Shakespeare’s art will forever flow through literature and plays through contemporary versions. Herman Melville’s book, Moby Dick, is just one of the many influenced by Shakespeare and his plays.
Using Melville’s book, Moby Dick, I will analyze his work as well as compare it to Shakespeare’s literature of Hamlet since Moby Dick can be seen as an adaptation. Beginning with Herman Melville, I believe his childhood played a vital role in creating his book and even main character Ishmael. Herman Melville was born in New York to Allan Melville and Maria Gansevoort Melville, Herman was one of eight children. Herman’s mother’s side, the Gansevoort, were dutch brewers who were well off. Herman’s fathers side were not as successful. Herman’s mother was stuck in the illusion that she could maintain her old lifestyle of luxury.
The realization that she could not live that type of life anymore was followed after the death of her husband. “The early death of Adam Melvill, whos faulty business judgements led to near disgrace and ruin, left Maria widowed with eight children and without sufficient means of sustaining her family” (Cahir 6) Hermans had to struggle, given they had a huge family, to make ends meet. This is only the start of an unfortunate life. The relationship between Allan and Herman can only be hypothesized at this point in time, however, we can analyze what Allan Melvill said about Herman “He is very backward in speech & somewhat slow in comprehension” (Weaver 66 (herman melville mariner and mystic). Allan confessions towards his son display how Herman was not the brightest and we can only begin to wonder their interactions face to face.
Given that Allan perceived Herman as such I would believe that their relationship was not the best since Allan never saw the potential Herman Melville possessed. In summary, Herman had a mother stuck in her luxurious fantasy she could not afford, and a father who did not think much of his son. These two would not be the ideal parental figures for anyone, let alone a soon to be remarkable author.
Moby Dicks main character and narrator, Ishamel, is in a sense Herman Melville. Ishmael is described as a lonesome individual who sets sail whenever he is feeling down. As well as stating he has little to no money in the beginning of the book Moby Dick helps develop that similarity between Ishmael and Herman Melville. For example, “…went to sea. With what was known as a knot intrinsicate of feelings-eagerness for adventure and shrinking from an unfriendly world, reluctance to leave his mother and sisters and an unacknowledged but irresistible longing to tear himself.
” (Arvin, 53) Both individuals share the desire of setting sail in an attempt to get away from an other issues they may have. Furthermore, Ishmael’s biblical meaning is outcast. The meaning being suitable for both Herman and Ishmael. Herman Melville not being understood by his own father is a perfect example of an outcast. Ishmael, on the other hand, is not new to going on his voyages across the seas. Given that he only goes on these trips when he is feeling down we can interpret that he is probably alone, ergo, an outcast as well.
Herman Melville’s work, in terms of friendships between Men in Literature, can compared to Shakespeare. Ishmael and Queequeg, at first, do not become friends. Ishmael meets Queequeg when both men end up having to share a bed. Ishmaels states “I was… as much afraid of Queequeg as if it was the devil himself…” (Melville 34) However, after the shock of Queequeg settles down, we witness their friendship begin to emerge.