The Whale part 5


(The deck. Starbuck addresses Ishmael and some other men. There is a vat of spermaceti.)

STARBUCK. Men, this is sperm. This is what we’re here for. This substance is secreted by a special gland unique to the spermaceti whale. Hence the name. It is the most valuable substance found in the ocean. When we get back to Nantucket, it will make us all a lot of money. But before that happens, someone has to squeeze out the lumps. That is your job today. No machine has yet been built which can do this job as efficiently a man’s hands. So hunker down by this vat and squeeze yourself some sperm.

(They do. Starbuck exits.)

ISHMAEL. Well. This is peculiar. I don’t think I’ve ever felt anything like this before. Hm. It, it’s quite nice, isn’t it?


ISHMAEL. It’s so, so slick. So sweet. My fingers feel like eels. I can see why this stuff is so popular.


ISHMAEL. Huh. This is – huh. You know, I’m sitting here, squeezing sperm, on this beautiful deck under this beautiful sun on this beautiful day, and, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing. You know? And I don’t mean that figuratively. I mean I literally can’t think of anything. I mean, like, ever. You know? Smells like violets. Don’t you think? Violets?


ISHMAEL. It just – it feels, it feels…great. Doesn’t it. I could definitely do this all day long. Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Wow. This is great. I, I think I’m getting kind of a buzz going here. This feels so great.

SAILOR. That’s my hand.

ISHMAEL. Oh. Sorry.

SAILOR. It’s all right.


SAILOR. It’s really all right.

ISHMAEL. I didn’t mean –

SAILOR. I really don’t mind if you keep doing it.

ISHMAEL. I – right. I’m trying to think of something that’s given me more pleasure than this. And I can’t. I can’t think of anything.

SAILOR. Me neither.

ISHMAEL. You know what? This is heaven. This is heaven. When I get to heaven, what I’m going to see is long rows of angels, each with their hands in a jar of sperm.



(Ahab’s cabin.)

AHAB. Who is it? Get the hell out of here.

STARBUCK. It’s me, captain.

AHAB. What is it, Starbuck?

STARBUCK. The oil in the hold is leaking. We’re going to have to stop in Japan and fix it.

AHAB. Are you crazy? Stop now? Are you crazy? Go away.

STARBUCK. We have to stop, sir. Or we’ll lose more oil in one day that we could make up in a year.

AHAB. What do I care? Let it leak.

STARBUCK. Captain, we’ve come twenty thousand miles for that oil.

AHAB. We’ve come twenty thousand miles for only one thing, Mr. Starbuck, and I’m not going to stop for anything now. The hold has a leak? I have a leak, Mr. Starbuck. I’m full of leaks. I have a leak in my heart, I have a leak in my head. I’m draining away, into the mouth of that whale. I’ve already lost my leg. Either I stop that leak or I drain away completely.

STARBUCK. Sir, the owners –

AHAB. Fuck the owners. Starbuck. Fuck the owners. What are they going to do? “Complain”? They can stand on the beach of Nantucket and scream their faces are blue, I’ll never hear them. Owners? Owners? Who owns this ship, Starbuck? Who owns this ship? I do. I own this ship and you know it. On deck, Mr. Starbuck.

STARBUCK. Sir. In the past you have been a good captain. A great captain.

AHAB. On deck, Mr. Starbuck.

STARBUCK. And perhaps you will one day again –

(Ahab grabs his musket and points it at Starbuck.)

AHAB. Get one thing clear, Mr. Starbuck. One God rules this earth, and one man rules the Pequod. On deck.

STARBUCK. You have outraged me, captain, not insulted me. I will no longer disagree with you or stand in your way. You have no reason to fear Starbuck. But perhaps you have reason to fear yourself.

AHAB. Ahab fear Ahab? (Pause.) You know, you might have something there, old tar. (He puts down the gun.) Fine. Up Burtons, find the leak.

STARBUCK. Thank you sir.

AHAB. You’re a good man, Starbuck.

STARBUCK. Thank you sir.


(Queequeg’s cabin. Queequeg lies ill in his hammock. Ishmael, Pip, Starbuck, others.)

QUEEQUEG. I’m dying, friend.

ISHMAEL. You’re not dying.

QUEEQUEG. I’m dying. I know when I’m dying.

ISHMAEL. You’re not dying.

QUEEQUEG. It was cleaning out the hold. Looking for the leak. That’s what it was. That’s what killed me.

ISHMAEL. Queequeg –

QUEEQUEG. This fever. Finally did me in. Finally did in Queequeg. Is my coffin done?

ISHMAEL. You don’t need a coffin.

QUEEQUEG. Is it done?

ISHMAEL. It’s done. It’s finished.

QUEEQUEG. Put me in it. I’m ready to die.

