Teacher Guide

Billy Budd Lesson Plan

Introduction to Billy Budd

Billy Budd, Sailor almost didn't happen.

After languishing in obscurity while penning his famous stories Moby-Dick and Benito Cerino, Melville had all but given up fiction. For decades, he made living doing odd jobs, restricting his writing to poetry. But in the last five years of his life, Melville returned to fiction to write Billy Budd, the story of ship-wide tension in a period of paranoia and war. When he died in 1891, Melville left behind a mess of a manuscript, filled with hastily scribbled notes, unclear expansions, and incoherent revisions.

Melville's widow Elizabeth attempted to compile a completed version of Billy Budd, but she never reached a version that she considered...

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