Billy Budd: Was Captain Vere Right?Captain Vere makes the right decision by executing Billy Budd. IfCaptainVere lets Billy live the rest of the crew might get the impression thatthey will not be held accountable for their crimes.
If the crew feels that theycan get away with what ever they want then there is a chance that they mightform a rebellion and have a mutiny. A mutiny would destroy the stability andgood name of the ship and the crew. Captain Vere does not want to see thishappen.
There are three main reasons Captain Vere makes the right decision byexecuting Billy Budd. These reasons are that if Billy lives then a mutiny mightoccur, because the law states that a crime as severe as Billy’s is punishable bydeath, and Captain Vere feels sorry for Billy and does not want Billy to sufferwith guilt until a martial court could give a decision.If Billy is not executed then corruption might occur on the ship andcause a mutiny. Captain Vere knows that a mutiny might occur and does not wantit to happen. Captain Vere could possibly be using Billy’s execution for hiscrime of killing Claggart as an example for the rest of the crew. It shows thecrew what will happen to them if they try to start a mutiny. After Billy’sdeath CaptainVere obviously feels regret for executing Billy. Captain Vere’slast words are “Billy Budd, Billy Budd” (p.
76) show an example of this. Thoselast 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 itmight not necessarily be the wrong reason. CaptainVere has to decide betweenone life and the lives of the entire crew. No matter what Captain Vere’sreasons are he does make the right decision.Another reason CaptainVere might of executed Billy Budd is becauseCaptainVere follows the law to the letter. The law states that mutiny ispunishable to by death.
Some readers might not see this accidental murder asmutiny, 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 willbe tolerated. In the story CaptainVere is described as “never tolerating aninfraction of discipline” (p. 16). This trait could be the reason for Billy’sdeath.Another reason Captain Vere might execute Billy Budd is that he does notwant Billy to suffer with his extreme guilty until a martial court can see hiscase.
Captain Vere probably had a personal attachment to Billy. This isevident when Captain Vere says, “struck dead by an angel of God! Yet the angelmust hang!” (p. 51). This statement implies Captain Vere’s true feelings forBilly.
If Captain Vere had let a martial court try the case then they wouldmost likely come to the same conclusion. Because of this fact Captain Vere didnot 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. Thecrew’s fate is more important than any individual sailor’s fate. If CaptainVere had made the opposite decision than there probably would be a very horriblefate for the Bellipotent.
Billy Budd could be considered a tragic hero. In hisshort 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 thoughBilly Budd is so great, Captain Vere made the right decision.