Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!

Ahab utters these words—his last—after Moby Dick destroys the Pequod, in Chapter 135. As the action picks up pace, the sense of tragedy becomes heightened. These words, Shakespearean in tone, are meant to match the dramatic nature of the situation in which they are spoken. Ahab dies as he began, defiant but aware of his fate. The whale is “all-destroying but unconquering”: its victory has been inevitable, but it has not defeated Ahab’s spirit. In an ultimate demonstration of defiance, Ahab uses his “last breath” to curse the whale and fate. He is, spiritually, already in “hell’s heart,” and he acquiesces to his own imminent death. This final climactic explosion of eloquence and theatricality is followed by an overwhelming silence, as the whale disappears and everything and everyone but Ishmael is pulled below the ocean’s surface.