Billy Budd

Billy Budd

infobox Book |
name = Billy Budd
title_orig =
translator =


image_caption =
author = Herman Melville
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = flagicon|USA United States
language = English
series =
genre = Novella
publisher =
release_date = 1924
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
pages = 131
isbn = NA

"Billy Budd" is a novella begun around 1886 by American author Herman Melville, left unfinished at his death in 1891 and not published until 1924. The work has been central to Melville scholarship since it was discovered in manuscript form among Melville's papers in 1924 and published the same year.

It has an ignominious editorial history, as poor transcription and misinterpretation of Melville's notes on the manuscript marred the first published editions of the text. For example, early versions gave the book's title as "Billy Budd, Foretopman", while it now seems clear Melville intended "Billy Budd, Sailor: (An Inside Narrative)"; some versions wrongly included a chapter that Melville had excised as a preface (the correct text has no preface); some versions fail to correct the name of the ship to "Bellipotent" (from the Latin "bella" war and "potens" power), from "Indomitable", as Melville called her in an earlier draft.

In 1962, Harrison Hayford and Merton M. Sealts, Jr. established what is now considered the correct text; it was published by the University of Chicago Press, and most editions printed since then follow the Hayford/Sealts text. Its adaptations include a black-and-white film adaptation (1962), as well as three made-for-television adaptations (1955, 1988, 1998). However, the best-known adaptation is the opera, "Billy Budd" with a score by Benjamin Britten and a libretto by E. M. Forster and Eric Crozier, which follows the earlier text as prepared for publication by Raymond Weaver in 1924. The opera has become a regular production at the Metropolitan Opera house in New York City and is generally well-known. Britten's distinct style has given the opera a unique perspective on the book, and the opera takes many creative liberties on the original book's plot.

Plot

The plot follows Billy Jeffs, a seaman impressed into service aboard the HMS "Bellipotent" in the year 1797, when the Royal Navy was reeling from two major mutinies and was threatened by the Revolutionary French Republic's military ambitions. Billy, an orphaned illegitimate child suffused with innocence, openness and natural charisma, is adored by the crew, but for unexplained reasons arouses the antagonism of the ship's Master-at-Arms, John Claggart, who falsely accuses Billy of conspiracy to mutiny. When Claggart brings his charges to the Captain, the Hon. Edward Fairfax "Starry" Vere, Vere summons both Claggart and Billy to his cabin for a private confrontation. When, in Billy's and Vere's presence, Claggart makes his false charges, Billy is unable to find the words to respond, due to a speech impediment. Unable to express himself verbally, he lashes out seemingly involuntarily at Claggart, killing him with a single blow.

Vere, an eminently thoughtful man whose name recalls the Latin words "veritas" (truth) and "vir" (man) as well as the English word "veer," then convenes a drumhead court-martial. He acts as convening authority, prosecutor, defense counsel and sole witness (except for Billy himself). He then intervenes in the deliberations of the court-martial panel to argue them into convicting Billy, despite their and his belief in Billy's innocence before God. (As Vere says in the moments following Claggart's death, "Struck dead by an angel of God! Yet the angel must hang!") Vere claims to be following the letter of the Mutiny Act and the Articles of War, but recent scholarship suggests otherwise.

At his insistence, the court-martial convicts Billy; Vere argues that any appearance of weakness in the officers and failure to enforce discipline could stir the already-turbulent waters of mutiny throughout the British fleet. Condemned to be hanged from the ship's yardarm at dawn the morning after the killing, Billy's final words are, "God bless Captain Vere!" The story may have been based on events onboard USS "Somers", an American naval vessel; one of the defendants in the later investigation was a distant relative of Melville.

Analysis and interpretations

A story ultimately about good and evil, "Billy Budd" has often been interpreted allegorically, with Billy interpreted typologically as Christ or the Biblical Adam, with Claggart (compared to a snake several times in the text) figured as Satan. Part of Claggart's hatred comes because of Billy's goodness rather than in spite of it.

