The Whale part 1


from Moby-Dick by Herman Melville


(Ahab’s cabin, night. There is a scream, off. Starbuck, Stubb and Flask carry in a thrashing Ahab, who has just been fished out of the ocean. He lacks a leg. They put him into his bed.)

AHAB. Aaaagh! Aaaagh!

STARBUCK. It’s all right, Captain. You’re all right.

AHAB. Is he dead? Did I kill him?

STARBUCK. He got away, captain.

AHAB. Got away? Got away?

STUBB. He’s a big fish, sir, he –

AHAB. We have to go after him! Set sails!

FLASK. We’re not going anywhere tonight, sir –

STARBUCK. Just lie down, captain.

AHAB. He, he smashed by boat! Is my harpooneer –

STUBB. He’s fine.

STARBUCK. Just lie down, sir –

AHAB. Did you see him? Did you – tell me you saw him!

FLASK. We saw him.

STARBUCK. We’ll go after him tomorrow.

AHAB. He, he, he thought he had me. But he didn’t. He thought he did but he didn’t.


AHAB. Bastard thought he had me. But not Ahab. He didn’t have Ahab. No.

STUBB. No sir.

AHAB. There isn’t a whale alive who can get Ahab. No one – AAGHH! WHERE’S MY LEG?! WHAT HAPPENED TO MY LEG?!  MR. STARBUCK? WHAT HAPPENED TO MY LEG?!! AAAAGH!



(Ishmael addresses the audience.)

ISHMAEL. So I thought I’d go to sea. There’s nothing “weird” about that, nothing “strange”, nothing “peculiar” about that. People go to sea. Men are drawn to the sea. The sea, water –

New York City, lunch hour. What happens? Battery Park, people go and stand by the water. Look at a map: where do they put the cities? By the water. Guy paints a picture, nice bucolic landscape, what’s in the middle of the picture? A lake. A stream. A pond. Why not?

So I thought I’d go to sea. Big deal. It was either that or kill myself. Or kill somebody else.

But that’s not the thing. The thing, the thing is, I am crazy about whales. I am nuts, I am gaga, I am absolutely round the bend about whales. Can’t get enough of them whales. Stories, pictures, books, scrimshaw, if it’s whales I like it.

So perfect: I go to Nantucket to get myself booked on a whaling boat. Me and my new best friend Queequeg – he’s from the South Pacific (it’s a long story) – we decide on this ship the Pequod.

(Lights up on the Pequod. The deck bustles with activity.)

It’s an amazing ship. Not the biggest, not the nicest, not the fastest, but definitely the coolest. Everything on the ship is made of whale-bone! The pins are teeth, hammered into boards of bone. The tiller is a jawbone. It’s a death ship. The thing is a death ship, a cannibal ship, it’s a monster, it’s a flesh-eating zombie ship. It’s a death-ship, and that’s the kind of ship I want to be on.


(A cabin on the Pequod. Peleg at a desk. Bildad reads the bible.)

ISHMAEL. Are you the captain?

PELEG. What if I was?

ISMAEL. I want to join on.

PELEG. You’re not from Nantucket.


PELEG. You know whaling?

ISMAEL. No sir. But I’m a quick study. I was in the merchant marines…

PELEG. Merchant marines my ass. Talk to me about the merchant marines, I’ll rip off your leg, I promise. What are you, a pirate? A wanted man? You robbed your last captain? You get to sea, you murder your officers?

ISHMAEL. No sir. No.

PELEG. Then why whaling?

ISHMAEL. I – I don’t – I like – I want to see whales. I want to see whaling.

PELEG. You want to see whaling. Have you seen Ahab?


PELEG. Ahab.

ISMAEL. Who is that?

PELEG. Christ. – Ahab is the captain of the Pequod.

ISHMAEL. I – I’m sorry. I thought you were.

PELEG. Christ no. I’m Peleg – this is Bildad. We own the ship. And before you get all hopped up about
“whaling”, I suggest you take a look at Ahab.

ISHMAEL. W-why is that, sir?

PELEG. You’ll know when you look at him.

ISHMAEL. I-I see sir.

PELEG. He’s got one leg, how’s that?

ISHMAEL. Oh. Really. What happened to the, the – what happened to him?

PELEG. Why don’t you take a guess.

ISHMAEL. Um…a whale? Um, took it?


PELEG. Ate it. A whale ate it.

ISHMAEL. Yes. Well. Accidents happen, sir.

PELEG. It wasn’t an accident.

ISHMAEL. Excuse me?

PELEG. It wasn’t an accident.

ISHMAEL. Uh, right.

