Genesis 18. Abraham's tent is said in the Bible to be open to all visitors; it is a symbol of hospitality, contrasting with the San Dominick
i.e. Ashanti; a people of southern Ghana
beaten as though by battledores, which are like small tennis rackets with taut leather instead of strings.
place to sleep on a ship
Monks of the order of Saint Dominick, who wore black robes.
A Black African; also spelled Kaffir or Kafir; considered offensive.
a wine from the Canary Islands
The southernmost point of South America
Holy Roman Emperor, 1519-36; also King of Spain as Charles I, 1516-36. Retired to a monastery.
Associated with Philip Stanhope (1694-1773), the fourth earl of Chesterfield, who declared that in governing the world's affairs the appearance of morality is more important than the fact of morality. The narrative here demonstrates Delano's simplicity, as "at once Christian and Chesterfieldian" is an oxymoron.
Christopher Columbus (1451?-1506), the explorer who made landfall in the "New World" in 1492 under the flag of Castille. His original name and nation are unknown.
City of Kings
Lima, the Spanish colonial center of South America
An official establishment in which vessels and their goods are recorded and cleared.
poeticization of ebony
Ezekial's Valley of Dry Bones
A vision described in Ezekial 37:1-28.
British slang, refering to a cigarette butt; generally, anything that is an unwanted or useless end, in this case, the frayed end of a cable
Associated with the Free and Accepted Masons, a secret order with arcane rituals.
The Gordian Knot is part of the mythology associated with Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.E.). Alexander is said to have visited Gordium, where there was a famous knot so complex that no one could untie it. As a response to the challenge posed by the knot, Alexander simply cut it with his sword. The Ammon were a Biblical people living along the Jordan river, closely related to the Israelites.
Associated with Guy Fawkes, (1570-1606), who attemped to execute the Gunpowder Plot (1605) to blow up the English Parliament, thus hoping to incite a Catholic rebellion.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), critic, author, lexicographer, was one of the most important literary figures of England in the eighteenth century. He was famously attached to and generous towards his black servant, Francis Barber. George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) is one of the most famous Romantic poets. He too was attached to his black servant, William Fletcher.
old, useless rope
an Asian palm
spike used for spearing marlins
a book containing what is said at Catholic mass on any given day
1771-1806. A Scottish explorer of the African continent.
An inhabitant of Nubia, a region associated with the ancient kingdom of the same name, which spread from southern Egypt to northern Sudan along the Nile.
rope fibers loosely twisted and combined with tar to make caulk
ornamental gardens with walks between flower beds
an enclosed structure at the ship's back, above the main deck
In 1745 the English army was defeated by the Scottish (also known as the Highlanders) at the Battle of Preston Pans.
precise observance of social niceties
commonly called a ratline; a horizontal rope used as a ladder for climbing aloft
to make a preliminary survey, especially for purposes of attack
A line of famous financiers of the nineteenth century were named Rothschild.
The name of the ship refers to both the order of Saint Dominick, which was the monastic order in charge of the Spanish Inquisition, and to the island of Santo Dominigo, on which a slave rebellion took place in 1799 (also the time setting for "Benito Cereno").
Spanish; a woman's robe that reveals only her face
scullery maid; does kitchen work
measurements of depth
the round wooden poles used to support rigging on a ship, such as masts, booms, etc.
studding sails; extra triangular sails raised alongside the large rectangular sails, used to get the most out of light winds
sailor; short for tarpaulin
horizontal boards in the stern of a ship
representing the king's authority
abnormal growth or cyst
long, narrow rowboat used for hunting whales
a facetious term for a Spanish old man
a machine for hoisting or hauling
Benito Cereno Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Benito Cereno is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Benito Cereno" is a performance on every level. Melville performs the perspective of Captain Delano; Captain Delano performs the role of the benign racist; Benito Cereno performs the part of power (all the while wearing a stuffed, swordless...