Help! Transfer my video-cassette recording to digital format, and then
cut 3 excerpts therefrom. (Or find it in digital format on the Net or from
an extraordinary store.)
In lieu of being able to display the 3 essential clips, I here present the
text from the novel, intermixed with text from the script. If you wish,
read only my preface, which includes all that is important for applying it's
lessons in your life.
Claggart could not bear a grace he could not have.
He's innocent but if we let him free, the crew will think us afraid of mutiny,
and so they will mutiny.
Hate me for once.
The opera of the story by Britten (1951) is extremely popular and one of the
most important modern works in the classical repertoire.
Melville’s purpose in writing the story originates in the part his older
brother played in presiding over the court martial of a sailor involved in
insubordination whose punishment was execution.
Herman Melville, 1891.
Captain Vere, Lieutenant Ratcliff, 1797, Royal Navy.
He was illiterate. He possessed that kind and degree of intelligence
going along with the unconventional rectitude of a sound human creature, one to
whom not yet has been proffered the questionable apple of knowledge.
Billy in many respects was little more than a sort of upright barbarian, much
such perhaps as Adam presumably might have been ere the urbane Serpent wriggled
himself into his company.
Though in the hour of elemental uproar or peril he was everything that a
sailor should be, yet under sudden provocation of strong heart-feeling, his
voice otherwise singularly musical, as if expressive of the harmony within, was
apt to develop an organic hesitancy, in fact, more or less of a stutter or even
worse. In this particular Billy was a striking instance that the arch
interferer, the envious marplot of Eden, still has more or less to do with every
human consignment to this planet of earth. In every case, one way or another he
is sure to slip in his little card, as much as to remind us- I too have a hand
The avowal of such an imperfection in the Handsome Sailor should be evidence
not alone that he is not presented as a conventional hero, but also that the
story in which he is the main figure is no romance.
Before I shipped that young fellow, my forecastle was a rat-pit of quarrels.
It was black times, I tell you, aboard the Rights here. I was worried to
that degree my pipe had no comfort for me. But Billy came; and it was like a
Catholic priest striking peace in an Irish shindy. Not that he preached to them
or said or did anything in particular; but a virtue went out of him, sugaring
the sour ones. They took to him like hornets to treacle; all but the buffer of
the gang, the big shaggy chap with the fire-red whiskers. He indeed out of envy,
perhaps, of the newcomer, and thinking such a 'sweet and pleasant fellow,' as he
mockingly designated him to the others, could hardly have the spirit of a
game-cock, must needs bestir himself in trying to get up an ugly row with him.
Billy forebore with him and reasoned with him in a pleasant way- he is something
like myself, Lieutenant, to whom aught like a quarrel is hateful- but nothing
served. So, in the second dog-watch one day the Red Whiskers in presence of the
others, under pretence of showing Billy just whence a sirloin steak was cut- for
the fellow had once been a butcher- insultingly gave him a dig under the ribs.
Quick as lightning Billy let fly his arm. I dare say he never meant to do quite
as much as he did, but anyhow he gave the burly fool a terrible drubbing. It
took about half a minute, I should think. And, lord bless you, the lubber was
astonished at the celerity. And will you believe it, Lieutenant, the Red
Whiskers now really loves Billy- loves him, or is the biggest hypocrite that
ever I heard of. But they
all love him. Some of 'em do his washing, darn his old trousers for him; the
carpenter is at odd times making a pretty little chest of drawers for him.
Anybody will do anything for Billy Budd; and it's the happy family here. But
now, Lieutenant, if that young fellow goes- I know how it will be aboard the Rights.
Not again very soon shall I, coming up from dinner, lean over the capstan
smoking a quiet pipe- no, not very soon again, I think. Ay, Lieutenant, you are
going to take away the jewel of 'em; you are going to take away my
peacemaker!" And with that the good soul had really some ado in checking a
"Well," said the officer who had listened with amused interest to
all this, and now waxing merry with his tipple; "Well, blessed are the
peacemakers, especially the fighting peacemakers! And such are the seventy- four
beauties some of which you see poking their noses out of the port-holes of
yonder war-ship lying-to for me," pointing thro' the cabin window at the Indomitable.