Claggart is also thought of as the Biblical Judas. The act of turning an innocent man in to the authorities and the allusion of the priest kissing Billy on the cheek before he dies, just as Judas kisses Jesus on the cheek when he was betrayed, are cited in support of this reading. Vere is often associated with Pontius Pilate. This theory stems mainly from the characteristics attributed to each man. Billy is innocent, often compared to a barbarian or a child; while Claggart is a representation of evil with a "depravity according to nature," a phrase Melville borrows from Plato. Vere, without a doubt the most conflicted character in the novel, is torn between his compassion for the "Handsome Sailor" and his martial adherence to his own authority.

Some critics have conceptualized "Billy Budd" as an historical novel that attempts to evaluate man's relation to the past. Harold Schechter, a professor who has written a number of books on infamous American serial killers, has often pointed out that the author's description of Claggart could be considered to be a definition of a sociopath, although Melville was writing at a time before the word "sociopath" was used.

Thomas J. Scorza has written about the philosophical framework of the story and he understands the work as a comment on the historical feud between poets and philosophers. Melville, in this interpretation, is opposing the scientific, rational systems of thought, which Claggart's character represents, in favor of the more comprehensive poetic pursuit of knowledge embodied by Billy.

In the 1980s, Richard Weisberg of Yeshiva University's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law advanced a reading of the novel based on his careful research into the history of the governing law. Based on his mining of statutory law and actual practice in the Royal Navy in the era in which the book takes place, Weisberg rejects the traditional reading of Captain Vere as a good man trapped by bad law and proposes instead that Vere deliberately distorted the applicable substantive and procedural law to bring about Billy's death. The most fully worked-out version of Weisberg's argument can be found in chapters 8 and 9 of his book "The Failure of the Word: The Lawyer as Protagonist in Modern Fiction" [orig. ed., 1984; expanded ed., 1989] .

H. Bruce Franklin sees a direct connection between the hanging of Budd and the controversy around capital punishment. While Melville was writing Billy Budd between 1886 and 1891 the public's attention was focused on the issue. cite web|url=http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~hbf/bbcap.htm|title=Billy Budd and Capital Punishment: A Tale of Three Centuries|last=Franklin|first=H. Bruce|date=June 1997|publisher=American Literature|accessdate=2008-08-05]

Other critics interpret Budd's character as the antithesis of Claggart, the fallen angel. Like his peers, Budd is naturally good, but also has the courage and ability to believe in his goodness to the point that it is not accessible to him as a concept. Vere represents the good man with no courage or faith in his own goodness, and is therefore susceptible to evil. Claggart is the archetypal fallen angel, a man who has abandoned his goodness for ego, and, knowing this, ie his own cowardice, seeks to seduce the flawed Vere and destroy Budd.

Further reading

*Herman Melville (1924) "Billy Budd, Sailor: An Inside Narrative -- The Definitive Text", Edited and Annotated by Harrison Hayford and Merton M Sealts Jr., University of Chicago Press
*Richard Weisberg (1989) "The Failure of the Word: The Lawyer as Protagonist in Modern Fiction," Yale University Press

*Adamson, Joseph. Melville, Shame, and the Evil Eye: A Psychoanalytic Reading. Suny Series in Psychoanalysis and Culture. Albany, NY: State U of New York P, 1997.

*Adler, Joyce Sparer. "Billy Budd and Melville's Philosophy of War." PMLA 91 (1976): 266-78.

*Baris, Sharon. "Melville's Dansker: The Absent Daniel in Billy Budd." The Uses of Adversity: Failure and Accommodation in Reader Response. Ed. Ellen Spolsky. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell UP, 1990. 153-73.

*Bartley, William. "'Measured Forms' and Orphic Eloquence: The Style of Herman Melville's Billy Budd, Sailor." University of Toronto Quarterly: A Canadian Journal of the Humanities 59.4 (1990): 516-34.

Beauchamp, Gorman. "The Scorpion's Suicide: Claggart's Death in Billy Budd." Melville Society Extracts 129 (2005): 7-10.

Beidler, Philip D. "Billy Budd: Melville's Valedictory to Emerson." ESQ 24 (1978): 215-28.

