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Billy Budd

Billy Budd

by Herman Melville

Morality and Ethics Quotes Page 4

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Quote #10

[Captain Vere:] "Would it be we ourselves so much who would condemn as it would be martial law operating through us? For that law and the rigor of it, we are not responsible. Our vowed responsibility is this: That however pitilessly that law may operate in any instances, we nevertheless adhere to and administer it." (21.28)

Notice how these questions already anticipate their answers. It's like Captain Vere is playing jeopardy. He already knows the answer and it's just for presentation's sake that he is framing it in terms of a question. Does this suggest that the law is already embedded in his mind? That he can't but think in terms of it? In a moral sense, is there anything to his notion that they are not responsible for the law and the rigor of it?

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