"But courage! don't look so downhearted, man. Why, I pledge you in advance
the royal approbation. Rest assured that His Majesty will be delighted to know
that in a time when his hard tack is not sought for by sailors with such avidity
as should be; a time also when some shipmasters privily resent the borrowing
from them a tar or two for the service; His Majesty, I say, will be delighted to
learn that one shipmaster at least cheerfully surrenders to the King, the flower
of his flock, a sailor who with equal loyalty makes no dissent.- But where's my
beauty? Ah," looking through the cabin's open door, "Here he comes;
and, by Jove- lugging along his chest- Apollo with his portmanteau!- My
man," stepping out to him, "you can't take that big box aboard a
war-ship. The boxes there are mostly shot-boxes. Put your duds in a bag, lad.
Boot and saddle for the cavalryman, bag and hammock for the man-of-war's
The transfer from chest to bag was made. And, after seeing his man into the
cutter and then following him down, the Lieutenant pushed off from the Rights-of-Man.
That was the merchant-ship's name; tho' by her master and crew abbreviated in
sailor fashion into The Rights. The hard-headed Dundee owner was a
staunch admirer of Thomas Paine whose book in rejoinder to Burke's arraignment
of the French Revolution had then been published for some time and had gone
everywhere. In christening his vessel after the title of Paine's volume, the man
of Dundee was something like his contemporary shipowner, Stephen Girard of
Philadelphia, whose sympathies, alike with his native land and its liberal
philosophers, he evinced by naming his ships after Voltaire, Diderot, and so
But now, when the boat swept under the merchantman's stern, and officer and
oarsmen were noting- some bitterly and others with a grin,- the name emblazoned
there; just then it was that the new recruit jumped up from the bow where the
coxswain had directed him to sit, and waving his hat to his silent shipmates
sorrowfully looking over at him from the taffrail, bade the lads a genial
good-bye. Then, making a salutation as to the ship herself, "And good-bye
to you too, old Rights-of-Man."
"Down, Sir!" roared the Lieutenant, instantly assuming all the
rigour of his rank, though with difficulty repressing a smile.
To be sure, Billy's action was a terrible breach of naval decorum. But in
that decorum he had never been instructed; in consideration of which the
Lieutenant would hardly have been so energetic in reproof but for the concluding
farewell to the ship. This he rather took as meant to convey a covert sally on
the new recruit's part, a sly slur at impressment in general, and that of
himself in especial. And yet, more likely, if satire it was in effect, it was
hardly so by intention, for Billy, tho' happily endowed with the gayety of high
health, youth, and a free heart, was yet by no means of a satirical turn. The
will to it and the sinister dexterity were alike wanting. To deal in double
meanings and insinuations of any sort was quite foreign to his nature.
And here be it submitted that apparently going to corroborate the doctrine of
man's fall, a doctrine now popularly ignored, it is observable that where
certain virtues pristine and unadulterate peculiarly characterize anybody in the
external uniform of civilization, they will upon scrutiny seem not to be derived
from custom or convention, but rather to be out of keeping with these, as if
indeed exceptionally transmitted from a period prior to Cain's city and citified
man. The character marked by such qualities has to an unvitiated taste an
untampered-with flavor like that of berries, while the man thoroughly civilized,
even in a fair specimen of the breed, has to the same moral palate a
questionable smack as of a compounded wine.
Now when the Foretopman found himself closeted there, as it
were, in the cabin with the Captain and Claggart, he was surprised
enough. But it was a surprise unaccompanied by apprehension or
distrust. To an immature nature essentially honest and humane,
forewarning intimations of subtler danger from one's kind come tardily
if at all. The only thing that took shape in the young sailor's mind
was this: Yes, the Captain, I have always thought, looks kindly upon
me. Wonder if he's going to make me his coxswain. I should like
that. And maybe now he is going to ask the Master-at-arms about me.