Benesch, Klaus. "Melville's Black Jack: Billy Budd and the Politics of Race in 19th-Century Maritime Life." Monuments of the Black Atlantic: Slavery and Memory. Eds. Joanne M. Braxton and Maria I. Diedrich. Forecaast: Forum for European Contributions to African American Studies Number: 13: LIT, Münster, Germany Pagination: 67-75, 2004. 154.

Bercovitch, Sacvan. "Melville's Search for National Identity: Son and Father in Redburn, Pierre, and Billy Budd." College Language Association Journal 10 (1967): 217-28.

Berthold, Dennis. "Melville, Garibaldi, and the Medusa of Revolution." American Literary History 9.3 (1997): 425-59. Also in "Melville, Garibaldi, and the Medusa of Revolution." National Imaginaries, American Identities: The Cultural Work of American Iconography. Ed. Larry --Hutner Reynolds, Gordon. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2000. 104-37.

Berthold, Michael C. "'Billy in the Darbies,' 'Lycidas,' and Melville's Figures of Captivity." American Transcendental Quarterly 6.2 (1992): 109-19.

Birk, John F. "'Fated Boy': Karpman's Drama Triangle and Melville's Billy Budd." Literature and Medicine 13.2 (1994): 274-83.

Boone, Joseph. "Male Independence and the American Quest Genre: Hidden Sexual Politics in the All-Male Worlds of Melville, Twain, and London." Gender Studies: New Directions in Feminist Criticism. Ed. Judith Spector. Bowling Green, OH: Popular, 1986. 187-217.

Boudreau, Gordon V. "Herman Melville, Immortality, St. Paul, and Resurrection: From Rose-Bud to Billy Budd." Christianity and Literature 52.3 (2003): 343-.

Branch, Watson. "Melville's 'Incompetent' World in Billy Budd, Sailor." Melville Society Extracts 34 (1978): 1-2.

Braswell, William, "Melville's Billy Budd as 'An Inside Narrative'." American Literature 29 (1957): 133-146.

Brodtkorb, Paul, Jr. "The Definitive Billy Budd: 'but Aren't It All Sham?'" PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 82 (1967): 602-12.

Browne, Ray B. "Billy Budd: Gospel of Democracy." Nineteenth-Century Literature 17 (1963): 321-37.

Bryant, John. "Melville and Charles F. Briggs: Working a Passage to Billy Budd." English Language Notes 22.4 (1985): 48-54.

Canaday, Nicholas. "Distortion by History and

Casarino, Cesare. "Gomorrahs of the Deep: Or, Melville, Foucault, and the Question of Heterotopia." Arizona Quarterly 51.4 (1995): 1-25.

Cifelli, Edward M. "Billy Budd: Boggy Ground to Build On." Studies in Short Fiction 13 (1976): 463-69.

Coffler, Gail. "Classical Iconography in the Aesthetics of Billy Budd, Sailor." Savage Eye: Melville and the Visual Arts. Ed. Christopher Sten. Kent, OH: Kent State UP, 1991. 257-76.

Cowan, S. A. "The Naming of Captain Vere in Melville's Billy Budd." Studies in Short Fiction 21.1 (1984): 41-46.

Davis, R. Evan. "An Allegory of America in Melville's Billy Budd." Journal of Narrative Technique 14.3 (1984): 172-81.

Desai, R. W. "Truth's 'Ragged Edges': A Phenomenological Inquiry into the Captain Vere-Billy Relationship in Melville's Billy Budd, Sailor." Studies in the Humanities 19.1 (1992): 11-26.

Douglas, Lawrence. "Discursive Limits: Narrative and Judgment in Billy Budd." Mosaic 27.4 (1994): 141-60.

Duerksen, Roland A. "Caleb Williams, Political Justice, and Billy Budd." American Literature 38 (1966): 372-76.

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Durer, Christopher S. "Captain Vere and Upper-Class Mores in Billy Budd." Studies in Short Fiction 19.1 (1982): 9-18.

Eberwein, Robert T. "The Impure Fiction of Billy Budd." Studies in the Novel 6 (1974): 318-26.

Eckardt, Sister Mary Ellen. and Harold Bloom, eds. Herman Melville's Billy Budd, "Benito Cereno," "Bartleby the Scrivener," and Other Tales. New York: Chelsea, 1987.

