Excerpts from: THE CAINE MUTINY (a novel)
Herman Wouk


First presented by Paul Gregory in the Granada Theatre, Santa Barbara, California, on October 12, 1953. After a tour across the United States it opened in New York at the Plymouth Theatre on January 20, 1954, with the same cast, as follows:

DR. IBIRD Herbert Anderson
ORDERLY Greg Roman
MEMBERS OF THE COURT Larry Barton, Jim Bumgarner, T. H. Jourdan, Richard Farmer, Richard Norris, Pat Waltz Herbert Anderson

The time of the play is February 1945. The scene is the General Court-Martial Room of the Twelfth Naval District, San Francisco. At the end of Act 2 the scene shifts to a banquet room in the Hotel Fairmont, San Francisco. ACT ONE: The Prosecution; ACT TWO: The Defense.

NOTE: THE CAINE MUTINY COURT-MARTIAL is purely imaginary. No ship named U.S.S. Caine ever existed. The records show no instance of a U.S. Navy captain relieved at sea under Articles 184-186. The fictitious figure of the deposed captain was derived from a study of psychoneurotic case histories, and is not a portrait of a real military person or a type; this statement is made because of the existing tendency to seek lampoons of living people in imaginary stories. The author served under two captains of the regular Navy aboard destroyer-minesweepers, both of whom were decorated for valor. One technical note: court-martial regulations have been extensively revised since the Second World Way. This trial takes place according to instructions then in force. Certain minor omissions have been made for purposes of brevity; otherwise the play strictly follows procedures stipulated in Naval Courts and Boards.


The play _The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial_ was extracted by Herman Wouk from his very successful novel The Cain Mutiny, his third published book, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1951. Herman Wouk, born in New York City in 1915, and educated at Columbia College where he was a favorite pupil of the late philosopher and wit Irwin Edman, served four years in the Navy during World War II. He ended up as the executive officer of a destroyer-minesweeper. Prior to composing his Caine Mutiny drama in 1954, Mr. Wouk wrote a provocative melodrama about a scientist-traitor, The Traitor, which had a short run on Broadway in 1949.

Even a critic disposed to question the validity of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial as a drama of real depth must acknowledge the exceptional efficiency of the action and the theatrical force and ingenuity of the writing. One thinks of such canny twists of drama as Greenwald's winning a case he did not want to take on, Commander Queeg's starting out as Lieutenant Maryk's accuser and ending up as the accused, and Greenwald's turning on the cheap-jack writer Keefer after scoring his courtroom victory. Although essentially a novelist, Mr. Wouk proved himself a first-rate theatrician. It is true that in his eagerness to discharge the United States Navy of any blame he did switch his signals at the end of the play. But even that maneuver was theatrically effective; in giving an extra fillip of interest to the play, it was a good maneuver. And Mr. Wouk had made some preparation for it in Greenwald's reluctance to serve as attorney for the defense and his early declaration, "Maryk, I'd rather be prosecuting you than defending you." For some reviewers the second scene of the final act was an additional tour de force rather than anticlimax: Said Walter Kerr in the New York Herald Tribune of January 22, 1954: "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial is a theatrical adventure which builds a second-act climax of such hair-raising intensity that you are sure nothing, and no one, can ever top it. Someone then proceeds to top it."


[Keefer's testimony]
"Mr. Keefer," said the judge advocate, "at any time prior to 18 December were you informed that Maryk suspected Queeg of being mentally ill?"


"Describe how you learned this fact."

"At Ulithi, about two weeks before the typhoon, Maryk showed me a medical log he'd kept on Queeg's behavior. He asked me to come with him to the New Jersey to report the situation to Admiral Halsey."

"What was your reaction to the medical log?"

"I was dumfounded to learn that Maryk had kept it."

"Did you consent to go with him?"



"Well, I was stunned. And I--that is, he was my superior officer and also my close friend. I didn't consider refusing.

"Did you believe that the log justified the relief of Queeg?"

"No. when we arrived aboard the New, Jersey, I told him as forcibly as I could that in my opinion the log would not justify the action, and that both of us would be liable to a charge of combining, to make a mutiny."

"What was his response?"

"He followed my advice. We returned to the Caine and no further reference was made by either of us to the log or to Queeg's mental condition."

