Billy Budd (1962)
Jenkins: [as Billy tastes his first shipboard meal] Like it Billy? Taste good?
Billy Budd: It's hot and there's a lot of it. I like everything about it except the flavor.
Captain Vere: Master-at-Arms, you possess too much knowledge for such a lowly post.
Master At Arms Claggert: Why, thank you, Sir.
Captain Vere: [impatiently] It's no flattery, Mr. Claggert. It's a melancholy fact!
Billy Budd: It's wrong to flog a man. It's against his being a man.
Master At Arms Claggert: The sea is calm you said. Peaceful. Calm above, but below a world of gliding monsters preying on their fellows. Murderers, all of them. Only the strongest teeth survive. And who's to tell me it's any different here on board, or yonder on dry land?"
Captain Vere: I am just a man, not fit to do the work of God... or the Devil.
[Billy and the Dansker have just witnessed a flogging]
Billy Budd: What was his crime?
The Dansker, sailmaker: Any one of many possible reasons.
Billy Budd: You mean you don't know what he did?
The Dansker, sailmaker: Flogging. The only solution to every problem. I warrant even the culprit himself doesn't know! It was just... his... turn!
Billy Budd: There are many ways to lie, Mr. Claggert, but there is only one way to tell the truth.
Lieutenant Seymour: Wyatt, we do not deal with justice here, but with the law.
Lieutenant Wyatt: Was not the one conceived to serve the other?
Lieutenant Seymour: Aye sir, that is your right.
Captain Vere: It's no right. Which one of us here have rights? It's my duty and I must perform it.
Captain Vere: You know Seymour, there are some men who cannot stand too much perfection. They see it as a disease, which must be stamped out at it's first rash showing.
Philip Seymour, 1st Lieutenant: They're talking about reform in the House of Commons.
Captain Nathaniel, Rights of Man: You know what that means - it means their reforms are nearly a century overdue.
William O'Daniel, maintopman: [After Jenkons' burial at sea] Well, that's the end of Enoch Jenkins. Over the side he goes and his mates soon forget him.
Alan Payne, maintopman: They'll not forget him so soon, I'm thinking.
The Dansker, sailmaker: Ah, whatever happened to Jenkins, he ain't worried now. He got a hundred fathoms between him and the troubles of his life.
Billy Budd: I'd rather be buried at sea than on the shore when I come to die. Will you stand by the plank, mates, so I can shake a friendly hand before I sink?
[After a pause, they all laugh]
Billy Budd: .
Master At Arms Claggert: I am what I am and what the world has made me.
Master At Arms Claggert: Tell me in all ignorance do you dare understand me, then?
Billy Budd: I think so, sir.
Master At Arms Claggert: Why did Jenkins die?
Billy Budd: You did not wish his death.
Master At Arms Claggert: No, I did not.
Billy Budd: You didn't even hate him. I think that sometimes you hate yourself. I was thinking, sir, the nights are lonely. Perhaps I could talk with you between watches when you've nothing else to do.
Master At Arms Claggert: Lonely. What do you know of loneliness?
Billy Budd: Them's alone that want to be.
Master At Arms Claggert: Nights are long. Conversation helps pass the time.
Billy Budd: Can I talk to you again, then? It would mean a lot to me.
Master At Arms Claggert: Perhaps to me, too.
[His expression suddenly sours.]
Master At Arms Claggert: Oh, no. You would charm me too, huh? Get away.
Billy Budd: Sir?
Master At Arms Claggert: Get away!
The Dansker, sailmaker: [At Billy's court-martial] I look around and sense finality here.
Master At Arms Claggert: We must serve the law, sir, or give up the right and privilege of service. It is only within that law that we may use our discretions according to our rank.
Captain Vere: You're so intelligent and so lucid for the rank you hold, Master At Arms.
Master At Arms Claggert: I thank you, sir.
Captain Vere: Yes, that's no flattery, Mr. Claggart. It's a melancholy fact. It's sad to see such qualities of mind bent to such a sorry purpose. What's the reason for it?
Master At Arms Claggert: I am what I am, sir. And what the world has made me.
Captain Vere: The world? The world demands that behind every peacemaker there be the gun, the gallows, the jail. Do you think it will always be so?
Master At Arms Claggert: I have no reason not to, sir.
Captain Vere: You live without hope?
Master At Arms Claggert: I live.
Captain Vere: But remember, Mr. Claggart, that even the man who wields the whip cannot defy the code we must obey and not be broken by it. That will be all.
Master At Arms Claggert: Aye, sir. With your permission, sir, is it still to be ten lashes?
Captain Vere: It is.
Captain Vere: In the question of Jenkins, Budd was telling the truth.
Lieutenant Seymour: I know, sir. What are you going to do about Claggart?
Captain Vere: What can I do but watch and wait? No court martial would do more than strip him of his rank for such misconduct. And then what? As a rating, he'd be slaughtered by the other men. And who would replace him? And would the French refrain from attacking us while we settled our petty differences? No, I must give him his head until some act puts him squarely counter to the law and then let the law consume him. What would you do if you were captain of this ship?
Lieutenant Seymour: I'm not captain of the ship, sir.
Captain Vere: One day you may be, Philip. Then, remember.