Eckardt, Sister Mary Ellen.and Robert Milder, eds. Critical Essays on Melville's Billy Budd, Sailor. Critical Essays on American Literature. Boston: Hall, 1989.

Evans, Lyon, Jr. "'Too Good to Be True': Subverting Christian Hope in Billy Budd." The New England Quarterly 55.3 (1982): 323-53.

Farnham, James F. "Captain Vere's Existential Failure." Arizona Quarterly 37.4 (1981): 362-70.

Fite, Olive L. "Billy Budd, Claggart, and Schopenhauer." Nineteenth-Century Fiction 23 (1968): 336-43.

Floyd, Nathaniel M. "Billy Budd: A Psychological Autopsy." American Imago 34 (1977): 28-49.

Fogle, Richard Harter, "Billy Budd: The Order of the Fall." Nineteenth-Century Fiction 15 (December 1960):189-205.

Foley, Mary. "The Digressions in Billy Budd." Melville's Billy Budd and the Critics. Ed. William T. Stafford. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1968. 220-23.

Frank, Stuart M. "'the Somers': A Newly-Discovered Ballad Text of 1842 from a Contemporaneous Whaleman's Journal." Melville Society Extracts 115 (1998): 1-7.

Franklin, H. Bruce. "From Empire to Empire: Billy Budd, Sailor." Herman Melville: Reassessments. Ed. A. Robert Lee. Crit. Studies Ser. London; Totowa, NJ: Vision; Barnes & Noble, 1984. 199-216.

---. "Billy Budd and Capital Punishment: A Tale of Three Centuries." American Literature 69.2 (1997): 337-59.

Friederich, Reinhard H. "Comet, Stars, and Cynosure: Billy Budd in a Symbolist Context." Essays in Literature 9.2 (1982): 261-68.

Friedman, Irene. "Melville's Billy Budd: 'a Sort of Upright Barbarian'." Canadian Review of American Studies 4 (1973): 87-95.

Friel, Joseph C. "Ustinov's Film Billy Budd, a Study in the Process of Adaption: Novel, to Play, to Film." Literature/Film Quarterly 4 (1976): 271-84.

Fulwiler, Toby. "The Death of the Handsome Sailor: A Study of Billy Budd and the Red Badge of Courage." Arizona Quarterly 26 (1970): 101-12.

Fussell, Mary Everett Burton. "Billy Budd: Melville's Happy Ending." Studies in Romanticism 15 (1976): 43-57.

Garner, Stanton. "Melville and Thomas Campbell: The 'Deadly Space between'." English Language Notes 14 (1977): 289-90.

---. "Fraud as Fact in Herman Melville's Billy Budd." San Jose Studies 4.2 (1978): 82-105.

Garrison, Joseph M., Jr. "Billy Budd: A Reconsideration." Ball State University Forum 27.1 (1986): 30-41.

Glick, William, "Expediency and Absolute Morality in Billy Budd." PMLA 68 (1953): 103-110.

Goddard, Kevin. "Hanging Utopia: Billy Budd and the Death of Sacred History." Arizona Quarterly 61.4 (2005): 101-26.

Goldman, Eric. "Bringing out the Beast in Melville's Billy Budd-: The Dialogue of Darwinian and 'Holy' Lexicons on Board the Bellipotent." Studies in the Novel 37.4 (2005): 430-42.

Greenberg, Martin. "The Difficult Justice of Melville & Kleist." New Criterion 23.7 (2005): 24-32.

Greven, David. "Flesh in the Word: Billy Budd, Sailor, Compulsory Homosociality, and the Uses of Queer Desire." Genders 37 (2003): 57.

Hall, Sallie J. "'Full Fathom Five': A Study of the Interpolated Poem in Melville's Billy Budd." South Atlantic Bulletin 42.4 (1977): 139-43.

Hancher, Michael. "Billy Budd: Famous Last Words." Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature 1.1 (1989): 109-21.

Harris, W. C. E Pluribus Unum: Nineteenth-Century American Literature and the Constitutional Paradox. Iowa City, IA : U of Iowa P, 2005.

