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Billy Budd: Was Captain Vere Right? Essay, Research Paper

Billy Budd: Was Captain Vere Right?

Captain Vere makes the right decision by executing Billy Budd. If

CaptainVere lets Billy live the rest of the crew might get the impression that

they will not be held accountable for their crimes. If the crew feels that they

can get away with what ever they want then there is a chance that they might

form a rebellion and have a mutiny. A mutiny would destroy the stability and

good name of the ship and the crew. Captain Vere does not want to see this

happen. There are three main reasons Captain Vere makes the right decision by

executing Billy Budd. These reasons are that if Billy lives then a mutiny might

occur, because the law states that a crime as severe as Billy’s is punishable by

death, and Captain Vere feels sorry for Billy and does not want Billy to suffer

with guilt until a martial court could give a decision.

If Billy is not executed then corruption might occur on the ship and

cause a mutiny. Captain Vere knows that a mutiny might occur and does not want

it to happen. Captain Vere could possibly be using Billy’s execution for his

crime of killing Claggart as an example for the rest of the crew. It shows the

crew what will happen to them if they try to start a mutiny. After Billy’s

death CaptainVere obviously feels regret for executing Billy. Captain Vere’s

last words are ?Billy Budd, Billy Budd? (p. 76) show an example of this. Those

last words might symbolize that Captain Vere killed Billy for the wrong reasons.

If CaptainVere uses Billy’s death for an example to the rest of the crew then it

might not necessarily be the wrong reason. CaptainVere has to decide between

one life and the lives of the entire crew. No matter what Captain Vere’s

reasons are he does make the right decision.

Another reason CaptainVere might of executed Billy Budd is because

CaptainVere follows the law to the letter. The law states that mutiny is

punishable to by death. Some readers might not see this accidental murder as

mutiny, but killing a superior officer in the British navy is considered mutiny.

In Captain Vere’s decision he shows the crew that no infractions of the law will

be tolerated. In the story CaptainVere is described as ?never tolerating an

infraction of discipline? (p. 16). This trait could be the reason for Billy’s


Another reason Captain Vere might execute Billy Budd is that he does not

want Billy to suffer with his extreme guilty until a martial court can see his

case. Captain Vere probably had a personal attachment to Billy. This is

evident when Captain Vere says, ?struck dead by an angel of God! Yet the angel

must hang!? (p. 51). This statement implies Captain Vere’s true feelings for

Billy. If Captain Vere had let a martial court try the case then they would

most likely come to the same conclusion. Because of this fact Captain Vere did

not find it necessary to make Billy wait for a trial.

Captain Vere made the right decision by executing Billy for his crimes.

Although the decision was controversial it kept stability among the crew. The

crew’s fate is more important than any individual sailor’s fate. If Captain

Vere had made the opposite decision than there probably would be a very horrible

fate for the Bellipotent. Billy Budd could be considered a tragic hero. In his

short life Billy touched more lives than most people do in there entire lives.

Billy is somebody that most readers would agree is a tragic hero. Even though

Billy Budd is so great, Captain Vere made the right decision.

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