"Did you inform the captain of Maryk's log?"

"I did not."

"Why not?"

"It would have been disloyal and contrary to the best interests of the ship to stir up my captain against my executive officer. Maryk had evidently abandoned his intention to pursue the matter. I considered the matter closed."

"Were you surprised, two weeks later, when he relieved the captain?"

"I was flabbergasted."

"Were you pleased, Mr. Keefer?"

Keefer squirmed in his chair, peered at the fierce face of Blakely, and said, "IÕve said that Maryk was my close friend. I was badly disturbed. I anticipated that at best he would be involved in grave difficulties, and I thought all of us might also be. I thought it was a terrible situation. I was very far from pleased."

"No further questions." Challee nodded at Greenwald.

The defense counsel rose "No questions." All seven members of the court turned to look at Greenwald. Blakely, his eyebrows at maximum altitude, said, "Does the defense intend to recall the witness at a later time?"

"No, sir."

"No cross-examination?"

"No, sir."

"Court stenographer will affirmatively note," said Blakely, Òthat the accused did not desire to cross-examine' Lieutenant Keefer' ' The court will question the witness...Mr. Keefer, the court desires that you describe any factual occurrences you observed which might have led a prudent and experienced officer to conclude that Captain Queeg, might be mentally ill."

"Sir, as I've said, I'm not a psychiatrist." Keefer was now quite pale.

"Now as to this so-called medical log. You did read this log, Mr. Keefer. Were the facts contained in it known to you?'

"For the most part, yes, sir."

"But these same facts, which convinced Lieutenant Maryk that he ought to report the captain to Admiral Halsey, did not convince you, is that correct?"

"They did not, sir."

"Why not?"

Keefer paused, looked up at the clock, and back at Blakely. "Sir, it's not something a layman can intelligently discuss--

"You have stated you were a close friend of Mr. Maryk. This court is trying to find out among other things any possible extenuating circumstances in his decision to relieve his captain. Did these facts contained in the log merely indicate to you, as a layman, that Captain Queeg was a highly normal and competent officer"'

There was an edge of irony in the tone. Keefer quickly said, "Speaking, from ignorance, sir, my, understanding is that mental disability is a relative thing. Captain Queeg was a very strict disciplinarian, and extremely meticulous in hunting down the smallest matters, and quite insistent in having his own way in all things. He was not the easiest person in the world to reason with. It wasn't my place to question his judgments, but there were several occasions when I thought he bore down too hard and spent excessive time on small matters. Those are the things that were recorded in the medical log. They were very unpleasant. But to jump from them to a conclusion that the captain was a maniac -I was compelled in all honesty to warn Maryk against doing that."

Blakely beckoned to the judge advocate and whispered with him, then said, "No further questions, Witness excused." Keefer stepped down, turned, and walked out rapidly. Maryk looked after him with a small dismal smile.


Maryk was acquitted.

Maryk and Greenwald were surrounded on the sidewalk outside the court-martial building by a small jubilant knot of people. The exec's mother clung to him, weeping and laughing: a fat little woman in a green hat, with a round seamed face like a wrinkled photograph of her son's. Beside her stood the father, a heavy quiet shabby man, patting her shoulder. All the officers of the Caine were there. Willie Keith capered and shouted, slapping everyone on the back. All was noise and congratulation and joy. Greenwald was jostled by eager handshaking. "All right now listen, listen everybody," yelled Keefer. "Listen to me. We're going to celebrate!"

"Sure! Sure! Celebrate! Let's celebrate! Let's all get stiff! Fried! Boiled!"--a ribald chorus.

"No, will you listen? It's all arranged. Dinner at the Fairmont! I've hired a room' I'm paying. I'm rich!" shouted Keefer. "It's a double celebration! I got the contract on my novel in the mail this morning, and a check for a thousand bucks! It's all on Chapman House.

Sailors a block away from the building turned to stare in amazement at the frantic little group of officers yelping and dancing in the hot sunshine. "I will get monumentally, drunk," cried Harding. "I will wake up in the alcoholic ward. And I'll love it." Jorgensen hugged and kissed the trunk of a eucalyptus tree in excess of joy. His glasses fell off and shattered. He peered around, giggling wildly. "Nothing, but champagne will be served," yelled the novelist. 'Champagne to toast the Fifth Freedom. Freedom from Old Yellowstain!"

