Foreshadowing Disaster: A Coming Storm

Evander Lewis Price

Abstract


This paper analyzes Herman Melville's poem “The Coming Storm” as it was inspired by Sanford Gifford's dark landscape A Coming Storm. Gifford's landscape was purchased by Edwin Booth before his brother John Wilkes would commit the infamous Lincoln assassination. Melville implies that the ominous, portentous elements of the painting must have struck a chord in Booth's heart, and compelled him to purchase it. In “The Coming Storm,” Melville considers the role that Edwin Booth, America's most famous actor of Shakespeare's Hamlet, played as brother to assassin of Lincoln. Using references specific to scenes in Hamlet, Melville draws a number of parallels that align Gifford's painted landscape with the political landscape of the Civil War, the tragic landscape of the Lincoln assassination, and the psychological landscape of Booth's mind, in order to convey the sense of tragedy of Booth's role as the unfortunate brother to outrageous infamy.

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