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Character Role Analysis

Captain Vere to The Dansker

Captain Vere isn't the only old wise man on the ship – there's also the Danish oracle, the Dansker. Unlike the Captain, the Dansker's not in the center of the action so he doesn't have to worry about what he says and does affecting the crew. That said, it's worth comparing and contrasting their roles as guides for Billy. The Dansker is completely right as he predicts what will happen to Billy. Yet Billy does not listen to him and cannot understand him. The Captain, on the other hand, seems to make one bad decision after another. He is oblivious to the brewing conflict between Claggart and Billy and, when it all breaks out, his decisions lead to Billy's death. And yet Billy seems to respect and understand Vere. In Captain Vere and the Dansker, we find a contrast between practical know-how and real wisdom. As we examine the two characters, we have to ask ourselves how wisdom and experience relate to action, and whether they even make a difference.