- Angrish: Immediately after Billy is hanged, the crew abandons speech entirely, singing in wordless, guttural grunts to convey their fury.
- Depraved Homosexual: Claggart. Also in the book, but here even more, even calling Budd "Beauty" and encouraging him to mind his looks, and spending an aria ruminating over his beauty, his handsomeness, and how desirable he is.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Aversion. He does, but it hurts. Claggart sings: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness comprehends it and suffers"
- Evil Sounds Deep: Claggart is a basso profondo, much like Hagen. This is subverted, however, with the man in charge of whipping the novice. His voice is very deep, and he's in charge of the ship's brutal punishments, but he begs Claggart to go easy on the boy, and treats the novice with kindness and tenderness. It seems like he's Just Following Orders.
- Fanservice: In most performances, Billy, some minor characters and the chorus have shirtless scenes.
- Flashback: The entire opera is Vere's flashback.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: Vere's aria "I accept their verdict" after the court-martial. Wangst ensues.
- The Male Ingenue Must Be A Tenor: Rare aversion, Billy's a baritone.
- It had a reason: Pears was in the age perfect for Vere, so the captain got the tenor part.
- The Mole: Squeak initially serves this role among the men, as Claggart's eyes, ears, and hands. The Novice, so broken in spirit after his whipping, agrees to do whatever dirty work Claggart wants as long as he never gets whipped again.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Vere in the Prologue and in the Epilogue.
- Ominous Fog: Vere curses the fog that obscures the French frigate from their sight. But his dread of the fog isn't supernatural — after the men have been riled up for a good sea-battle with their hated enemies, for the fog to descend suddenly and deny them their action has put everyone on edge, and he fears somebody will snap.
- Stalker with a Crush: Claggart. See above.
- Villain Song: Claggart's aria about how much evil he is and how he totally
lusts for Billyhates Billy and will destroy him.
- Warrior Poet: Vere. He opens and closes the play with his mournful and very poetic signing.