Study Guide

Billy Budd Chapter 25

By Herman Melville

Chapter 25

  • As dawn comes up on the Bellipotent, shrill whistles are heard announcing that it is time for everyone to come to deck to witness the execution, which is taking place on the mainyard.
  • Billy appears with the chaplain. Though the chaplain says his typical piece, the men think that the Gospel is not so ready on his lips as it usually is.
  • As the fateful moment approaches, Billy's only words are "God bless Captain Vere!" (25.2).
  • His exclamation is so unexpected that, as if involuntarily, the entire crew echoes him and says "God bless Captain Vere!" The entire time, though, their eyes are fixed on Billy.
  • All this time, Captain Vere "stood erectly rigid as a musket in the ship-armorer's rack" (25.4).
  • As the hull rolls, Billy ascends and as he is hung, "the East was shot through with a soft glory as of the fleece of the Lamb of God seen in mystical vision" (25.5).
  • As the hull rolls back, everyone looks at Billy and "to the wonder of all, no motion was apparent, none save that created by the slow roll of the hull in moderate weather, so majestic in a great ship ponderously cannoned" (25.6).