"Shut the door there, sentry," said the Commander; "stand without,
and let nobody come in.- Now, Master-at-arms, tell this man to his
face what you told of him to me"; and stood prepared to scrutinize the
mutually confronting visages.
With the measured step and calm collected air of an
asylum-physician approaching in the public hall some patient beginning
to show indications of a coming paroxysm, Claggart deliberately
advanced within short range of Billy, and mesmerically looking him
in the eye, briefly recapitulated the accusation.
Not at first did Billy take it in. When he did, the rose-tan of
his cheek looked struck as by white leprosy. He stood like one impaled
and gagged. Meanwhile the accuser's eyes removing not as yet from
the blue dilated ones, underwent a phenomenal change, their wonted
rich violet color blurring into a muddy purple. Those lights of
human intelligence losing human expression, gelidly protruding like
the alien eyes of certain uncatalogued creatures of the deep. The
first mesmeric glance was one of serpent fascination; the last was
as the hungry lurch of the torpedo-fish.
"Speak, man!" said Captain Vere to the transfixed one, struck by
his aspect even more than by Claggart's, "Speak! defend yourself."
Which appeal caused but a strange dumb gesturing and gurgling in
Billy; amazement at such an accusation so suddenly sprung on
inexperienced nonage; this, and, it may be, horror of the accuser,
serving to bring out his lurking defect and in this instance for the
time intensifying it into a convulsed tongue-tie; while the intent
head and entire form straining forward in an agony of ineffectual
eagerness to obey the injunction to speak and defend himself, gave
an expression to the face like that of a condemned Vestal priestess in
the moment of being buried alive, and in the first struggle against
Though at the time Captain Vere was quite ignorant of Billy's
liability to vocal impediment, he now immediately divined it.
Going close up to the young sailor, and laying a soothing hand on
his shoulder, he said, "There is no hurry, my boy. Take your time,
take your time." Contrary to the effect intended, these words so
fatherly in tone, doubtless touching Billy's heart to the quick,
prompted yet more violent efforts at utterance- efforts soon ending
for the time in confirming the paralysis, and bringing to his face
an expression which was as a crucifixion to behold. The next
instant, quick as the flame from a discharged cannon at night, his
right arm shot out, and Claggart dropped to the deck. Whether
intentionally or but owing to the young athlete's superior height, the
blow had taken effect fully upon the forehead, so shapely and
intellectual-looking a feature in the Master-at-arms; so that the body
fell over lengthwise, like a heavy plank tilted from erectness. A gasp,
a [thankful, told-you-so] smile, and he lay motionless.
"Fated boy," breathed Captain Vere in tone so low as to be
almost a whisper, "what have you done! But here, help me."
The twain raised the felled one from the loins up into a sitting
position. The spare form flexibly acquiesced, but inertly. It was like
handling a dead snake. They lowered it back. Regaining erectness
Captain Vere with one hand covering his face stood to all appearance
as impassive as the object at his feet. Was he absorbed in taking in
all the bearings of the event and what was best not only now at once
to be done, but also in the sequel? Slowly he uncovered his face;
and the effect was as if the moon emerging from eclipse should
reappear with quite another aspect than that which had gone into
hiding. The father in him, manifested towards Billy thus far in the
scene, was replaced by the military disciplinarian. In his official
tone he bade the Foretopman retire to a state-room aft (pointing it
out), and there remain till thence summoned.
... When the Surgeon entered- a
self-poised character of that grave sense and experience that hardly
anything could take him aback, Captain Vere advanced to meet him,
and interrupting the other's wonted ceremonious salutation, said, "Nay, tell me how
it is with yonder man," directing his attention to the prostrate one.
The Surgeon looked, and for all his self-command, somewhat started
at the abrupt revelation. On Claggart's always pallid complexion,
thick black blood was now oozing from nostril and ear. To the
gazer's professional eye it was unmistakably no living man that he
"Is it so then?" said Captain Vere intently watching him. "I
thought it. But verify it." Whereupon the customary tests confirmed
the Surgeon's first glance, who now looking up in unfeigned concern,
cast a look of intense inquisitiveness upon his superior. But
Captain Vere, with one hand to his brow, was standing motionless.
Suddenly, catching the Surgeon's arm convulsively, he exclaimed,
pointing down to the body- "It is the divine judgement on Ananias!
Look!" "Struck dead by an angel of God! Yet the angel must hang!"
That the unhappy event which has been narrated could not have
happened at a worse juncture was but too true. For it was close on the
heel of the suppressed insurrections, an aftertime very critical to
naval authority, demanding from every English sea-commander two
qualities not readily interfusable - prudence and rigour. Moreover
there was something crucial in the case.
In the jugglery of circumstances preceding and attending the event
on board the Indomitable, and in the light of that martial code
whereby it was formally to be judged, innocence and guilt
personified in Claggart and Budd in effect changed places. In a
legal view the apparent victim of the tragedy was he who had sought to
victimize a man blameless; and the indisputable deed of the latter,
navally regarded, constituted the most heinous of military crimes. Yet
more. The essential right and wrong involved in the matter, the
clearer that might be, so much the worse for the responsibility of a
loyal sea-commander inasmuch as he was not authorized to determine the
matter on that primitive basis.
The case indeed was such that fain would the Indomitable's Captain
have deferred taking any action whatever respecting it further than to
keep the Foretopman a close prisoner till the ship rejoined the
squadron, and then submitting the matter to the judgement of his
But a true military officer is in one particular like a true monk.
Not with more of self-abnegation will the latter keep his vows of
monastic obedience than the former his vows of allegiance to martial
Feeling that unless quick action was taken on it, the deed of
the Foretopman, so soon as it should be known on the gun decks,
would tend to awaken any slumbering embers of the Nore among the crew,
a sense of the urgency of the case overruled in Captain Vere every
other consideration. But tho' a conscientious disciplinarian, he was
no lover of authority for mere authority's sake. Very far was he
from embracing opportunities for monopolizing to himself the perils of
moral responsibility, none at least that could properly be referred to
an official superior, or shared with him by his official equals or
even subordinates. So thinking, he was glad it would not be at
variance with usage to turn the matter over to a summary court of
his own officers, reserving to himself as the one on whom the ultimate
accountability would rest, the right of maintaining a supervision of
it, or formally or informally interposing at need. Accordingly a
drum-head court was summarily convened, he electing the individuals
composing it, the First Lieutenant, the Captain of Marines, and the
All being quickly in readiness, Billy Budd was arraigned,
Captain Vere necessarily appearing as the sole witness in the case,
and as such, temporarily sinking his rank. Concisely he narrated all that had
led up to the catastrophe, omitting nothing in Claggart's accusation
and deposing as to the manner in which the prisoner had received it.
At this testimony the three officers glanced with no little surprise
at Billy Budd, the last man they would have suspected either of the
mutinous design alleged by Claggart or the undeniable deed he
himself had done.
The First Lieutenant, taking judicial primacy and turning toward
the prisoner, said, "Captain Vere has spoken. Is it or is it not as
Captain Vere says?" In response came syllables not so much impeded
in the utterance as might have been anticipated. They were these:
"Captain Vere tells the truth. It is just as Captain Vere says, but it
is not as the Master-at-arms said. I have eaten the King's bread and I
am true to the King."
"I believe you, my man," said the witness, his voice indicating
a suppressed emotion not otherwise betrayed.
"No, there was no malice
between us. I never bore malice against the Master-at-arms. I am sorry
that he is dead. I did not mean to kill him. Could I have used my
tongue I would not have struck him. But he foully lied to my face
and in presence of my Captain, and I had to say something, and I could
only say it with a blow, God help me!"
In the impulsive above-board manner of the frank one, the court
saw confirmed all that was implied in words that just previously had
perplexed them, coming as they did from the testifier to the tragedy
and promptly following Billy's impassioned disclaimer of mutinous
intent - Captain Vere's words, "I believe you, my man."
Presently he came to a stand before the three.
After scanning their faces he stood less as mustering his thoughts for
expression, than as one inly deliberating how best to put them to
well-meaning men not intellectually mature, men with whom it was
necessary to demonstrate certain principles that were axioms to
himself. Similar impatience as to talking is perhaps one reason that
deters some minds from addressing any popular assemblies.
