Topics for Further Study
Research the Somers Mutiny Affair of 1842. Compare the events in that historical case to the events of Billy Budd. How did Melville depart from the events of the Somers case in his composition of Billy Budd? What events did he keep, and why?
Watch the video of the 1962 film adaption of Billy Budd. What aspects of Melville's novel do the filmmakers emphasize? What do you think of the way the film was cast—are the characters portrayed as you would have expected? What do you think of the musical score's contribution to the film's mood?
The narrator refers to Claggart's attitude towards Billy as "monomania." What does he mean by this term? Is there an equivalent in modern psychological parlance? Research how a modern psychologist might describe or explain Claggart's feelings towards Billy.
Research the history of impressment into the British Royal Navy. Why do you think Melville made impressment into naval service a part of Billy's character? How might an actual sailor in Billy's time have felt about being impressed into service?