(His coffin is brought in. Queequeg is placed in it.)

PIP. Poor Queequeg. Poor wanderer. Never resting. Now you’ll wander on forever.

If you get to the Antilles, where the sun always shines on a fine lazy beach, keep an eye out for a sad little black boy named Pip. He went out looking for whales and didn’t come back. I think maybe he washed up there in the Antilles. If you find him, comfort him. He must be very sad; look, he forgot his tambourine.

You go and die, Queequeg. I’ll beat out your death march on the black boy’s forgotten tambourine.

ISHMAEL. (to Queequeg) How is it?

QUEEQUEG. It will do.

STARBUCK. Pip? Are you all right?

ISHMAEL. He hasn’t been himself since the day he fell out of Stubb’s boat.

STARBUCK. I can see that he’s not himself. I’m wondering who the hell he is.

PIP. Give Queequeg his harpoon. Lay it across his chest. Queequeg dies a brave man! Better than Pip, who died a whining, mewling coward. Queequeg, if you find Pip in the Antilles, give him a kick for me. Tell everybody in the Antilles that Pip’s a coward. Jumped from a
whale-boat! Shame on cowards! Let ’em drown! Shame! Shame!

QUEEQUEG. You know what?

ISHMAEL. What? What is it, Queequeg?

QUEEQUEG. I…I actually feel better.


STARBUCK. It’s the fever. He’s hallucinating. I’ve seen it a hundred times. He’s not got long now.

QUEEQUEG. Um…no. No. I actually feel quite a bit better.

ISHMAEL. Is that possible?

STARBUCK. Impossible.

QUEEQUEG. Yes. I feel…I feel fine now. Yes. I actually feel fine now. Yes. In fact, if it’s all right with you, I think I’ll go back to work. Is that all right?



(The forge. Carpenter hammers a pike. Ahab looks on.)

AHAB. Those sparks. So beautiful. And so hot. But look at you. Not a mark on you.

CARPENTER. On me it’s all scars, captain. You can’t scar a scar.

AHAB. You sound very sane to me, carpenter. I don’t like it. Madness likes company. What are you making?

CARPENTER. I’m welding a pike-head. There were some seams and dents in it.

AHAB. And you’ll make it all smooth again?

CARPENTER. That’s the job.

AHAB. I’ll bet you could smooth out seams in anything, couldn’t you?

CARPENTER. I think I can, sir. Every seam but one.

AHAB. Could you smooth out this seam in my forehead? If you could do that? If you could do that, I would put my head on your anvil right now and you could hit it with your heaviest hammer.

CARPENTER. Sorry sir – that’s the one.

AHAB. Yes. That is the one. Isn’t it. You’re right; it cannot be smoothed. This wrinkle is no longer just on my skin; it’s in my bone. It’s in my brain. My brain is wrinkled. My brain is dented.

But enough. No more gaffs and pikes today. I need you to make me a harpoon. The strongest ever made. One that will stick in a whale like his own fin-bone.

(He produces a leather bag.)

This is a bag of nails. Steel nails from the shoes of race-horses.

CARPENTER. That’s the toughest material on earth.

AHAB. And they will weld together like glue from a murderer’s bones. Can you do it?

(ISHMAEL appears, addresses the audience.)

ISHMAEL. And so it is done.

(Ahab holds the finished harpoon.)

AHAB. Splendid! Now the shaft. Hammer out twelve rods. Wind the twelve rods together like a rope, and hammer
them into one. Quick! I’ll blow the fire.

ISHMAEL. And so it is done.

(Ahab holds the finished staff.)

AHAB. Perfect!

CARPENTER. Captain, sir. Is this the iron for the white whale?

AHAB. Yes! God’s blood, yes! Now for the barbs. These are my razors. Take them. Don’t look at me like that, I’m never going to need them again. I’m not going to eat, shave or pray until Moby-Dick is dead.

ISHMAEL. And so it is done.

(Carpenter finishes attaching the barbs.)

CARPENTER. It’s done. Bring the water over here.

AHAB. No. Water’s no good. Blood. It has to be blood. Get me the harpooneers!

ISHMAEL. And the harpooneers come, and cut open their arms, and fill a cup full of blood. And they use the blood to temper the barbs.

(Queequeg, Tashtego, Dagoo and Fedallah all stand around Ahab, who hold a cup of their blood.)

AHAB. I baptize you in the name of the father and in the name of the devil!

(He puts the harpoon in the blood. It hisses. Blackout.)
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2 Responses to “The Whale part 5”
  1. greyaenigma says:

    That’s a ghost or hallucination of Pip, right?

    • Todd says:

      No, Pip is back on the ship. Melville doesn’t say how he got back, and neither do I. The point is, his experience bobbing in the ocean for a time has apparently driven him insane.