MELVILLE ALSO FOLLOWED ALONG THE SAME PATH.

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MELVILLE AND SOPHOCLES
MELVILLE: OPEDIPUS, YOU SEE, WAS MY MODEL.


SOPHOCLES: THAT IS ABSURD. YOUR CHARACTER, THIS BILLY, HAS NONE OF THE TRAITS THAT MY TRAGIC CHARACTER POSSESSED.


MELLVILLE: BILLY BUD MAY HAVE NOT BEEN ANY GREAT KING OR A MAN OF IMMENSE MONETARY WEALTH, BUT HE POSSESSED A DIFFERENT SORT OF GREATNESS.
SOPHOCLES: YOU SPEAK OF A DIFFERENT SORT OF GREATNESS, AS IF IT THAT COULD POSSIBLE COMPARE TO THE LIFE OF MY OEDIPUS. HE ROSE TO THE HIGHEST POSITION A MAN CAN OBTAIN. HE WAS A KING, A RULER OF A POWERFUL LAND, NOT SOME COMMON SHIPBOARD SAILOR. YOUR BILLY BUDD HAD NOTHING.

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MELLVILLE: OEDIPUS WAS A GREAT KING AND A WONDERFUL RULER OF A POWERFUL LAND, JUST AS BILLY WAS A GREAT SAILOR AND WONDERFUL EXAMPLE OF AN IDEAL HUMAN BEING. HE ALSO ROSE TO A HIGH POSITION IN MY STORY. HE GAINED THE CONFIDENCE OF ALL HIS FELLOW SHIPMATES AND WAS REWARDED NOT ONLY WITH THEIR COMRADERIE BUT WITH A PROMOTION TO A HIGHER RANK.


SOPHOCLES: YOU, MELVILLE, ARE TO TELL ME THAT BILLY BUDD IS AS TRAGIC A CHARACTER AS OEDIPUS REX? THAT HE AS WELL HAD A TRAGIC FLAW THAT DESTROYED HIM?
MELLVILLE: JUST AS OEDIPUS LONGED TO ALWAYS SEEK OUT THE TRUTH, BILLY ALSO FOLLOWED ALONG THE SAME PATH. HE NOT ONLY SOUGHT OUT THE TRUTH, BUT HE BELIEVED THAT ALL HUMANS CONTAINED AN HONEST AND GOOD CORE. HE TRIED TO BRING THIS OUT IN THE MOST EVIL OF PEOPLE. BILLY BUDD LACKED THE ABILITY TO LIE, CHEAT, OR STEAL. HIS INTEREST WAS IN THE PROTECTION OF OTHERS WITHOUT CONCERN FOR HIS OWN WELFARE. THESE QUALITIES ARE TEST THROUGHOUT THE STORY AS NUMEROUS TEMPTATIONS ARE PLACED BEFORE HIM.


SOPHOCLES: WITH THAT SAID, ONE MAY THINK THAT ANYONE CAN BE A TRAGIC CHARACTER. ANY PERSON POSSESSING DECENT MORALS AND IS BETRAYED DUE TO THEM IS A TRAGIC CHARACTER? YOU BELIEVE IT POSSIBLE THAT ANY MAN IS A TRAGIC CHARACTER?
MELLVILLE: HOW MANY MEN WILL STAND BY THEIR BELIEFS KNOWING THAT THE PUNISHMENT WILL BE THEIR HEADS? THOSE WHO DO NOT BEND TO THE WIND OF OTHERS DOUBTS AND PROTESTS ARE THE ONES THAT POSSESS THE TRAGIC FLAW. ACCORDING TO PLATO IN POETICS A TRAGIC CHARACTER IS RESTRICTED TO WHO AND WHAT THEY ARE AND ONLY REACT AND ACT UPON SITUATIONS PRESENTED BEFORE THEM. BILLY BUDD ACTS CONSISTENTLY WITH WHO AND WHAT I CREATED HIM TO BE THROUGHOUT HIS STORY. BILLY BUDD, ONCE I ESTABLISHED HIM, HAD NO CONTROL OVER HIS FATE. I PLACED TEMPTATIONS AND OBSTACLES BEFORE HIM KNOWING HIS REACTIONS WERE RESTRICTED TO THE HIGH MORALS I HAD GIVEN HIM.


SOPHOCLES: YOUR REASONS HAVE SUBSTANCE. I MAY AGREE WITH YOUR REASONING, BUT TO ALLOW MYSELF TO THINK THAT YOUR STORY RIVALS OR COMPARES TO MINE IS NEXT TO NOT POSSIBLE. NOTHING CAN BE SAID TO NEGATE THE FACT THAT THE STORY OF A KING IS FAR GREATER THAN THAT OF YOUR SAILOR LAD.


MELLVILLE: THAT IS WHY I STATED THAT YOUR STORY SERVED AS A MODEL. YOUR STORY OF OEDIPUS HAS INSPIRED ME AS WELL AS MANY OTHERS. IF IT IS IN THE SHADOWS OF THE GIANT OEDIPUS REX THAT BILLY BUDD MUST DWELL THEN LET IT BE. SERVES ME FAR BETTER THAT HE REMAINS THERE NEXT TO HIS INSPIRATION.


SOPHOCLES: I KNOW THAT NO OTHER COULD REACH SUCH GREAT HEIGHTS AS THIS TRAGIC CHARACTER. I WILL GLADLY GIVE YOUR SAILOR THE COLD SHADOW OF MY KING. FOR ALL ARE AWARE THAT NO PERSON COULD OUTSHINE THE STORY OF OEDIPUS REX.

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