How can we adjudge to shameful death a fellow-creature innocent before God,
and whom we feel to be so? - Does that state it aright? You sign sad
assent. Well, I too feel that, the full force of that. It is Nature.
But do these buttons that we wear attest that our allegiance is to
Nature? No, to the King. Though the ocean, which is inviolate Nature
primeval, tho' this be the element where we move and have our being as
sailors, yet as the King's officers lies our duty in a sphere
correspondingly natural? So little is that true, that in receiving our
commissions we in the most important regards ceased to be natural
free-agents. When war is declared are we the commissioned fighters
previously consulted? We fight at command. If our judgements approve
the war, that is but coincidence. So in other particulars. So now. For
suppose condemnation to follow these present proceedings. Would it
be so much we ourselves that would condemn as it would be martial
law operating through us? For that law and the rigour of it, we are
not responsible. Our avowed responsibility is in this: That however
pitilessly that law may operate, we nevertheless adhere to it and
"Let not warm hearts betray heads that should be cool."
Here the three men moved in their seats, less convinced than
agitated by the course of an argument.
Perceiving which, the speaker paused for a moment; then abruptly
changing his tone, went on.
"To steady us a bit, let us recur to the facts. - In war-time at
sea a man-of-war's-man strikes his superior, and the blow
kills. Apart from its effect, the blow itself is, according to the
Articles of War, a capital crime. Furthermore-"
"But while, put to it by these anxieties in you which I can not
but respect, I only repeat myself- while thus strangely we prolong
proceedings that should be summary- the enemy may be sighted and an
engagement result. We must do; and one of two things must we do-
condemn or let go."
"Can we not convict and yet mitigate the penalty?" asked the
junior Lieutenant here speaking, and falteringly, for the first.
"Lieutenant, were that clearly lawful for us under the
circumstances, consider the consequences of such clemency. The people"
(meaning the ship's company) "have native-sense; most of them are
familiar with our naval usage and tradition; and how would they take
it? Even could you explain to them - which our official position
forbids - they, long moulded by arbitrary discipline have not that kind
of intelligent responsiveness that might qualify them to comprehend
and discriminate. No, to the people the Foretopman's deed, however
it be worded in the announcement, will be plain homicide committed
in a flagrant act of mutiny. What penalty for that should follow, they
know. But it does not follow. Why? they will ruminate. You know what
sailors are. Will they not revert to the recent outbreak at the
Nore? Ay. They know the well-founded alarm - the panic it struck
throughout England. Your clement sentence they would account
pusillanimous. They would think that we flinch, that we are afraid
of them - afraid of practising a lawful rigour singularly demanded at
this juncture lest it should provoke new troubles. What shame to us
such a conjecture on their part, and how deadly to discipline. You see
then, whither, prompted by duty and the law, I steadfastly drive."
Says a writer whom few know, "Forty years after a battle it is
easy for a non-combatant to reason about how it ought to have been
fought. It is another thing personally and under fire to direct the
fighting while involved in the obscuring smoke of it. Much so with
respect to other emergencies involving considerations both practical
and moral, and when it is imperative promptly to act. The greater
the fog the more it imperils the steamer, and speed is put on tho'
at the hazard of running somebody down.
In brief, Billy Budd was formally convicted and sentenced to be
hung at the yard-arm in the early morning watch, it being now night.
It was Captain Vere himself who of his own motion communicated the
finding of the court to the prisoner; for that purpose going to the
compartment where he was in custody and bidding the marine there to
withdraw for the time.
Beyond the communication of the sentence what took place at this
interview was never known. But in view of the character of the twain
briefly closeted in that state-room, each radically sharing in the
rarer qualities of our nature - so rare indeed as to be all but
incredible to average minds however much cultivated - some
conjectures may be ventured.
