Advertisement Upgrade to remove ads

This quiz is pretty much word-for-word from Sparknotes. Billy Budd was written by Herman Melville between 1886-1891. It tells the story of a young, innocent, and handsome sailor named Billy Budd, and how the evil and cruelty of one John Claggart led to his unfortunate burial at sea.

List the 3 main characters in Billy Budd.

Billy Budd, Captain Vere, and John Claggart

Who is Billy Budd?

A very handsome sailor on the ship HMS Bellipotent

What makes Billy Budd so special?

He is very good-looking and very naive and innocent. He cannot identify the evil in others and is prone to stutter.

What ship was Billy Budd working on before he was impressed onto the HMS Bellipotent?

Rights-of-Man

Name the two main characters on the Rights-of-Man.

Captain Graveling and The Red Whiskers

Who was The Red Whiskers?

Billy's adversary on the Rights-of-Man. He hates Billy.

Why does The Red Whiskers change his initial opinion of Billy Budd?

After The Red Whisker punches Billy in an attempt to bully him, Billy retaliates and hits him back, earning his respect. He then grows to love Billy Budd.

Who is Captain Vere?

Captain of the HMS Bellipotent. He has the nickname "Starry Vere" because of his intellectual, aloof nature.

Who is John Claggart?

The main antagonist; Claggart is the master-at-arms on the HMS Bellipotent. He is a cruel man who hates Billy Budd, but is "kind" to him at face value.

What does Claggart look like?

Skinny, tall, pale, and dark-haired, with a protruding chin

Who is Billy's main confidante on the HMS Bellipotent?

The Dansker; a wizened old Danish sailor who occasionally gives Billy advice. He can also be very unhelpful at times.

What are the main themes in Billy Budd?

Individual vs. Society, Conscience vs. Law, and the Vulnerability of Innocence

Name some recurring motifs in Billy Budd.

Christian Allegory, Suggestion through Names, Mutiny, and Primitive/Animal Imagery

Name some symbols in Billy Budd?

The ships are symbolic of society / The purser and surgeon who debate Billy's story after his death are symbolic of faith and skepticism

What happens in the first chapter?

Billy Budd is taken from the Rights-of-Man by Lieutenant Ratcliffe of the HMS Bellipotent. The narrator tells us the story of The Red Whiskers.

What do we discover about Billy Budd in the second chapter?

We find out that Billy was an orphan, left on a stranger's doorstep. The narrator tells us that Billy Budd's story is not a happy one.

The third chapter discusses two other mutinies. Name one.

The Great Mutiny at Nore

T/F: the fourth chapter talks about Lieutenant Napoleon.

FALSE. It talks about Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson, who was known for being an excellent leader and having a thirst for glory. However, his thirst for glory got him killed in his final battle.

Chapter 5: the demands of some mutinous soldiers were met. However, naval authorities still kept the practice of impressment. Why was this an issue?

Impressment was the act of forcibly taking soldiers and drafting them into the British Navy. This led to disgruntled soldiers overtaking their assigned ships, or mutiny.

Who do we meet in chapter 6?

Captain the Honorable Edward Fairfax Vere (Captain Vere, for short)

What does chapter 7 say about Captain Vere?

He is a sea veteran, who likes to read biography, history, and common sense philosophers. He is described as bookish and pedantic

Who is introduced in chapter 8? What does he do?

John Claggart; he acts as the police captain on the HMS Bellipotent.

What happens in chapter 9?

Billy Budd sees another newcomer being whipped as punishment, and resolves to avoid a similar beating. However, he is occasionally scolded for minor infractions, giving him a feeling of threat.

Billy Budd feels mildly threatened. How does he react?

Billy talks to the Dansker, who tells Billy that Claggart dislikes him. Billy is confused, as he believes that Claggart has spoken only kindly of him so far. (We find out that the Dansker is right later in the story.)

What does Billy Budd do in chapter 10?

