Billy Budd, Sailor | Study Guide

Herman Melville

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Billy Budd, Sailor | Chapter Summaries

See Chapter Summaries Chart

Timeline of Events

  • Late summer of 1787

    Billy Budd is impressed from the Rights-of-Man to the British warship Bellipotent.

    Chapter 1
  • Soon after

    John Claggart develops a consuming hatred and envy of Budd.

    Chapter 8
  • Soon after

    Budd is greatly upset after witnessing a flogging onboard the ship.

    Chapter 9
  • Soon after

    Budd tells Dansker of his fear of flogging; Dansker tells Budd Claggart is out to get him.

    Chapter 9
  • The next day

    Budd spills his soup, which flows near Claggart's feet.

    Chapter 10
  • The same day

    Claggart views this incident as antipathy for him; his hatred of Budd intensifies.

    Chapter 11
  • Soon after

    Claggart hatches a plot, carried out by his corporals, to destroy Budd.

    Chapter 13
  • Several days later

    Budd is awoken and offered money to support a mutiny. He refuses.

    Chapter 14
  • Soon after

    Budd, confused, asks Dansker for advice and is told it's part of Claggart's evil plot.

    Chapter 15
  • Sometime later

    The Bellipotent is ordered far from the fleet but fails to chase down a French frigate.

    Chapter 18
  • A few days later

    Claggart tells Captain Vere of his suspicion that Budd is plotting a mutiny.

    Chapter 18
  • Minutes later

    Budd is mute and paralyzed by Claggart's accusation. He strikes Claggart, who dies.

    Chapter 19
  • Later that day

    At Budd's trial Vere convinces the court officers to convict and condemn Budd to death.

    Chapter 21
  • The next morning

    Budd is hanged from the spar, crying "God bless Captain Vere!" as he dies.

    Chapter 25
  • Sometime later

    Vere is injured in battle. His dying words are "Billy Budd."

    Chapter 28

Chapter Summaries Chart

Chapter Summary
Chapters 1–2 The book opens with the narrator introducing the concept of the Handsome Sailor and his popularity among his fellow se... Read More
Chapters 3–5 This chapter describes the mutinies that began among sailors on British naval vessels. In April of that year sailors i... Read More
Chapters 6–10 At the beginning of this chapter the narrator introduces Captain Edward Vere, the commander of the Bellipotent. He is ... Read More
Chapters 11–13 This chapter opens with the question, "What was the matter with the master-at-arms?" The narrator goes on to contempla... Read More
Chapters 14–16 One night Budd is sleeping in his hammock on an upper deck with a group of other sailors. He is suddenly awakened by s... Read More
Chapters 17–20 Budd notices Claggart seems friendlier to him. But Claggart's looks belie other feelings. Claggart's expression is sad... Read More
Chapter 21 The narrator compares the line between sanity and insanity to the shading of colors blended into a rainbow. He says the ... Read More
Chapters 22–25 Captain Vere goes into the stateroom to tell Billy Budd of the verdict and sentence. The narrator confesses nothing is... Read More
Chapters 26–30 The ship's purser and its surgeon are dining together at the mess and conversing. The purser wonders if it was Budd's ... Read More
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