It would have been in consonance with the spirit of Captain Vere
should he on this occasion have concealed nothing from the condemned
one- should he indeed have frankly disclosed to him the part he
himself had played in bringing about the decision, at the same time
revealing his actuating motives. On Billy's side it is not
improbable that such a confession would have been received in much the
same spirit that prompted it. Not without a sort of joy indeed he
might have appreciated the brave opinion of him implied in his
Captain's making such a confidant of him. Nor, as to the sentence
itself could he have been insensible that it was imparted to him as to
one not afraid to die. Even more may have been. Captain Vere in the
end may have developed the passion sometimes latent under an
exterior stoical or indifferent. He was old enough to have been
Billy's father. The austere devotee of military duty, letting
himself melt back into what remains primeval in our formalized
humanity, may in the end have caught Billy to his heart even as
Abraham may have caught young Isaac on the brink of resolutely
offering him up in obedience to the exacting behest. But there is no
telling the sacrament, seldom if in any case revealed to the gadding
world, wherever under circumstances at all akin to those here
attempted to be set forth, two of great Nature's nobler order embrace.
There is privacy at the time, inviolable to the survivor, and holy
oblivion, the sequel to each diviner magnanimity, providentially
covers all at last.
The first to encounter Captain Vere in act of leaving the
compartment was the senior Lieutenant. The face he beheld, for the
moment one expressive of the agony of the strong, was to that officer,
tho' a man of fifty, a startling revelation. That the condemned one
suffered less than he who mainly had effected the condemnation was
apparently indicated by the former's exclamation in the scene soon
perforce to be touched upon.
Their Captain's announcement was listened to by the throng of
standing sailors in a dumbness like that of a seated congregation of
believers in hell listening to the clergyman's announcement of his
If possible, not to let the men so much as surmise that their
officers anticipate aught amiss from them is the tacit rule in a
The Chaplain coming to see him and finding him thus, and
perceiving no sign that he was conscious of his presence,
attentively regarded him for a space, then slipping aside, withdrew
for the time, peradventure feeling that even he the minister of
Christ, tho' receiving his stipend from Mars, had no consolation to
proffer which could result in a peace transcending that which he
beheld. But in the small hours he came again. And the prisoner, now
awake to his surroundings, noticed his approach, and civilly, all
but cheerfully, welcomed him. But it was to little purpose that in the
interview following the good man sought to bring Billy Budd to some
godly understanding that he must die, and at dawn. True, Billy himself
freely referred to his death as a thing close at hand; but it was
something in the way that children will refer to death in general, who
yet among their other sports will play a funeral with hearse and
Not that like children Billy was incapable of conceiving what
death really is. No, but he was wholly without irrational fear of
it, a fear more prevalent in highly civilized communities than those
so-called barbarous ones which in all respects stand nearer to
If in vain the good Chaplain sought to impress the young barbarian
with ideas of death akin to those conveyed in the skull, dial, and
cross-bones on old tombstones; equally futile to all appearance were
his efforts to bring home to him the thought of salvation and a
Saviour. Billy listened, but less out of awe or reverence perhaps than
from a certain natural politeness.
But the Indomitable's Chaplain was a discreet man possessing the
good sense of a good heart. So he insisted not in his vocation here.
At the instance of Captain Vere, a lieutenant had apprised him of
pretty much everything as to Billy; and since he felt that innocence
was even a better thing than religion wherewith to go to Judgement, he
reluctantly withdrew; but in his emotion not without first
performing an act strange enough in an Englishman, and under the
circumstances yet more so in any regular priest. Stooping over, he
kissed on the fair cheek his fellow-man, a felon in martial law, one
who though on the confines of death he felt he could never convert
to a dogma.
Marvel not that having been made acquainted with the young
sailor's essential innocence (an irruption of heretic thought hard
to suppress) the worthy man lifted not a finger to avert the doom of
such a martyr to martial discipline. So to do would not only have been
as idle as invoking the desert, but would also have been an
audacious transgression of the bounds of his function, one as
exactly prescribed to him by military law as that of the boatswain
or any other naval officer. Bluntly put, a chaplain is the minister of
the Prince of Peace serving in the host of the God of War - Mars. As
such, he is as incongruous as a musket would be on the altar at
Christmas. Why then is he there? Because he indirectly subserves the
purpose attested by the cannon; because too he lends the sanction of
the religion of the meek to that which practically is the abrogation
of everything but brute Force.