Maryk blinked confusedly. "Greenwald's invited, isn't he?"

"Invited! Hell, he's the guest of honor," Keefer bawled. "A Daniel! A Daniel come to judgment! Momma and Poppa, too! Wire your brothers! Tell 'em to fly down! Bring anyone you want!"

Greenwald said, "You guys have a fine time. Leave me out of it--" The mother said through sobs, "You're a good boy, Steve. You never did anything wrong--"

"The hell with that," Maryk said to Greenwald, wriggling in his mother's embrace. "If you don't come I don't. It's all off.'

"Man, don't ruin it," said Keefer, throwin" his arm over GreenwaldÕs shoulder. "What'll the party be like without the hero of the occasion?"

"You're the hero--a thousand bucks--" said the lawyer, disengaging himself.

Keefer cried, "I'll send a limousine and chauffeur for you--"

"That won't be necessary. Fairmont? Okay. I'll be there." Greenwald turned and started up the steps.

"Where you going, Barney?" Maryk said anxiously.

"Got to clean up the debris with Challee. You go along, Steve. See you tonight."

Keefer shouted after him, "Give Challee a crying towel, with the compliments of the Caine!" Howls of joyous laughter went up from the officers.

A huge green-iced cake baked in the shape of a book was the most prominent decoration of the table.

Multitudes, Multitudes A NOVEL BY Thomas Keefer

was written on it in flourishing letters of thick yellow sugar. It was surrounded by a bank of ferns and roses. The table was crowded with flowers, and candles, and silver, and bottles of champagne. Shreds of gold and silver foil from the wine bottles were scattered on the white cloth. It was seven o'clock, the chair at the head of the table was still vacant, and no food had yet been served, The officers were already boisterously drunk. Mr. and Mrs. Maryk smiled uncomfortable at the roistering jokes all around them, and laughed aloud whenever their son did. The exec sat at the right of Greenwald's empty chair, with his parents beside him. Opposite them were Keefer and Keith, side by side, sparking the merriment with a running fire of shouted jokes about Old Yellowstain. It was an inexhaustible topic. Jorgensen, at the foot of the table, was dissolved in howling giggles; tears ran down from his squinting bloodshot eyes. Several new officers who had reported aboard since the ship's return, and who had never seen Queeg, listened in wide-eyed wonder, and laughed uneasily at the jokes, and drank vast quantities of Keefer's champagne.

Willie was having a wonderful time. Though he suspected that Keefer had not been especially manly in the court-martial, he had no way of knowing the truth of the matter. Witnesses were not permitted to hear each other testify; and Maryk had never spoken a word against Keefer throughout the affair. All qualms had been forgotten in the grand wonder of the exec's acquittal, and Willie's release from fear. He drank as much of the novelist's champagne as anybody, excepting perhaps Harding. His old roommate of the clipping shack was in an alcoholic nirvana. From time to time Harding would get up and stagger to hug somebody, Keefer, or Maryk, or Paynter, it didn't matter who. He kissed Willie, maundering, "He gave me his hat to puke in. One of nature's noblemen, Willie Keith--"

Keefer said, "He'll probably have to do it again before the night's out." Willie thereupon seized a saver bowl of celery and held it under Harding's mouth, and Harding pretended to throw up, and it was a joke which made everybody roar except the two puzzled old folks. In this happy vein the party was proceeding when Keefer jumped up, yelling, "Here he comes! Fill your glasses! A toast to the conquering hero! Greenwald the Magnificent!"

The lawyer's blues were rumpled and baggy, and his walk was not of the steadiest, but nobody at the table was in a condition to notice. He came to the head of the table and stood stupidly, resting a hand on the empty chair, looking around slack-mouthed. "party's pretty far along, hey" he said, as wine splashed in a dozen glasses and all the officers shouted greetings. Keefer made his glass ring with a knife.

"All right, quiet, you drunken mutineers. A toast, I say!" He lifted his glass high. "To Lieutenant Barney Greenwald--a Cicero with two stripes--a Darrow with winces--the terror of judge advocates--the rescuer of the oppressed and the downtrodden--the forensic St. George who slew with his redoubtable tongue that most horrible of dragons--Old Yellowstain!"

