The action is set within the claustrophobic confines of a British man-of-war ship in the summer of 1797. Here live the crew of the HMS Indomitable, many of them pressed into service against their will.
Billy Budd, however, enjoys naval life. But the evil master-at-arms, Claggart, loathes his fresh-faced innocence and accuses him of mutiny. From this false charge springs a naval tragedy.