Mantrap: Playing BILLY BUDD

An experiment in "doing things with novels" using Ivanhoe in Hunter College's ENGL 399 course

Mantrap: The Billy Budd Game, team 3

Playing since: March 28, 2016


Game Description

This game’s players are: Jeaninne, Shadika, Niurkalis, Travis, Josie, Ezra.

Our “gamified” Billy Budd will be unlike any novel you’re read and unlike any game you’ve played (though for RPG fans, maybe a bit more familiar). Each of us will play one or more roles. Roles can be:

  • “inside” the text of Billy Budd (and remember, it’s already an “inside” story): Billy, Claggart, and Vere, of course, but also more peripheral characters might be fun to play, fleshing out aspects of characters or exploring things that happen “offstage” in ways that Melville’s text ignores or represses, the narrator of the text (who, remember, is neither a character nor Melville, as we’ve explored via Iser’s work)
  • “outside” the text but around it: Melville himself, of course, but also his family members or heirs (he died before finishing the novella), the publishers of the various editions of Billy Budd (first published in 1924), the first wave of reviewers and critics to engage it in the 1920s, more recent interpreters of it, such as Peter Ustinov, writer/director of the 1962 film version, and so on

From within your role, you can do at least three things:

  • make a move
  • respond to a move
  • reflect on a move

How do you win? There’s no winning.

When is it over? When the syllabus says so, and then only if we’re bored.

How will be be evaluated? As much as I’d like to evaluate you on how much fun you’ve had, I’ll have to stick with the quantity/quality of the writing you’ve doneMore detail to follow…

The Fated Boy


Under usual circumstance I mean to be a moral blank slate when approached with a dilemma by another man. It would seem that were always the best way to go about seeking as objective a solution as possible. However, when Claggart did approach me, I cannot evince why, but I was strongly repelled by him … View More

I’ve Won


So I’m in front of Vere, see, and our Handsome Sailor is in the room too. I present my evidence, my testimony: it’s obvious his nice demeanor is a facade of sorts — he wants to take over the ship, when he sees the opportunity. I make my case flawlessly, articulately — Vere couldn’t deny … View More

No MoRe HaNdSoMe !


My time has come… This is painful…Why me? No more handsome sailor… I have become “evil” handsome now… My motifs? Not sure… maybe I know just don’t want to admit it. All eyes on me now. Am like the spot light in a theater or even the bomb in a crime scene. Everyone is looking … View More

A cat’s-paw, a cat’s-paw!!!


Even I am starting to feel the effects of these trappings, and I find myself slipping in and out of lucidity and language. When I was a young man not so troubled by the horror of the world, my language and thoughts came to me fluidly, elegantly perhaps. Now my translations become scrambled, my mind … View More

Let Us Not Even Whisper the Word!


Mutiny. That will be the second and the last time I hear you use that word, master-at-arms. I’m becoming keen to the ill feelings aboard my ship and I’m none too pleased, to be honest, with your behavior. If he wants blood so bad, why don’t we spill his?! (And, reader what do you think … View More

The Disheartening Experience of Editing Melville


It would seem that the original editor’s of the 1924 publications of Billy Budd did a shameful job of reproducing Melville’s work or perhaps it was Melville himself that did a shameful job of organizing his work. So much blame can be placed on both sides and I find myself getting frustrated while analyzing and piecing  … View More



….not. I think our Handsome Sailor is setting up a mutiny, why else would he be so nice? The way he charms all my men on the ship, the way he acts so “sweet” and inn-nnn-nn-o-ccc-eeennnt. I think he’s up to no good. I heard stories, about what happened with that man Delano and the … View More



Why don’t you shut it, you! Billy’s a fine foretopman, one of the better ones I’ve commanded. The soup incident really was nothing. What wrong could Billy do? Mutiny? ———————————————————————————————————————————- Really, shut up. You’ll blow my cover.. Related