They all cheered; they all drank; they sang "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" in bellowing discords. The lawyer stood, pallid and skinny, his mouth foolishly twitching in momentary grins. "Speech! Speech!" said Keefer, clapping his hands and dropping into his chair, and everybody took up the cry and the applause.

"No, no," Greenwald mumbled, but in a moment he was standing alone, and all the faces at the table were turned to him. The party settled into expectant quiet. "I'm drunker'n any of you," he said. "I've been out drinking with the judge advocate--trying to get him to take back some of the dirty names he called me--finally got him to shake hands on the ninth whisky sour--maybe the tenth--"

"That's good," Maryk said. "Challee's a decent guy--"

"Had to talk loud 'n' fast, Steve--I played pretty dirty pool, you know, in court--poor jack, he made a wonderful argument. Multitudes, Multitudes, hey," He peered blearingly at the cake. "Well, I guess I ought to return the celebrated author's toast, at that." He fumbled at a bottle and sloshed wine into a class and all over his hands. "Biblical title of course. Can't do better for a war book. I assume you gave the Navy a good pasting?"

"I don't think Public Relations would clear it, at any rate," the novelist said, grinning.

"Fine. Someone should show up these stodgy, stupid Prussians."

Greenwald weaved and grabbed at the chair. "I told you I'm pretty far along--I'll get to my speech yet, don't worry--Wanna know' about the book first. Who's the hero, you?"

"Well, any resemblance, you know, is purely accidental--"

"Course I'm warped," said Greenwald, "and I'm drunk, but it suddenly seems to me that if I wrote a war novel I'd try to make a hero out of Old Yellowstain." Jorgensen whooped loudly, but nobody else laughed, and the ensign subsided, goggling around. "No, I'm serious, I would. Tell you why, Tell you how I'm warped. I'm a Jew, guess most of you know that. Name's Greenwald, kind of look like one, and I sure am one, from way back. Jack Challee said I used smart Jew-lawyer tactics--course he took it back, apologized, after I told him a few things he didn't know-- Well, anyway...The reason I'd make Old Yellowstain a hero is on account of my mother, little gray-headed Jewish lady, fat, looks a lot like Mrs. Maryk here, meaning no offense."

He actually said "offensh." His speech was halting and blurry. He was gripping the spilling glass tightly The scars On his hand made red rims around the bluish grafted skin.

"Well, sure, you guys all have mothers, but they wouldn't be in the same bad shape mine would if we'd of lost this war, which of course we aren't, we've won the damn thing by now. See, the Germans arenÕt kidding about the Jew. They're cooking us down to soap over there. They think we're vermin and should be terminated and our corpses turned into something useful. Granting the premise--being warped, I don't, but granting the premise, soap is as good an idea as any. But I just can't cotton to the idea of my mom melted down into a bar of soap. I had an uncle and an aunt in Cracow, who are soap now, but that's different, I never saw my uncle and aunt, just saw letters in Jewish from them, ever since I was a kid, but I can't read Jewish." but never could read them. Jew, but I can't read Jewish.

The faces looking up at him were becoming sober and puzzled. ÒIÕm coming to Old Yellowstain. Coming to him. See, while I was studying law 'n old Keefer here was writing his play for the Theatre Guild, and Willie here was on the playing fields of Prinshton, all that time these birds we call regulars--these stuffy, stupid Prussians, in the Navy and the Army -were manning guns. Course they weren't doing it to save my mom from Hitler, they're doing it for dough, like everybody else does what they do. Question is, in the last analysis--last analysis--what do you do for dough? Old Yellowstain, for dough, was standing guard on this fat dumb and happy country of ours. Meantime me, I was advancing little free non-Prussian life for dough. Of course, we figured in those days, only fools go into armed service. Bad pay, no millionaire future, and You can't call your mind or body your own. Not for sensitive intellectuals. So when all hell broke loose and the Germans started running out of soap and figured, well it's time to come over and melt down old Mrs. Greenwald--who's gonna stop them? Not her boy Barney. Can't stop a Nazi with a lawbook. So I dropped the lawbooks and ran to learn how to fly. Stout fellow. Meantime, and it took a year and a half before I was any good, who was keeping Mama out of the soap dish? Captain Queeg.