Harrison, Keith. "Lowry's Allusions to Melville in 'Lunar Caustic'." Canadian Literature 94 (1982): 180-84.

Haydock, John S. "Melville's Seraphita: Billy Budd, Sailor." Melville Society Extracts 104 (1996): 2-13.

Hays, Peter L., and Richard D. Rust. "'Something Healing': Fathers and Sons in Billy Budd." Nineteenth-Century Fiction 34 (1979): 326-36.

Hendershot, Cyndy. "Revolution, Femininity, and Sentimentality in Billy Budd, Sailor." North Dakota Quarterly 63.1 (1996): 99-113.

Henderson, Eric. "Vices of the Intellect in Billy Budd." English Studies in Canada 11.1 (1985): 40-52.

Hendrickson, John. "Billy Budd: Affirmation of Absurdity." RE: Artes Liberales 3.1 (1969): 30-37.

Hennedy, John F. "Federations in the Fancy: Traces of Measure for Measure in Billy Budd." Melville Society Extracts 77 (1989): 1, 7-13.

Hocks, Richard A. "Melville and 'the Rise of Realism': The Dilemma of History in Billy Budd." American Literary Realism 26.2 (1994): 60-81.

Holstein, Jay A. "The 'inside' Role of Biblical Allusions in Melville's Billy Budd (an inside Narrative)." Rendezvous: Journal of Arts and Letters 15.2 (1980): 35-46.

Hove, Thomas. "Naturalist Psychology in Billy Budd." Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies 5.2 (2003): 51-65.

Howell, Thomas J. "Early and Late Deconstructions: Nietzsche's Surviving Role in the Philosophy of Literature and Psychology." Literature and Psychology 37.3 (1991): 45-58.

Hudson, H. E., IV. "Billy Budd: Adam or Christ?" The Crane Review 7 (1965): 62-67.

Hutchinson, George B. "The Conflict of Patriarchy and Balanced Sexual Principles in Billy Budd." Studies in the Novel 13.4 (1981): 388-97.

---.introd., and John Bryant. "Melville's Hand: Studies in Manuscript and Interpretation." Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies 1.1 (1999): 72-88.

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Ives, C. B., "Billy Budd and the Articles of War." American Literature 34 (March 1962).

Johnson, Barbara. "Melville's Fist: The Execution of Billy Budd." Herman Melville: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Myra Jehlen. New Century Views. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1994. 235-48.

Ketterer, David. "Some Co-Ordinates in Billy Budd." Journal of American Studies 3 (1969): 221-37.

Kinnamon, Jon M. "Billy Budd: Political Philosophies in a Sea of Thought." Arizona Quarterly 26 (1970): 164-72.

Koffler, Judith Schenck, reply, and Robin West. "The Feminine Presence in Billy Budd." Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature 1.1 (1989): 1-20.

LaRue, L. H. "Paradox and Interpretation." Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature 1.1 (1989): 97-108.

Law, Joe K. "'We Have Ventured to Tidy up Vere': The Adapters' Dialogue in Billy Budd." Twentieth Century Literature: A Scholarly and Critical Journal 31.2-3 (1985): 297-314.

Lawry, Robert P. "Justice in Billy Budd." Law and Literature Perspectives. Ed. Bruce L. --Kevelson Rockwood, Roberta. Critic of Institutions. New York: Peter Lang, 1996. 169-91.

Lemon, Lee T. "Billy Budd: The Plot against the Story." Studies in Short Fiction 2 (1964): 32-43.

Loges, Max L. "Melville's Billy Budd." Explicator 55.3 (1997): 137-38.

Lupack, Alan C. "The Merlin Allusions in Billy Budd." Studies in Short Fiction 19.3 (1982): 277-78.

Mailloux, Steven. "Judging the Judge: Billy Budd and 'Proof to All Sophistries'." Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature 1.1 (1989): 83-88.

Mandell, Marvin. "Martyrs or Murderers? A Defense of Innocence." Midwest Quarterly: A Journal of Contemporary Thought 18 (1977): 131-43.

