Billy Budd

Captain Vere Character Analysis

The valiant, intellectual captain of the Indomitable, a bachelor of about 40 years of age. He has a strong sense of duty and is conflicted when Billy kills Claggart. His personal conscience tells him not to punish Billy, who he knows is an innocent, good soul. However, he is bound to obey maritime law and fears a possible mutiny, so he ultimately argues to the ship's drumhead court that Billy should be executed.

Captain Vere Quotes in Billy Budd

The Billy Budd quotes below are all either spoken by Captain Vere or refer to Captain Vere. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Natural Character and Appearance Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Billy Budd published in 1986.
Chapter 20 Quotes

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

Related Characters: Captain Vere (speaker), Billy Budd, John Claggart
Related Symbols: Christian Imagery
Page Number: 352
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Chapter 22 Quotes

Feeling that unless quick action was taken on it, the deed of the foretopman, so soon as it should be known on the gun decks, would tend to awaken any slumbering embers of the Nore among the crew, a sense of the urgency of the case overruled in Captain Vere every other consideration.

Related Characters: Captain Vere
Page Number: 355
Explanation and Analysis:

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For the time, did I not perceive in you—at the crisis too—a troubled hesitancy, proceeding, I doubt not, from the clash of military duty with moral scruple—scruple vitalized by compassion.

Related Characters: Captain Vere (speaker)
Page Number: 361
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

But in natural justice is nothing but the prisoner's overt act to be considered? How can we adjudge to summary and shameful death a fellow creature innocent before God, and whom we feel to be so?

Related Characters: Captain Vere (speaker), Billy Budd
Related Symbols: Christian Imagery
Page Number: 361
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 26 Quotes

Billy stood facing aft. At the penultimate moment, his words, his only ones, words wholly unobstructed in the utterance, were these—"God bless Captain Vere!"

Related Characters: Billy Budd, Captain Vere
Page Number: 375
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Captain Vere Character Timeline in Billy Budd

The timeline below shows where the character Captain Vere appears in Billy Budd. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6
Natural Character and Appearance Theme Icon
Duty, Loyalty, and Camaraderie Theme Icon
...the Indomitable there was no hint of mutiny, as the sailors were loyal to Captain Vere, a bachelor about 40 years old, who was brave and always mindful of his men's... (full context)
Chapter 7
Natural Character and Appearance Theme Icon
The narrator tells the reader it's worth saying more about Vere's character, because he plays a major role in the story. Vere was intellectual and loved... (full context)
Chapter 19
Duty, Loyalty, and Camaraderie Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
...describes the Indomitable, which—on account of both its sailing capabilities and the character of Captain Vere—was often sent on missions by itself. During one mission, separated from the naval fleet, the... (full context)
Natural Character and Appearance Theme Icon
Shortly after this pursuit, Claggart paid a visit to Captain Vere. It was unusual for someone to approach the captain like this, so the captain knew... (full context)
Duty, Loyalty, and Camaraderie Theme Icon
Storytelling, Rumor, and Truth Theme Icon
Claggart began speaking to the captain as if he didn't want to be the bearer of bad news, but felt compelled... (full context)
Duty, Loyalty, and Camaraderie Theme Icon
Claggart told Captain Vere that he had been suspicious of this sailor for a while, but that now his... (full context)
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Captain Vere considered his options for responding to a possible mutiny, but also regarded Claggart's claims with... (full context)
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Storytelling, Rumor, and Truth Theme Icon
Citing Billy's handsomeness and general popularity on the ship, Captain Vere was incredulous, but Claggart told him that Billy's nice appearance and demeanor hid a more... (full context)
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Captain Vere was inclined to disbelieve Claggart and angrily asked if he had any proof for "so... (full context)
Chapter 20
Duty, Loyalty, and Camaraderie Theme Icon
Storytelling, Rumor, and Truth Theme Icon
...be promoting him to the position of his coxswain. When he arrives and he, Captain Vere, and Claggart were alone in the cabin, though, Claggart repeated his accusation against Billy. (full context)
Natural Character and Appearance Theme Icon
Billy went pale at hearing the accusation and was so shocked he couldn't speak. Captain Vere told him to speak and defend himself, but Billy was so surprised by the accusation... (full context)
Natural Character and Appearance Theme Icon
Captain Vere had known a young schoolmate who suffered from a speech impediment similar to Billy's, so... (full context)
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Captain Vere was stunned, and his former fatherly demeanor toward Billy was "replaced by the military disciplinarian."... (full context)
Natural Character and Appearance Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
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Captain Vere was overcome with emotion and cried out that Claggart was "struck dead by an angel... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Duty, Loyalty, and Camaraderie Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
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The narrator wonders if Captain Vere made the right decision in calling for a trial immediately. The surgeon, for example, thought... (full context)
Chapter 22
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Duty, Loyalty, and Camaraderie Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Storytelling, Rumor, and Truth Theme Icon
...insanity, and so says that it is up to the reader to decide if Captain Vere was suffering from some bout of madness (as the surgeon momentarily thought). The narrator emphasizes... (full context)
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According to the narrator, Captain Vere was not authorized to decide the matter on the "primitive basis" of right and wrong,... (full context)
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Storytelling, Rumor, and Truth Theme Icon
Captain Vere chose the first lieutenant, the captain of marines, and the sailing master to serve in... (full context)
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Billy then spoke. He said that Captain Vere had spoken the truth, that he had not meant to kill Claggart, and that he... (full context)
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Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Storytelling, Rumor, and Truth Theme Icon
...that it was merely the result of Billy's ignorance of the workings of evil. Captain Vere stepped in for Billy, saying that no one could know the answer to that question... (full context)
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Captain Vere then said that the court should only consider Billy's deed itself, and that the killing... (full context)
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Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
...taken out of the room, and the members of the court stood in silence. Captain Vere finally spoke, telling the other members of the court that he knew they were feeling... (full context)
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Vere summarized their predicament as follows: Billy killed the ship's master-at-arms and deserved the punishment of... (full context)
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Captain Vere's long argument did more to agitate the troubled court than settle their minds, according to... (full context)
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Captain Vere left the court alone to reach their decision. He tells the reader that it is... (full context)
Chapter 23
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Storytelling, Rumor, and Truth Theme Icon
Captain Vere had the task of informing Billy of his sentence. He went to the room where... (full context)
Chapter 24
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...about an hour and a half passed between when Claggart and Billy first entered Captain Vere's cabin and when Captain Vere informed Billy of his sentence. In this time, some rumors... (full context)
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Captain Vere told the crew what had happened, and then Claggart was given a proper burial at... (full context)
Chapter 28
Duty, Loyalty, and Camaraderie Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
...Right after his execution, a strange murmur started to grow among the crew, until Captain Vere ordered for everyone to return to their posts. The narrator calls the command "strategic," and... (full context)