You've made a good impression on the Captain.
If you wish to make a good impression on me you'll have to curb your tongue.
Is it ignorance or irony that makes you speak so simply?
It must be ignorance because I don't know what the other word means.
Let's test to find out. Tell me, without fear if you can, what do you
think of me?
I never met a man like you before.
Do you blame me for Jenkin's death?
You must have had a reason for doing what you did.
Why did you speak out?
I could not see your reason, I only knew the truth and spoke it.
You can't be as bad as they say you are. No man can take pleasure in
Why are you laughing boy?
It's good to laugh. It's good to hear you laugh.
Even if it's the laughter of a fool?
You didn't laugh at nothing. I think you were laughing at yourself.
Sometimes I think you hate yourself.
Tell him what you told me
conspired with known malingerers
May I add, sir, ....
I'm surprised too sir. I had shared your high esteem of him.
With all due respect, it's not that he can't find the words, it's that there are
no words to be found.
[dying, he smiles]
Thin skulls, might have happened at any time.
Claggatt would have hung for false witness.
In your opinion, is there malice between the Master-at-Arms and Budd?
Explain your statement.
Master bore malice towards a grace he could not have. Pride was his
demon. He kept it strong by evoking fear. Billy could not understand
such a nature. He saw only a lonely man. Strange, but a man still,
nothing to be feared. So Claggatt, lest his world be proven false, planned
In that sense, he's a cripple.
I'd have struck him myself.
Umm. One moment, gentlemen.
Accordint to the act, the mere fact of the blow would condemn him.
They'd thank us and fight the better.
But if in fear appearing as a type of mercy
Still the articles - this is beyond
You said yourself - he's innocent.
When Claggatt told you those lies, this went beyond martial law.
Now I feel.
There's no escape.
Couldn't we mitigate the penalty if we found him guilty.
Our consciences are private but are duty is public.
Dare we ...
Can you stand Budd's murder?
I beg to be dismissed.
We do not deal with justice but the law.
Look around you, at the cannons, then tell me how your conscience can be at
peace, if you can.
Show us how we can save the child and do our duty. Do you think Seymour
& Ratcliffe and I wouldn't if we could? Show us, Wyatt, and you save
Do not think me a pitiless wretch. I feel .. for him. And for
myself, revulsion, shame, and rage.
Is there hope for me Captain?
Billy, is there hope for any of us?
Tell me why, I only want to understand.
I feel sorry for ....
Claggatt killed you the moment you killed him.
Give into anger, hate me for once.
Hatred will help you through the fear.
I did my duty, you're doing yours.
[Walk by, look in eye, smile.]
God bless Captain Vere!
Permission to dismiss the men, sir.
Permission to dismiss the men, sir.
You may do as you wish, Seymour. It is of no further consequence to me.
A decision must be made.
A decision has been made. I'm only a man.
Reactions to the Film:
- They should have let him be free - they knew he was innocent.
- He should have protested.
- if you say you side with him, if you say the film shouldn't have had him die,
if you say you don't need to see it again, tell me:
- how would Billy respond to disruptive neighbours?
- how would Billy ...?
feels only compassion and humour. If he protests, he's human, and they
can deal with that - he's nothing special. amused, tender and sorry for
We so strongly want it, we will fight for the answer.
We see that they allowed themselves to be swept aside by
justifications. [They chose 'not to love'.] Since we so deeply want
him to be free, we become aware of how we in our own lives accept justifications
for inhumane choices.
Can I return to innocence?
The answer to their dilemma is:
Mercy is courageous and dutiful and right.
How is it dutiful?
- men will thank us and fight all the better against the French.
- duty is not to be expedient, to carry out the dictates of the articles without
regard to mens rea or reasonable man version of actus reus.
- duty is to king, to win the war against the French
- duty is to God, to rule the world in the British way.
Improv Character Language:
I declare these proceedings open.
I speak to you not as your captain, but as a witness.