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Ahab from Moby Dick and Prospero from the Tempest

First of all, there is the necessity to explain the choice of the form of the essay and the choice of the characters that present nontrivial development of the comparative analysis of their characters. The work has the form of the panel discussion with two main participants, Ahab and Prospero. The significance and the power of the characters in the literary works have determined the choice of the participants. The form of panel discussion will enable us to create immediate interaction of the characters, thus, illustrating their interrelation, affinity, or opposition. The panel discussion will have a moderator (a host) who will guide it, pose questions to the participants, and comment on their answers.

Host: Dear participants!

Welcome to our panel discussion “The Secret of Happiness”. Today we are going to analyze the life experience of two people who have kindly agreed to take part in our discussion. Let me introduce the guests of our panel discussion: the captain of the Pequod, Ahab, and Prospero, the right Duke of Milan.

Dear participants, the audience will appreciate if you introduce your philosophy of life because your life experience may be of great use for all people present here today and maybe for you personally as well. Every person has his own secret and concept of happiness, however, general assumption that all people would accept is that a person can become happy only when he sees happiness in the eyes of his near and dear people. Tell us about your family and the importance of near and dear people in your life.

Ahab: At the age of eighteen, I, a young boy-harpooner, I killed my first whale. Since that time whales and sea have treated me as my only family. I have devoted forty years of my life to this business, I cannot do anything else but, moreover, I do not want to do anything else. My life has its sense in whaling business; my power equals Poseidon’s power in the sea.

Host: We know that you had a young wife you married past fifty, have you ever thought about her as about the unhappiest person on earth because of her doom to loneliness? Though she has a person who should support and defend her, she looks like a widow with the husband alive.

Ahab: Yes, she looks like the unhappiest person living, because she has chosen to marry a sailor, who has spent less than three years out of forty ashore. But I have somebody far closer to me than a wife and my son, a whale.

Host: Really, Mr. Ahab, we can observe your affinity with whales, moreover, this connection has not only psychological nature, neither your habit has begot it, you have even symbolic, physical or blood relationship with whales, you have a whale-bone as your prosthesis. Thus, we have the evidence of your blood relationship with the sea. What about near and dear creatures in the life of our next participant, Mr. Prospero?

Prospero: Miranda, my daughter, has always been the most important person in my life, the one I cherish as the apple of my eye.

Host: It is clear that you mean well by your only daughter but do not you think that you bring her up as a passive creature? Act V suggests it very openly: “Here Prospero discouers Ferdinand and Miranda, playing at Chesse” (Shakespeare v i. 198). She makes the impression of your puppet; on the whole, we are constantly observing your habit of manipulating people, mainly your daughter. Certainly, girls should not acquire absolute freedom, but you turn your daughter into a mere element of scenery. You deprive her of the free choice of choosing a husband because you arrange everything yourself without even inquiring about your daughters sympathy. However, your daughter has taken after you, she shows her strength sometimes, we can observe it when she makes a proposal to Ferdinando: “I am your wife, if you will marrie me; If not, Ile die your maid” (Shakespeare III i 100). Besides, the spheres of manipulation also stretch and involve other characters, like Ariel and Caliban. You resemble a puppeteer who directs every moment of the life of his subjects.

Gentlemen, you have on more common aspect of very high significant for you both, your attitude to revenge, which needs its disclosure now, along with your concept of evil.

Ahab: Revenge has become the sense of my entire life with the White Whale as the embodiment of evil. Just as the first whale I have caught turned me into a whale hunter, the White Whale looks like incarnation of evil and I should destroy eternal evil. “I’d strike the sun if it insulted me”, and that whale not merely insulted me, it injured me forever (Melville Chapter 36).

Host: The whale did not only maim you physically, it maimed your soul and inner world developing mania and the only obsession that has ruled your life and the life of your crew. The Whale has wounded your pride but your pride demands too valuable sacrifice because you are risking not only your life but the life of people who are subordinate to your charisma but you have no right to take up the role of God. Ishmael said: “Ahab’s quenchless feud seemed mine” (Melville Chapter 41); here we can observe the state of absolute subordination of the crew to your will because the sailors “had taken [their] oaths of violence and revenge” (Melville Chapter 41) on a creature that had never done them harm. Your motivation borders on madness because the Whale presents “the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men eating in them” (Melville Chapter 41). You do not even notice that you use a phrase “Hast seen the White Whale?” (Melville Chapter 128) instead of greeting when you see other sailors, it shows the obsession again. The stubbornness and inflexibility of your mind will doom you to failure as if a person reduces his whole life to revenge; he turns into the slave of his own thirst for revenge neglecting and losing important things that vanish for good, for instance, you wife. Your behavior is tyrannical, you underestimate the rights of other people, and your mania can even make you kill a person if he stands between you and your aim.

Prospero: Revenge guided me when I provoked the tempest. The desire to return what I have lost also made me blind. However, I managed to conquer and tame the desire to take revenge, thus, saving my soul and lives of other people.

Host: Prospero used to be the person in whose life revenge was once the master but he managed to overcome it, forgiving his offenders. One more thing about the man also deserves mentioning: he used to have uncontrolled thirst for knowledge and books, which played the most important role in his life, as Caliban states: “possess his Books; for without them hee’s but a Sot” (Shakespeare III ii 97-98). Your absorption in magic and knowledge has partially caused your overthrow by your brother “by foul play” (Shakespeare I ii 75). However, your own development has lead to the happy end of the story and you deserve respect for driving all events to a happy outcome.

Prospero: If there are no objections, let me give a piece of advice to Mr. Ahab. The access to unlimited knowledge, power and magic has shown me the necessity to appreciate the people around me though I had to endure pains until I understood nonsense of revenge. Forgive your enemies. Your present example with your incessant and destructive desire to kill the Whale just proves the rightness of my position. I beseech you: stop your revenge, start searching for life instead of death.

Host: Certainly, their personal choice will guide our guests in the future. However, let us believe that our panel discussion will help them to fight against their horrors and thirst for revenge. If our discussion helps them to think about the wrongness of their concepts and attitudes, we will have the right to think that we have accomplished a great mission of helping a man in his search for the truth.

Works Cited

Melville, Herman. Moby Dick. London: Collector’s Library, 2009.

Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. London: Classic Books Company, 2001.


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