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Billy Budd, Sailor
Herman Melville

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pedantic Characterized by a narrow, often ostentatious concern for book-learning and formal rules: a pedantic attention to details.

penultimate Next to last.

perdue Obsolete. A soldier sent on an especially dangerous mission.

peremptory 1. Putting an end to all debate or action: a peremptory decree. 2. Not allowing contradiction or refusal; imperative: The officer issued peremptory commands. 3. Having the nature of or expressing a command; urgent: The teacher spoke in a peremptory tone. 4. Offensively self-assured; dictatorial: a swaggering, peremptory manner.

perfunctory 1. Done routinely and with little interest or care: The operator answered the phone with a perfunctory greeting. 2. Acting with indifference; showing little interest or care.

perjurious, perjury 1. Law. The deliberate, willful giving of false, misleading, or incomplete testimony under oath. 2. The breach of an oath or a promise.

Peter the Great of Russia First czar and later emperor of Russia, Peter I (1682-1725) is often credited with transforming Russia from an isolated, backward country into a European leader in architecture, art, military, and science. Melville adopts the pejorative epithet "Peter the Barbarian" as a note disdain for Peter's often repressive measures against his own people. These included heavy taxation, forced labor, and expansion of feudal policies. Melville also refers obliquely to some practices in St. Petersburg  (the Russian capital founded by Peter I), at the end of the 19th century including the murder of Czar Alexander II in 1881.

petty officer A naval officer corresponding in rank to a non-commissioned officer in the army. He holds position at the discretion and pleasure of the appointing authority, generally the commanding officer.

Pharisee In the Bible, the Pharisees are members of a Jewish religious and political party charged with maintenance of law within the community. Though often functioning in a role as religious judges, most Pharisees were laymen. In the New Testament, Jesus often has confrontations with them, most notably when they condemn him to death. In Billy Budd, Melville applies the term to characterize the "law-upholding" portion of Claggart.

phenomenon 1. An occurrence, a circumstance, or a fact that is perceptible by the senses. 2. a. An unusual, significant, or unaccountable fact or occurrence; a marvel. b. A remarkable or outstanding person; a paragon. 3. Philosophy. a. That which appears real to the mind, regardless of whether its underlying existence is proved or its nature understood. b. In Kantian philosophy, the appearance of an object to the mind as opposed to its existence in and of itself, independent of the mind. 4. Physics. An observable event.
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