Alonso, wandering about in search of his son. gets tired and gives up all hope of finding him again. Gonzalo too gets tired. Antonio and Sebastian are glad to hear that Alonso is out of hape, and plan to make another attempt upon Alonso’s life that night, when Gonzalo and Alonso, “oppreas’d with travel,” will sleep soundly and thus give them the opportunity.
Suddenly there is a solemn and strange music in the air. Then several strange shapes enter bringing in a banquet; they dance round it with gestures of salutation, and then, inviting the King to eat and depart. After this occurrence they are half inclined to believe all the marvellous tales told by travellers.Sebastian comments that he is ready to believe, “That there are unicorns” and “the phoenix throne.” Gonzalo adds that there is nothing wrong to believe the stories of “mountaineers dew-lapp’d like bulls,” or of those “whose heads ‘stood in their breasts.”
As they are going to sit down to the feast, it is snatched away by a harpy (Ariel disguised). A spirit voice (the voice of Ariel) denounces Alonso, Sebastian and Antonio, particularly with reference to their crime in expelling Prospero, from Milan, for which punishment, so long deferred, is now inflicted upon them. Upon Alonso it pronounces “lingering perdition, worse than any death” from which there is no remedy except through sincere repentance. Then Ariel vanishes in thunder. The shapes enter again and carry away the table. Prospero who watches invisibly is very much pleased with the performance of Ariel and his (Prospero‘s) “meaner ministers.” All his enemies are now in his power. For a while he leaves them in the fit of desperation, and goes to see how Ferdinand and Miranda are getting on.
The effect of ‘the Spirit’s denunciation of Alonso’s crime leaves him much humbled and penitent and confirms his belief that his son is lost for ever. Then they disperse, all stricken mad by the speech of the spirit. Gonzalo, fearing that they may do violence to themselves or to one another, follows them and bids others follow.
Critical Comments :
The supernatural machinery of the play as fully disclosed in the scene. The banquet that is brought in and ”soon snatched away” , the spirit-voice denouncing the “three men of “Sin” do not, however, seem palpably supernatural to Alonso and others who set them down as the mysterious occurrences of the island. Prospero’s plan is gathering to a head. This scene is aconcemed with the awakening of the sense of guilt in the three guilty men. ”The whole past stands out before them as no more than the story of one foul deed and its avenging; the very sea which they had made the innocent accomplice of their crime has bid has time to requite them, and the shores, yea, every creature, are incensed against them …… All space and time seems to have resolved itself into a trap of fate for them; and here is but one small avenue of escape hinted at in ‘heart -sorrow and a clear life ensuing“ Moulton.
To sum up :
(1) Supernatural machinery of the play is fully disclosed.
(2) The wheel comes round the elements seem to have taken upon the avenging of the foul deed that was done long ago.
(3) The note of forgiveness and reconciliation on which the play is In close is struck in the scene.