"Yes, even Queeg, poor sad guy, yes, and most of them not sad at all, fellows, a lot of them sharper boys than any of us, don't kid yourself, best men I've ever seen, you can't be good in the Army or Navy unless you're goddamn good. Though maybe not up on Proust 'n' Finnegan's Wake and all."

Greenwald stopped, and looked from side to side. "Seem to be losing the thread here. Supposed to be toasting the Caine's favorite author. Well, here goes, I'll try not to maunder too much. Somebody flap a napkin at me if I get incoherent. Can't stay for dinner so I'm glad you called on me to make a toast so I can get it over with. I can't stay because I'm not hungry. Not for this dinner. It would in fact undoubtedly disagree with me."

He turned to Maryk.

"Steve, the thing is, this dinner is a phony. You're guilty. I told you at the start that you were. Course you're only half guilty. F' that matter, you've only been half acquitted. You're a dead duck. You have no more chance now of transferring to the regular Navy than of running for President. The reviewing authorities'll call it a miscarriage of justice, which it is, and a nice fat letter of reprimand will show up in your promotion packet--and maybe in mine--and it's back to the fishing business for Steve Maryk. I got you off by phony, legal tricks--by making clowns out of Queeg, and a Freudian psychiatrist--which was like shooting two tuna fish in a barrel--and by 'pealing very unethically and irrelevantly to the pride of the Navy. Did everything but whistle Anchors Aweigh. Only time it looked tough was when the Caine's favorite author testified. Nearly sunk you, boy. I don't quite understand him, since of course he was the author of the Caine mutiny among his other works. Seems to me he'd of gotten up on the line with you and Willie, and said straight out that he always insisted Queeg was a dangerous paranoiac. See, it would only made things worse to drag Keefer in. You know all about that, so as long as he wanted to run out on you all I could do was let him run--"

"Just a minute--" Keefer made a move to get up.

"'Scuse me, I'm all finished, Mr. Keefer. I'm up to the toast. Here's to You. You bowled a perfect score. You went after Queeg, and got him. You kept your own skirts all white and starchy. Steve is finished for good, but you'll be the next captain of the Caine. You'll retire old and full of fat fitness reports. You'll publish your novel proving that the Navy stinks, and you'll make a million dollars and marry Hedy Lamarr. No letter of reprimand for you, Just royalties on your novel. So you won't mind a li'l verbal reprimand from me, what does it mean? I defended Steve because I found out the wrong guy was on trial. Only way I could defend him was to sink Queeg for you. I'm sore that I was pushed into that spot, and ashamed of what I did, and thass why I'm drunk. Queeg deserved better at my hands. I owed him a favor, 'don't you see? He stopped Hermann Goering from washing his fat behind with my mother.

"So I'm not going to eat your dinner, Mr. Keefer, or drink your wine, but simply make my toast and go. Here's to you, Mr. Caine's favorite author, and here's to your book."

He threw the yellow wine in Keefer's face.

A little splashed on Willie. It happened so fast that the officers at the other end of the table didn't know what he had done. Maryk started to get up. "For Christ's sake, Barney--"

The lawyer shoved him back into his chair with a shaking hand. Keefer automatically pulled out a handkerchief and dabbed at his face, staring dumfounded at Greenwald. Greenwald said, "If you want to do anything about it, Keefer, I'll wait in the lobby for you. We can go someplace quiet. We're both drunk, so it's a fair fight' You'll probably lick me. I'm a lousy fighter."

The other officers were beginning to mutter to each other agitatedly, glancing sidewise at Keefer. Greenwald strode out of the room, stumbling a little near the door. The novelist stood up. There was a thick, ugly silence, as though someone had just shouted a lot of dirty words. Keefer glanced around and uttered a laugh. No eye met his. He dropped back in his chair. "The hell with it. Poor guy is just crazy drunk. I'm hungry. He'll be around to apologize in the morning. Willie, tell them to bring on the chow.

"Okay, Tom."

The meal was eaten rapidly in a clinking quiet, broken by infrequent low remarks. When Keefer cut the cake there was a brief dismal scattering of handclaps. The party broke up immediately after the coffee. There were five unopened bottles of champagne still standing on the littered table.

Willie curiously scanned the lobby when he came out of the private dining room, but the pilot was gone.


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Last modified: Thursday, 31-May-2007 09:42:43 EDT