Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Grotesque Hospitality in 'The Tempest'

Act III, Scene 3, 17-

SD. Solemn and strange music
ALONSOWhat harmony is this? My good friends, hark!
GONZALOMarvellous sweet music!
SD. Enter PROSPERO above, invisible. Enter several strange Shapes, bringing in a banquet; they dance about it with gentle actions of salutation; and, inviting the King, &c. to eat, they depart.
ALONSOGive us kind keepers, heavens! What were these?
SEBASTIANA living drollery. Now I will believe

That there are unicorns, that in Arabia

There is one tree, the phoenix' throne, one phoenix

At this hour reigning there.
ANTONIOI'll believe both;

And what does else want credit, come to me,

And I'll be sworn 'tis true: travellers ne'er did


Though fools at home condemn 'em.
GONZALOIf in Naples

I should report this now, would they believe me?

If I should say, I saw such islanders--

For, certes, these are people of the island--

Who, though they are of monstrous shape, yet, note,

Their manners are more gentle-kind than of

Our human generation you shall find

Many, nay, almost any.
PROSPERO[Aside] Honest lord,

Thou hast said well; for some of you there present

Are worse than devils.
ALONSOI 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.
PROSPERO[Aside] Praise in departing.
FRANCISCOThey vanish'd strangely.
SEBASTIANNo matter, since

They have left their viands behind; for we have stomachs.

Will't please you taste of what is here?
GONZALOFaith, sir, you need not fear. When we were boys,

Who would believe that there were mountaineers

Dew-lapp'd like bulls, whose throats had hanging at 'em

Wallets of flesh? or that there were such men

Whose heads stood in their breasts? which now we find

Each putter-out of five for one will bring us

Good warrant of.
ALONSOI will stand to and feed,

Although my last: no matter, since I feel

The best is past. Brother, my lord the duke,

Stand to and do as we.
Thunder and lightning. Enter ARIEL, like a harpy; claps his wings upon the table; and, with a quaint device, the banquet vanishes.
ARIELYou are three men of sin, whom Destiny,

That hath to instrument this lower world

And what is in't, 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;

And even with such-like valour men hang and drown

Their proper selves.

Further Reading 

Jacqueline E. M. Latham, 'The Magic Banquet in The Tempest', Shakespeare Studies 12 (1979), 215-27.

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