them:

“…the never-surfeited sea
Hath caused to belch up you; and on this island
Where man doth not inhabit; you ‘mongst men
Being most unfit to live. I have made you mad;”

Prospero’s aside reveals that all his enemies are assembled together and they are under Prospero’s control. The ingenious use of the puppet show and the magical banquet is typical to Shakespeare’s theatrical innovation. Prospero’s triumph over them is now complete as Prospero delightedly enjoys saying –

“My high charms work,
And these mine enemies are all knit up
In their distractions: they now are in my power;”