To tantalize is to tease or disappoint by promising something desirable and then withholding it or, as Dr. Johnson put it, «to torment by the show of pleasures that cannot be reached».
The legendary King Tantalus divulged to mortals the secrets of the gods, which had been entrusted to him by Zeus. In another version, he cooked his son Pelops and served him to the gods. He was thereupon condemned to an eternal and peculiar punishment. Forced to stand in the underworld in a pool of clear water, Tantalus was forbidden to drink
or to eat. Every time he bent down to slake his thirst, the waters of Hades receded from him. A tree with clusters of luscious fruit hung just above his head. But every time he extended his hand, he found that the fruit was just out of reach. Tantalus suffered agony from thirst, hunger, and unfulfilled anticipation.