He spills his soup on the recently cleaned floor of the mess hall.

How does Claggart react in chapter 10? How does Billy react to him?

He remarks on the "handsome" effect of the spill and its maker. Billy isn't able to see Claggart's sneer, and thinks that Claggart is being sincere. He thinks that Claggart likes him.

What does the narrator say about Claggart in chapter 11? What reason does he give for this description?

He says that Claggart DOES dislike Billy (as previously stated by the Dansker). The narrator can't explain why Claggart hates Billy; he just does. He says that Claggart is naturally bad.

What makes Claggart especially bad?

He hides his evil within. Outwardly, he's just a normal guy, but deep down, he is a sinister, evil man.

In chapter 12, the narrator decides that Claggart is envious of Billy. Why?

Claggart envies Billy's looks, but moreover, he envies that Billy has never been the victim of hate or malice himself, due to his naivete and innocence.

What happens in chapter 13?

Claggart decides that Billy didn't spill his soup on accident; he thinks Billy did it just to spite him.

What role does Squeak play in chapter 13?

Squeak also has it out for Billy. He wrongly affirms Claggart's suspicions. He also lies to Claggart, saying that Billy has been making fun of him behind his back.

Pushed by Squeak's affirmations, what does Claggart do?

He takes the soup spill as a sign of Billy's hatred and decides to increase the level of his own hatred in response.

What happens to Billy in chapter 14?

He is woken by a stranger telling him to meet on the balcony of a remote part of the ship. He does so, and the stranger asks if Billy would help if a mutiny occured.

How does Billy respond to the stranger in chapter 14?

He doesn't understand at first, but when the stranger bribes him, he begins stuttering violently. The stranger threatens to toss Billy overboard if he doesn't cooperate. Then the stranger leaves.

What happens in chapter 15, after the meeting with the stranger?

Billy, who has no experience with evil, wrestles with his conscience. He talks to the Dansker again, who again tells him that Claggart hates him. Billy is taken aback by this interpretation, but when he asks the Dansker to explain, he retreats in mysterious silence.

Describe the awkward moment in chapter 15.

Billy sees a man he suspects to be the mutinous stranger. When the man says hi, Billy is too stunned to say anything, and walks off without responding. Smooth.

What stupid thing does Billy do in chapter 16?

He ignores the Dansker, who tells him that Claggart is evil and hates Billy.

What does the narrator say in chapter 16?

Most sailors are immature and juvenile, and Billy Budd is no different. But Billy is so completely innocent and blameless, that he doesn't have the capacity to understand badness.

What action continues to happen in chapter 17?

Claggart still hates Billy; Billy still doesn't realize it. This chapter seems to serve mainly as a recap.

What is different in chapter 17?

Not only does Claggart hate Billy, but two officers (who are associated with Claggart) begin to dislike him as well.

Who does the HMS Bellipotent run into in chapter 18?

An enemy frigate

What terrible thing does Claggart do in chapter 18?

He tells Captain Vere that he suspects a mutiny forming onboard the HMS Bellipotent.

Chapter 18: How does Vere react to Claggart's statement? How does Claggart respond to this?

Vere asks who Claggart suspects of mutiny and Claggart names Billy Budd.

How does Vere react to Claggart's condemning of Billy Budd?

He is surprised that someone as well-liked as Billy would be capable of mutiny. When Claggart claims Billy's kind nature is a ruse, Vere grows suspicious of Claggart and demands evidence.

What "evidence" does Claggart give to prove Billy's mutinous nature? What does Captain Vere say?

He lists further accusations, and claims that he can "prove" them. Vere decides to ask Billy for himself.

Chapter 19: Billy is brought to the cabin with Claggart and Vere. What happens next?

Claggart accuses Billy of mutiny, leaving Billy stunned and speechless. Billy begins to stutter, trying to defend himself. Vere, in an attempt to calm Billy, tells him to take his time.

Vere tells Billy to take his time. How does Billy react?

