It is 1797. Billy Budd, a tall, handsome, and well behaved British sailor impressed into service on the British man-of-war HMS Indomitable, is ridden unmercifully by the ship's master-at-arms, Claggart. The majority of the other men, including the fair and thoughtful Captain Vere, dislike Claggart and respect Billy. But when Claggart falsely accuses Billy of leading a mutiny, the accused is so shocked he is speechless, then strikes Claggart dead with one blow. As an accused mutineer in time of war and murderer of a superior officer, Billy must be court-martialed, much to the consternation and sorrow of his shipmates and captain. In this brief parable, Melville depicts the clash between good and evil, and the quandary of the good man (Vere) caught in the middle.
This report prepared by David Loftus