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Billy Budd

Narrated by: Peter Joyce
Length: 3 hrs and 54 mins
4 out of 5 stars (1 rating)

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Summary

On one level... Melville’s tale is an historical adventure telling the story of life aboard ship shortly after the mutiny at Spithead in 1797. Billy is taken from a homeward bound merchantman to serve on the ‘Seventy Four’ HMS Indomitable. He falls foul of Claggart, the ‘Master at Arms’, and the final confrontation results in death. Billy becomes an unwilling martyr - what passes for justice must be implemented because of the rebellious climate of the time. However, below the surface lie some of Melville’s thematic obsessions: the aristocratic savage placed against an inhumanity born of service in time of war, innocence overtaken by fate and the worthy encompassed by the inevitable. The natures of evil and conscience are explored and ‘Billy Budd’ is the author’s “last word upon the strange mystery of himself and human destiny”. Melville is regarded by many as the finest author America has produced.

©2011 Assembled Stories (P)2006 Assembled Stories

Critic reviews

About Assembled Stories: Over the years the national press have reviewed Assembled Stories titles as "excellent", "remarkable", "entrancing", "superb", "magic for sure", "masterly", "wonderful", "a class act" and "a splendid example of audio at its best".

"Peter Joyce is the most remarkable one-man band in audiobook publishing. Joyce, an experienced actor, reads them all himself." (The Independent)

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  • Tad Davis
  • 02-09-19

Fine reading

Peter Joyce gives a fine reading of this sad, sad story. I first read it 40 years ago, and it’s not quite how I remembered it: my image of Captain Vere was of a tortured soul wrestling with a terrible moral dilemma. Moral dilemma he has, but he doesn’t do much wrestling. He’s a bookish man, and he goes by the book; what wrestling he does is mostly with others as he tries to convince them to do the same.

There’s a compelling and unsolved mystery here: Claggart is “down” on Billy Budd, but why? It may be “motiveless malignity,” a condition famously attributed to Iago. But there are clues here and there that Claggart may be attracted to Billy and is down on him for exactly that reason. (On the other hand, that might just be a lingering memory of the film by Peter Ustinov that hinted strongly at this.)

I have a single complaint: the stirring patriotic music used to segment the story is too loud and is out of keeping with the somber mood of the story itself.

Even so, of the many recordings of Billy Budd on Audible, this is one of the best.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 17-10-18

Well done, a pleasure to listen to!

My son is reading this for his freshman year (Classical Conversations Challenge I) American Literature strand and I needed to get housework done so I went ahead and downloaded the audible version to listen to while I worked. I am so glad I did and will be choosing this method of keeping up with my kids' literature selections again!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful