"Of course I am a thug. You are a thug. What is the Emperor, if not another thug? Thugs win, Richard."
His name is Sharpe. Richard Sharpe, of the 95th Rifles. And Chuck Norris, Kratos, and Mr T. crap themselves in terror when this guy rolls into town.Sergeant Richard Sharpe saves the life of Sir Arthur Wellesley (from three Frenchmen on TV; from at least half-a-dozen Maratha warriors in the novels) and is rewarded with a Field Promotion, making him an officer in the British Army. As a gutter-born bastard, Sharpe doesn't play well with regular officers, the rich gentlemen who bought their commissions and resent an upstart from "the ranks" being among their number. But Sharpe's field experience, rough nature and damn good fighting skills give him an advantage when it comes to commanding soldiers. He leads from the front with a Baker rifle and massive Heavy Cavalry sword, and never far from his side is longtime friendSgt. Patrick Harper and the "Chosen Men", a unit of elite riflemen. When not fighting some great bloody battle, Sharpe and his companions are often sent on missions vital to the war effort by Wellington himself or his intelligence officers. Despite being poor and lacking "gentlemanly conduct", Sharpe achieves further promotions on his merit alone, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel by the Battle of Waterloo.In publication since 1981, the series of novels by Bernard Cornwell chronicle Sharpe's adventures in India, Portugal, Spain and beyond, from the beginning of his career to the very end. Though a fictional character, he's portrayed as being in the thick of real battles that occurred during the Napoleonic Wars, from the Siege of Seringapatam to the Battle of Waterloo; the novels are as much about the Duke of Wellington's campaigns shown from a new perspective as he fights the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte. Cornwell has been writing and publishing the novels out of chronological order: Sharpe's Eagle, published in 1981, is 8th in the series; Sharpe's Devil, chronologically the last in the series, was published in 1992, and Sharpe's Fury, the most recent novel published, is 11th in the series.The novels have been adapted into a series of television movies starring Sean Bean as Richard Sharpe, Daragh O'Malley as Patrick Harper and a slew of British talent in supporting roles (see Trivia), running regularly between 1993 and 1997, and with two additional miniseries in 2006 and 2008. The series was well-received and proved a breakout role for Bean, who went on to star in GoldenEye, The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. Much of the plot and backstory from the novels was compressed, modified or jettisoned, and several new stories were invented for the screen.How badass is Sharpe? Well, put it this way: he survived being played bySean Bean!
Sharpe's Tigernote Richard Sharpe and the Siege of Seringapatam, 1799 (published 1997)
Sharpe's Triumphnote Richard Sharpe and the Battle of Assaye, September 1803 (1998)
Sharpe's Fortressnote Richard Sharpe and the Siege of Gawilghur, December 1803 (1999)
Sharpe's Trafalgarnote Richard Sharpe and the Battle of Trafalgar, October 1805 (2000)
Sharpe's Preynote Richard Sharpe and the Siege of Copenhagen, 1807 (2001)
Sharpe's Riflesnote Richard Sharpe and the French Invasion of Galicia, January 1809 (1988)
Sharpe's Havocnote Richard Sharpe and the Campaign in Northern Portugal, Spring 1809 (2003)
Sharpe's Eaglenote Richard Sharpe and the Talavera Campaign, July 1809 (1981)
Sharpe's Goldnote Richard Sharpe and the Destruction of Almeida, August 1810 (1981)
Sharpe's Escapenote Richard Sharpe and the Battle of Bussaco, September 1810 (2004)
Sharpe's Furynote Richard Sharpe and the Battle of Barrosa (March 1811), Winter 1811 (2007)
Sharpe's Battlenote Richard Sharpe and the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro, May 1811 (1995)
Sharpe's Companynote Richard Sharpe and the Siege of Badajoz, January to April 1812 (1982)
Sharpe's Swordnote Richard Sharpe and the Salamanca Campaign, June and July 1812 (1983)
Sharpe's Skirmishnote Richard Sharpe and the Defence of the Tormes, August 1812 (short story) (1999)
Sharpe's Enemynote Richard Sharpe and the Defence of Portugal, Christmas 1812 (1984)
Sharpe's Honournote Richard Sharpe and the Vitoria Campaign, February to June 1813 (1985)
Sharpe's Regimentnote Richard Sharpe and the Invasion of France, June to November, 1813 (1986)
Sharpe's Christmasnote December 1813, Franco-Spanish border (short story) (1994)
Sharpe's Siegenote Richard Sharpe and the Winter Campaign, 1814 (1987)
Sharpe's Revengenote Richard Sharpe and the Peace of 1814 (1989)
Sharpe's Waterloonote Richard Sharpe and the Waterloo Campaign, 15 June to 18 June 1815 (1990)
Sharpe's Ransomnote December 1815, Normandy (short story) (1994)
Sharpe's Devilnote Richard Sharpe and the Emperor, 1820–21 (1992)
Action Girl: Teresa is a famous partisan leader called La Aguja - The Needle. She unwinds by killing Frenchmen.
America Saves the Day: In the novel Sharpe's Siege, Sharpe and the Chosen Men engineer their way out of a fort surrounded by the French by surrendering it to an American privateer who was fighting the War of 1812 - and trapped in the fort with them. This plot was discarded in the television episode in favor of Sharpe having to fight his way out. Again due to budgetary constraints.
Anti-Hero: A variety of characters qualify as Anti-heroes.
Sharpe comes in as a Type IV
Harper and most of the chosen men are Type III-V.
Wellington is a Type II, as is Lord Nelson.
Calvet is a Type IV.
Cochrane is a Type V, as is Lord Pumphrey.
Theresa Moreno is a Type IV, whilst La Marquesa is a Type V.
Affably Evil: Lord Pumphrey is charming, witty, erudite, possibly in love with Sharpe and has no morals except government interests. His personality is so infectious that Sharpe, even after everything Pumps has done, can't bear to kill him (though Pumphrey was armed and too influential to just kill.)
Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill, the insane misanthrope and Manipulative Bastard who had Sharpe flogged while he was a private in India. He eventually kills Sharpe's wife in Sharpe's Enemy before being executed himself. Cornwell admitted that after Hakeswill's death he found it hard to supply Sharpe with an equally malevolent adversary. This is particularly glaring in Sharpe's Challenge, which is actually an adaptation of prequel books in which Hakeswill is the main villain, but was re-set after the Peninsular War for the TV series, so Sharpe is given a Hakeswill expy villain who isn't particularly convincing.
Major Pierre Ducos does a decent job of picking up the baton, repeatedly attempting to not only have Sharpe killed but have him die a dishonourable death in revenge for a relatively minor insult. In the books, he shares Hakeswill's fate of being executed by his own side, although it's disappointingly glossed over as an Off-Page Moment of Awesome. Cornwell seems fond enough of the character to make him The Man Behind the Man in stories written after but set before his and Sharpe's first meeting.
With a few exceptions, most aristocrats encountered in the novels and TV series - whether British or otherwise - are vile types, enemies of Sharpe, and often also Upper Class Twits. A good example is the villain in Sharpe's Eagle, Henry Simmerson.
One particularly crowning subversion is Sharpe's Odd Couple friendship with the aristocratic William Lawford, which he explains to Leroy in Sharpe's Eagle:
Sharpe: We spent three months chained in a cell in India. He had a page of the Bible. In three months he taught me how to read and write. How can you pay back a man who teaches you how to write your own name, Captain?
Double-subverted in Sharpe's Regiment when Sharpe goes to Lawford for help after corruption within the army affects their old Regiment, and Lawford tries to cover the scandal up because "gentlemen look out for themselves" - however, he tries to look after Sharpe as well in the course of covering it up, as he tries to get Sharpe a colonelcy with the Royal American Rifles (which is portrayed as quite a promotion.) A standard Sharpe aristocrat would have tried to have him killed etc.
Army of Thieves and Whores: The Duke of Wellington famously considered his forces this in real life and so he does in the Sharpe novels. This attitude is also held by the officer class in general and to varying degrees by the public back in England as well.
Artistic License - History: Through out the novels Cornwell adjusts the actual events to fit his stories putting whatever units and/or Sharpe himself at key points of historical battles. He typically explains in the afterword the extent and nature of his artistic license in regard to the historical events.
Artistic License - Religion: In universe, this is Hakeswill's specialty. He uses the phrase "says so in the scriptures" as a sort of go-to argument to justify whatever he has to say or wants to do. Gloriously, Colonel McCandless calls him out on this in Sharpe's Triumph:
Hakeswill:...says so in the scriptures.
McCandless: [shouting for the only time in the series] It says nothing of the sort, Sergeant! I've had occasion to speak to you before about the scriptures, and if I hear you cite their authority one more time I shall break you, Sergeant Hakeswill, I shall break you!
Awesome McCoolname: In "Sharpe's Devil", Lord Cochrane complains that the Spanish don't know how to name their warships. "Warships ought to have names like Victory, Arse-kicker, or Revenge.
Richard Sharpe himself. Sharpe defeats or outwits opponents known for their cunning and skill any number of times in the stories. He also survives some of the bloodiest battles and sieges of the Napoleonic Wars. Sharpe is not the only Badass in the world though:
Patrick Harper is Sharpe's lancer and as bad a badass as ever stalked Spain. He often accompanies Sharpe into some of his deadliest conflicts save for a few.
Teresa Moreno is not to be messed with. Hakeswill finds this out the hard way in Sharpe's Company. She gains an infamous reputation among French who nick name her "La Aguja", which means the needle. For her penchant of dispatching the French with her dagger.
General Jean-Baptiste Calvet is a Four-Star Badass, whose various exploits include ripping his way out of Russia, serving as a kind of friendly enemy to Sharpe, eating his own corporal (they were running out of food) and impaling two Cossacks on his sword at the same time.
Chef de Bataillon Alexandre Dubreton has two Légions d'Honneur. He also proves his badassery when he actually manages to hold off Sharpe in a swordfight.
Major Blas Vivar is definitely Spain's answer to the Badasses that fill the British and French armies.