Manlove, C. N. "An Organic Hesitancy: Theme and Style in Billy Budd." New Perspectives on Melville. Ed. Faith Pullin. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1978. 275-300.

Markels, Julian. "The Liberal Bombast of Billy Budd." Essays in Arts and Sciences 15 (1986): 43-58.

Marks, William S., III. "Melville, Opium, and Billy Budd." Studies in American Fiction 6 (1978): 33-45.

Marshall, Margaret Wiley. "A Footnote to Billy Budd." Extracts: An Occasional Newsletter 30 (1977): 1-3.

---. "Arichandra and Billy Budd." Melville Society Extracts 40 (1979): 7-10.

Martin, Robert K. "Saving Captain Vere: Billy Budd from Melville's Novella to Britten's Opera." Studies in Short Fiction 23.1 (1986): 49-56.

Mary Ellen, Sister. "Parallels in Contrast: A Study of Melville's Imagery in Moby Dick and Billy Budd." Studies in Short Fiction 2 (1965): 284-90.

McCarthy, Paul. "Character and Structure in 'Billy Budd'." Discourse 9 (1966): 201-17.

McElroy, John Harmon. "The Uncompromising Truth of Billy Budd: Its Miraculous Climax." Christianity and Literature 38.3 (1989): 47-62.

McIntosh, James. "Billy Budd, Sailor: Melville's Last Romance." Critical Essays on Melville's Billy Budd, Sailor. Ed. Robert Milder. Critical Essays on American Literature. Boston: Hall, 1989. 223-37.

McKinnon, William. "'the Last Detail'; or, Billy Budd Updated." Melville Society Extracts 71 (1987): 6-7.

McWilliams, John P., Jr. "Innocent Criminal or Criminal Innocence: The Trial in American Fiction." Law and American Literature: A Collection of Essays. Ed. Carl S.--McWilliams

Smith, John P., Jr.--Bloomfield, Maxwell. Borzoi Books in Law & Amer. Soc. New York: Knopf, 1983. 45-124.

Merrill, Robert. "The Narrative Voice in Billy Budd." Modern Language Quarterly 34 (1973): 283-91.

Michael, Colette. "Billy Budd: An Allegory on the Rights of Man." Allegory Old and New in Literature, the Fine Arts, Music and Theatre and Its Continuity in Culture. Ed. Marlies --Tymieniecka Kronegger, Anna-Teresa (ed. & pref.). Analecta Husserliana. Dordrecht: Kluwer Acad. under Auspices of World Inst. for Advanced Phenomenological Research and Learning, 1994. 251-58.

Milder, Robert. "Melville's Late Poetry and Billy Budd: From Nostalgia to Transcendence." Philological Quarterly 66.4 (1987): 493-507.

Millgate, Michael. "Melville and Marvell: A Note on Billy Budd." English Studies: A Journal of English Language and Literature 49 (1968): 47-50.

Mizruchi, Susan. "Cataloging the Creatures of the Deep: 'Billy Budd, Sailor' and the Rise of Sociology." Boundary 2: An International Journal of Literature and Culture 17.1 (1990): 272-304.

Kilbourne, W. G., Jr., "Montaigne and Captain Vere." American Literature 33 (January 1962): 514-517.

Monteiro, George. "The Doubloon: Trilling's Melville Problem." Canadian Review of American Studies/Revue Canadienne d'Etudes Americaines 17.1 (1986): 27-34.

Murphy, Geraldine. "The Politics of Reading Billy Budd." American Literary History 1.2 (1989): 361-82.

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---. "Melville's Snake on the Cross: Justice for John Claggart and Billy Budd." Christianity and Literature 43.2 (1994): 131-49.

---. "Astronomical Imagery and Symbolic Antithesis in Melville's Billy Budd." Essays in Arts and Sciences 22 (1993): 1-17.

References

External links

* [http://www.bibliomania.com/0/0/36/1006/frameset.html Online version of Billy Budd at Bibliomania]
* [http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~hbf/bbcap.htm Billy Budd and Capital Punishment] by H. Bruce Franklin
* [http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/bb/bb_main.html Hypertext version of Billy Budd]


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