Chapter 36 The Quarter-Deck

        In which Captain Ahab performs a pagan ritual before the groggy crew, swearing them to join him in hunting down the white whale MOBY DICK and killing him to satisfy Ahab's desire for revenge. Starbuck is horrified, while harpooneers Queequeg, Daggoo, and Tashtego are wildly inspired by the maniacal rantings of their captain-turned-witch doctor. Stubb and Flask remain bemused on the sidelines. Ahab's monologue on the quarter-deck is one of the dramatic tours de force of Melville's literary oeuvre.

        Shortly after Ahab threw his pipe away, he spent one whole day pacing back and forth on deck, until at last he had the whole crew summoned aft to his quarter-deck -- a most unusual command.

        "What do ye do when ye see a whale, men?" . . . "Sing out for him!". . . "And what do ye do next, men?" . . . "Lower away and after him!" . . . "And what tune is it ye pull to, men?" . . . "A DEAD WHALE OR A STOVE BOAT!"

        With "wild approval", Ahab then calls for "the great measure of grog [rum]" and a top-maul [hammer]. He holds up a gold coin -- a Spanish doubloon [a double "piece-of-eight", sixteen dollars worth]. Estimating a historical monetary factor of 100 to 1, we understand the excitement of the crew when Ahab nails the gold coin to the main mast -- declaring, "Whosoever of ye raises me a white-headed whale with a wrinkled brow and a crooked jaw, he shall have this gold ounce, my boys!" . . . "Huzza! huzza!" cried the seamen . . . "IT'S A WHITE WHALE I SAY!" And he's created a crew of doubloonatics.

        Queequeg, Daggoo, and Tashtego all know what Ahab is talking about -- they've all heard of Moby Dick. Starbuck asks the obvious question and is answered: "Aye, Starbuck, it was MOBY DICK that dismasted me -- that accursed white whale gave me this dead stump I stand on -- made a poor, pegging lubber of me -- I'll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round perdition's flames before I give him up. AND THIS IS WHAT YE HAVE SHIPPED FOR MEN -- WILL YE SPLICE HANDS ON IT NOW?" . . . "Aye, aye!" shouted the crew . . . "God bless ye, men," sobbed Ahab.

        But Starbuck says, "I came here to hunt whales, not my commander's vengeance. Madness. Vengeance on a dumb brute. Blasphemous." . . . To this the reply, "Starbuck, thou requirest a little lower layer. I see in Moby Dick an inscrutable malice. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me!"

        Ahab has the harpooneers take their harpoons off the poles to make drinking cups of the sockets. He bids each mate to hold a harpoon socket-up whilst he fills it with grog. The mates then ceremoniously present these weird communion cups to the savage harpooneers who drink "Death to Moby Dick!" Starbuck murmurs, "God keep me! -- keep us all!" But a low laugh comes from the hold where Ahab has secreted a turbanned crew of Parsee devils.