Module 5: Drama

3. Herman Melville: Moby-Dick or, The Whale

This example features the first two pages of chapter 40 of Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick:

Figure 1. Pages 214 and 215 of Moby Dick.
Figure 1. Pages 214 and 215 of Moby Dick.

This example nicely illustrates a mixture of different genres. The main structure is a novel, divided in chapters, most of which consist of narrative paragraphs. However, this chapter (recognisable as such by the heading “Chapter XL”), has the form of embedded drama, with speeches (<sp>), containing indications of the speaking characters (<speaker>) and the speech contents. Moreover, some of the speeches of this drama fragment consist of prose paragraphs (<p>), while others are expressed in verse lines (<l>). The second speech on p. 214 even mixes paragraphs and verse lines. Notice, also, how stage directions (<stage>) occur between speaker indications and speech contents. The first speech of p. 215 contains an embedded stage direction.

Of course, the main structure of this text will have the form of a novel, consisting of chapter text divisions, without any traditional drama front matter (such as cast lists, epilogues, etc.).

<div xmlns="" type="chapter">
<pb n="214"/>
<head>C​HAPTER XL</head>
<head>Midnight, Forecastle</head>
<speaker>Harpooneers and sailors</speaker>
<stage>(Foresail rises and discovers the watch standing, lounging, leaning, and lying in various attitudes, all singing in chorus.)</stage>
<l>Farewell and adieu to you, Spanish ladies!</l>
<l>Farewell and adieu to you, ladies of Spain!</l>
<l>Our captain​'s commanded.--</l>
<speaker>1st Nantucket sailor.</speaker>
<p>Oh, boys, don​'t be sentimental; it​'s bad for the digestion! Take a tonic, follow me!</p>
<stage>(Sings, and all follow)</stage>
<l>Our captain stood upon the deck,</l>
<l>A spy​-glass in his hand,</l>
<l>A​-viewing of those gallant whales</l>
<l>That blew at every strand.</l>
<l>Oh, your tubs in your boats, my boys,</l>
<l>And by your braces stand,</l>
<l>And we​'ll have one of those fine whales,</l>
<l>Hand, boys, over hand!</l>
<l>So, be cheery, my lads! may your hearts never fail!</l>
<l>While the bold harpooneer is striking the whale!</l>
<speaker>Mate​'s voice from the quarter​-deck.</speaker>
<p>Eight bells there, forward!</p>
<pb n="215"/>
<speaker>2nd Nantucket sailor.</speaker>
<p>Avast the chorus! Eight bells there! d​'ye hear, bell​-boy? Strike the bell eight, thou Pip! thou blackling! and let me call the watch. I​'ve the sort of mouth for that​--the hogshead mouth. So, so,
<stage>(thrusts his head down the scuttle,)</stage>
Star​-bo​-l-e​-e-n​-s, a​-h-o​-y! Eight bells there below! Tumble up!</p>
<speaker>Dutch sailor.</speaker>
<p>Grand snoozing to​-night, maty; fat night for that. I mark this in our old Mogul​'s wine; it​'s quite as deadening to some as filliping to others. We sing; they sleep​--ay, lie down there, like ground​-tier butts. At 'em again! There, take this copper​-pump, and hail 'em through it. Tell 'em to avast dreaming of their lasses. Tell 'em it​'s the resurrection; they must kiss their last, and come to judgment. That​'s the way--
's it; thy throat ain​'t spoiled with eating Amsterdam butter.</p>
<speaker>French sailor.</speaker>
<p>Hist, boys! let​'s have a jig or two before we ride to anchor in Blanket Bay. What say ye? There comes the other watch. Stand by all legs! Pip! little Pip! hurrah with your tambourine!</p>
<stage>(Sulky and sleepy.)</stage>
<p>Don​'t know where it is.</p>
<speaker>French sailor.</speaker>
<p>Beat thy belly, then, and wag thy ears. Jig it, men, I say; merry​'s the word; hurrah! Damn me, won​'t you dance? Form, now, Indian​-file, and gallop into the double​-shuffle? Throw yourselves! Legs! legs!</p>
<pb n="216"/>
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Example 3. TBE-crafted example encoding of Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick (Melville 1922).