He is thrown into a fury, and impulsively punches Claggart in the forehead, accidentally killing him. Vere sends Billy off and summons the ship's surgeon.

What does the surgeon say about Claggart's death?

"Struck dead by an angel of God! Yet the angel must hang!"

What does the surgeon's quote mean?

Claggart's death may be a blessing from God (nobody liked him), but Billy, the angel, still has to die for what he has done.

What happens in chapter 20, just after Claggart's death?

The surgeon thinks that Billy should be detained until the case can be referred to the admiral.

How does Vere handle Billy's murder?

He keeps it on the down-low. He appoints a 3-person court.

How does Billy act during his trial?

He denies Claggart's accusations, and says there was no malice between them. He only punched Claggart because he had no other defense. When asked if he knew of any mutiny, he said he hadn't heard of any.

What question is Billy unable to answer during his trial and why?

"Why did Claggart invent a lie against him if there was no malice between them?" Billy doesn't understand that some people are naturally bad. Vere declares the question irrelevant.

What is the final verdict on Billy Budd's trial?

Despite their love for Billy, he is, by law, guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.

What happens in chapter 22?

Captain Vere breaks the news to Billy. The details are unknown, but Vere leaves the room with a look of anguish

What happens in chapter 23?

The rest of the ship has been speculating on Billy's predicament. Vere sets the record straight. Also, Claggart receives a proper burial at sea.

What character is introduced in chapter 24? What is his purpose?

The chaplain attempts to comfort Billy Budd with words from the Bible, but he finds that Billy does not fear death.

Describe the scene of Billy's execution.

All of Billy's shipmates gather to watch him go. The chaplain gives a quick blessing, and right before Billy is hanged, he yells out "God bless Captain Vere!" The rest of the sailors echo his final words, and Billy is left to hang.

What happens in the last 4 chapters?

Billy is laid to rest at sea. Later, Vere is struck by enemy fire and before dying, murmurs "Billy Budd, Billy Budd". News of Billy's death reaches the shore, but Billy is painted as a ruthless mutineer. Years later, Billy is immortalized in the poem "Billy in the Darbies".

Describe the "Individual vs. Society" theme.

Billy, despite being good and blameless, is sentenced to death because the law dictates it. The individual is innocent, but society sees him as guilty.

Describe the "Conscience vs. Law" theme.

When Vere is trying Billy Budd's crime, he tells the judges to place their responsibilities to the law of the kingdom above any reservations they feel within their consciences. Even though their consciences tell them Billy is innocent, the law says otherwise.

Describe the "Vulnerability of Innocence" theme.

Since Billy is innocent, he is unable to comprehend evil, and therefore, unable to protect himself from it. Claggart hates Billy for no reason other than his innocence. Even though Billy kills Claggart, Claggart achieves victory over Billy in his own death. Claggart's actions cause Billy to fall from grace by committing murder, and Billy suffers death as a consequence.

Give examples of the "Christian Allegory" motif.

Parallels can be drawn between Christ and Billy: both were blameless, and died at the hands of evil men. Claggart and Satan: both tempted the innocent to stray into evil.

Give examples of the "Suggestion through Names" motif.

Rights-of-Man suggests greater liberties on that ship as opposed to the Bellipotent, which is associated with war.

Please allow access to your computer’s microphone to use Voice Recording.

Having trouble? Click here for help.

We can’t access your microphone!

Click the icon above to update your browser permissions above and try again

Example:

Reload the page to try again!

Reload

Press Cmd-0 to reset your zoom

Press Ctrl-0 to reset your zoom

It looks like your browser might be zoomed in or out. Your browser needs to be zoomed to a normal size to record audio.

Please upgrade Flash or install Chrome
to use Voice Recording.

For more help, see our troubleshooting page.

Your microphone is muted

For help fixing this issue, see this FAQ.

Star this term

You can study starred terms together

NEW! Voice Recording

Create Set