PELEG. You’ve never been to sea –

ISHMAEL. Yes sir I have. Four trips in the merch –

PELEG. Fuck the merchant marines! You want to go whaling?

ISHMAEL. Yes sir!

PELEG. You’re ready to pitch a harpoon down a whale’s throat and jump in after?

ISHMAEL. If it comes to that, yes. Although I’d rather not waste the harpoon.

PELEG. Good answer. Bildad!
(Bildad grunts.)
You readin’ that damn book again? You been readin’ scripture for thirty years now, how far ya got?
(Bildad looks up from the book.)
Guy here says he’s our man.


PELEG. Says he’s the one we want. What do you think?


BILDAD. He’ll do.

(He goes back to reading, murmuring with the text.)

PELEG. Well then that’s that. Sign here. Now: your wage. Bildad?
(Bildad grunts.)
His lay.

BILDAD.(not looking up) One seven hundred seventy-seventh. “Where moth and rust do corrupt, but lay…”

PELEG. For Christ’s sake, Bildad! You want to swindle him?

BILDAD. One seven hundred seventy-seventh. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also…”

PELEG.(sighs) He’s ridiculous. I’ll put you down for three hundred. (to Bildad) Three hundred.

(Bildad looks up. Pause.)

BILDAD. Well aren’t you a kindly old fool. And whose money is that you’re so generously giving away? Yours? Mine? No. It belongs to the widows and orphans who have shares in this ship. Your act of benevolence toward this boy you’ve never seen before in your life takes
bread out of their mouths.

PELEG. God damn it Bildad! If I did everything you told me to, I’d have a conscience heavy enough to sink a ship!

BILDAD. Mr. Peleg, the weight of your conscience is not my concern. I suspect, however, from your lack of penitence, that it is heavy enough to drag you down to the fiery pit.

PELEG. Fiery pit! Fiery pit! So I’m going to Hell. Is that it? Go on, say it again. Say it again, I’ll swallow a live goat with his hair and horns on! God damn you! God damn you! (Pause. To Ishmael –) Well. That’s over. I’ll put you down for three hundred.

ISHMAEL. Thank you sir. Could I – do you think maybe I could see Captain Ahab?

PELEG. Why? You’ve already signed on –

ISHMAEL. I know. I just want to – you mentioned –

PELEG. You want to see Ahab?


PELEG. Well you can’t.


PELEG. He’s sick.

ISHMAEL. What’s the matter with him?

PELEG. I don’t know. He won’t come out.

ISHMAEL. If he’s sick –

PELEG. He’s not sick –


PELEG. No. But he’s not well. He won’t see me, he sure won’t see you. He’s a – he’s a strange man. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great guy. A great, God-fearing, Godless, Godly son-of-a-bitch. Doesn’t talk much. But when he talks, you listen. He’s done it all, knows colleges and cannibals. He knows things deeper than the ocean. And his lance is the sharpest on the island. He’s not a Peleg and he’s not a Bildad. He’s Ahab. Another Ahab was king, you know.

ISHMAEL. Uh, yes. A, a very bad king, if I remember correctly.

PELEG. Yes. Well.

ISHMAEL. I mean, a really bad king.

PELEG. Come here, boy. Here. Listen: Ahab did not name himself. His mother named him. And she was crazy, died a year after he was born. And maybe that means something and maybe it doesn’t. But I’m telling you Ahab is a good man. Okay: last trip, he went a little crazy; so what? He’d lost his leg, you know? So he’s a little moody. A lot moody. All right, he’s a savage. But I’d rather sail with a moody captain than a laughing one. Besides, he has a wife! Beautiful, and a son, a little boy. So how bad could he be?


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10 Responses to “The Whale part 1”
  1. greyaenigma says:

    This is turning out a lot shorter than the book. I don’t think Ishmael had finished his first sentence by now.

  2. medox says:

    Someday I was going to get around to reading that sucker — but screw that. This is much more fun.

  3. popebuck1 says:

    You’re leaving out about 200 pages on the history of whaling and the tourist attractions of scenic Nantucket, but I am unconvinced anyone will miss it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Excellent! I’m looking foreword to the rest with anticipation.

  5. Anonymous says:


    Peleg is a little Pythonish.
    But so far it beats any other adaptation of MD I’ve seen or read.
    Please don’t leave out the ambergris.

  6. Hello from Sioux Falls

    When I tried to log in to this journal, LJ said that it contains material of an adult nature and asked me if I was over 13. All of your tags were replaced by a content disclaimer until I logged in to my username.

  7. teamwak says:

    PELEG. Fuck the merchant marines! You want to go whaling?


    Isn’t that the motto of the Japanese Whaling fleet? Hayden Panettiere will be having words soon 😉