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The Downfall Of Man In Macbeth And Moby Dick

2544 words - 10 pages

The Downfall of Man in Macbeth and Moby Dick

It can be stated that mans greatest downfall is his greed. No matter
how much a person has, they will always want more. In Melville's Moby
Dick and Shakespeare's Macbeth, the character traits of the tragic
heroes, and many similar outside factors combine to create a spiral
downfall effect which essentially leads each character to his demise.
Each of these character's downfalls are brought upon as a result of
their predetermined fates, their ambitions to reach an unattainable
goal, and their foolish choices.

From fortune cookies to Miss Cleo, many people around the world today
believe in the ability to see into the future and determine ones fate.
Both Macbeth and Captain Ahab have predetermined fates which conflict
with their goals, thereby causing them to be unachievable. Moby Dick
is riddled with evidence foreshadowing that the Pequod, Captain Ahab,
and his crew are doomed from the moment it sets sail. "Ishmael's
narrative contains many references to fate, creating the impression
that the Pequod's doom is inevitable" (Chong). When Ishmael first
arrives in New Bedford, he stays at a very dark and gloomy inn
decorated with clubs and spears, and other whaling equipment. The
appearance of the Spouter-Inn develops the atmosphere of tragedy, and
even the owner's name, Peter Coffin, hints that in due course, death
will ensue. On one wall, Ishmael is perplexed by an oil painting,
which he eventually interprets to be that of a whale attacking a ship;

The picture represents a Cape-Horner in a great hurricane; the
half-foundered ship weltering there with its three dismantled masts
alone visible; and an exasperated whale, purposing to spring clean
over the craft, is in the enormous act of impaling himself upon the
three mast-heads. (Melville 10)

This depiction foreshadows that going out to sea can bring no good,
and that Ishmael will have the same terrible fate as the Cape-Horner
in the painting. It is at the inn that Ishmael meets Queequeg, a
savage, whom he eventually befriends. A few days later, Ishmael and
Queequeg set off to Nantucket to find a whaling ship to join. Moments
after they sign the documents that pertain to joining the Pequod's
crew, they are approached by a tattered old man, a prophet, who asks
them, "[Was there] anything [in the documents] about your souls?"
(Melville 82). The reference to the crew selling their souls indicates
that they are doomed, and will not return from this expedition. The
Pequod is, "Named after a Native American tribe in Massachusetts that
did not long survive the arrival of white men and thus memorializing
an extinction, [it] is a symbol of doom" (Chong).

Shakespeare's Macbeth begins with an unnatural scene of the weird
sisters meeting in a thunderstorm, and just as the dark gloomy inn in

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