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The Craft of Faith: A Shakespearean Echo in Clarel JAMES DUBAN University of North Texas he Northwestern-Newberry edition of Clarel offers a detailed account of “sheets printed from the Putnam typesetting of Clarel” upon which TMelville entered corrections.’ Since the manuscript of Clarel has apparently not survived, the Putnam sheets are especially useful in establishing the authoritative text for certain passages. One instance occurs in Melville’sdirective to change a dash at the end of line 218 in Book I, canto 5 to a hyphenated word. In that episode, Clarel falls asleep in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and experiences a dream-reverie about cross-cultural pilgrimages, quests of different faiths. Observing Clarel are some Greek Orthodox matrons who wonder whether spiritual suffering and torpor have caused Clarel to stray in mind from the Holy Land to his homeland. The narrator compares these simple-minded women to Eve before the fall and wonders if they could cope with Clarel’s anguished knowledge of various threats to faith, including those that arise from otherwise enchanting resemblances among creeds. With respect to that concern, the proof correction in Melville’s hand reproduced below is significant:Z Yes, syuIvathit:s of Evc ;twakc; Upon t,licosesinipk. ii;~tu~’cs t rile, I tic complex passioii ? ~ ~ i g l i t t h y viwv I Iic :qq)wlic.nsioiitcinl~st t.osectl ?k7‘cbt (10 but; C’I’C Fur h O \ T lllig\lt IJl’t!ilk V l 1 7 spirit in giilf of c1ixqGg iit lost ? The apparent restoration of a hyphenated word is suggestive; “tempesttossed ,” along with the rhyming “lost,” intimates a Shakespearean resonance having a curious pertinence for the challenges to faith that occur in Book I, canto 5 of Clarel. Although the lines may make one think initially of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which does in fact figure in Clarel (1.29.51), the linking of “tempest- ’Herman Melville, “Melville’s Annotated Copy of ClareI,”in CIarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land, ed. Harrison Hayford, Alma A. MacDougall, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Press and The Newberry Library, 19911, pp. 849-63. Subsequent citations appear parenthetically as NN Clarel. Reproduction of proof lines I. 5. 214-19 (NN Clare1 858) is courtesy of Northwestern University Press. Although without reference to Shakespeare, the editors offer valuable discussions of Melville’s annotation of I. 5. 218 (p. 722) and of the dream-vision preceding that line (pp. 720-21). A J O U R N A L O F M E L V I L L E S T U D I E S 7 9 J A M E S D U B A N tossed” and “lost” finds precedent in Macbeth, and in a passage where the witches use the metaphor of a storm-tossed ship to ponder their limited capacity to harm Macbeth: “Though his bark cannot be lost, /Yet it shall be tempesttossed .”3 In other words, the Weird sisters can only torment Macbeth; he alone may succumb to destruction by being weak enough to act upon internal impulses that the witches are able to articulate through the voice of prophecy. Melvillewas fascinated by this psychological dilemma, as we know from Ishmael‘s rendering in Moby-Dick of the tie between Ahab and Fedallah. Like the witches, who conjure apparitions that claim “none of woman born shall harm Macbeth” and “Macbeth shall never vanquished be, until / Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill / Shall come against him,” Fedallah encourages Ahab’s self-destruction with the prophecies that “neither hearse nor coffin can be thine” and that “ere thou couldst die...,two hearses must verily be seen by thee on the sea; the first not made by mortal hands; and the visible wood of the last one must be grown in America.”4From these, Ahab wrongfully infers his immortality. For Ahab, like Macbeth, prophecy corroborates and externalizes inner ambitions and longings; for each character, destruction becomes a function of self-destruction rather than a consequence of externally imposed destiny5 Because in Clarel questions of choice and direction pertain to religious belief, we read of St...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1750-1849
Print ISSN
1525-6995
Pages
pp. 79-82
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-29
Open Access
No
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