Major General David Baird, a Real Life character who was also a Badass, but especially in Sharpe's Tiger, when he hacks through everyone in Seringapatam (again, he did this in real life).
Wellington is another Real Life example: There's a reason he never lost a battle.
William Fredrickson. Took a cannonball in the face, and kept going. Stacks pretty well against Sharpe in the badassery league.
Colonel Leroux in Sharpe's Sword. His supremely-designed Kligenthal sword actually shatters Sharpe's original Heavy Cavalry blade, he knocks Harper down a flight of stairs and shoots Sharpe in the gut, bringing him closer to death than almost any other enemy.
"I should have killed you at Toulouse," Sharpe said. "So that was you?" Calvet laughed. "The Englishman who can kill me has not been born, Major, but I will shoot you down like a rabid dog if you don’t tell me where Pierre Ducos is hiding."
Badass Crew: The Chosen Men who follow Sharpe. They frequently outfight superior enemy numbers or prove pivotal in a variety of battles.
Bald of Evil: Obadiah Hakeswill who is described as having little or no hair on top of his head which only adds to his sinister appearance. He is described as ugly and vile in appearance part of which his baldness plays a part.
Battle Couple: Sharpe and Teresa. Not only do they meet and initially fall for each other on a battle field hiding from Lancers fighting for the French, they work together on a few occasions to thwart the French's plans in Spain.
Beast and Beauty: Invoked by one snobby officer about Sharpe and Jane Gibbons, leading to a duel.
Been There, Shaped History: Sharpe was involved in crucial moments in so many key historical events that - within his own fictional setting - if he'd never existed Britain would have probably lost the Napoleonic Wars.
Sharpe's mother was a prostitute, which makes her son less than fond of pimps. Sharpe calling someone a pimp is not only an insult, its the worst insult he can think of.
Likewise, Obadiah Hakeswill goes crazy when you insult his mother or like Sharpe thwart his schemes.
BFG: Harper carries a Nock volley gun, a weapon that fires seven pistol bullets at once and was discontinued because the recoil had the tendency to smash the shoulders of anyone who tried to fire it. Harper is supposedly one of the few men who are big and powerful enough to use it, although Sharpe also uses one in a few of the prequel books because he's just that hard.
BFS: Sharpe's 1796 pattern heavy cavalry sword. Not big by anime standards, but definitely heavier than almost anything anyone would try to fence with. Sharpe prefers the heft of the larger cavalry swords for their ability to power through enemy officers blocks and inflict tremendous wounds on his foes. (Cornwell owns one himself◊.)
The Big Guy: Harper. Though Sharpe himself is big enough to intimidate most people.
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Molly Spindacre from Sharpe's Revenge and also Jane Gibbons herself once she realizes Sharpe isn't going to let her go on her way with all his money.
Blood Knight: Admiral Sir Thomas Cochrane wants to free Napoleon from Elba and create a "United States of South America" from Spanish and Portugese colonies. Why? He just really loves killing people. This is Truth in Television. The Siege of Sebastopol would have been much shorter had he been in charge. Why? His plan involved saturation bombardment and poison gas.
Bond Villain Stupidity: Displayed both by Sharpe and his enemies. Pierre Ducos in particular just has to humiliate and utterly destroy Sharpe in all of his schemes, which hamstrings them because Sharpe always gets past them. Sharpe in India keeps trying to kill Hakeswill in elaborate ways involving animals, which never work, and he never sticks around to see the outcome: The Tipoo Sultan's tigers don't eat Hakeswill because they've been fed. Hakeswill escapes being crushed by Dowlat Rao Scindia's elephant by jabbing it with a knife. It isn't explained how he escapes being killed by Manu Bapoo's snakes, but Sharpe should really have known by then.
Call to Agriculture: Sharpe often talks about becoming a farmer after he is done with war and he ends up as an apple farmer in France at the end.
Camp Gay: Lord Pumphrey, to what by the standards of the time is an outrageous degree. Still, he's (often) on Sharpe's side. To be more accurate, he is on the side of His Majesty's Government. As long as Sharpe is too, then Sharpe is safe.
Canon Immigrant: The characters of Harris and Perkins were created for the film series, but proved popular enough to find their way into many of the later books.
The Captain: Many, as well as another rank Sharpe holds as he climbs the ranks.
Cartwright Curse: Sharpe gets a new girlfriend frequently. They always leave, either by running away with his money, dying, or otherwise being written out.
Sharpe's green Rifleman jacket. All of Sharpe's friends know that if he dies, he's to be buried in it.
In various novels the green rifle jacket marks one as a rifleman separate from the common infantry of the British Army. The French even give them a nickname partly because of the jackets.
Combat Pragmatist: Sharpe doesn't believe in fighting fair, so expect to see him use every dirty trick in the book in order to win. These include switching uniforms, ambushing enemy troops, frequent use of Groin Attacks, luring enemies into positions where they can be shot by the French. One specific example: While fighting a superior swordsman with a rapier, he allows his opponent to stab him in the thigh, lodging the rapier in place due to the wound's suction. His opponent is thus (in an extremely unorthodox fashion) disarmed.
Corrupt Church: If the Catholic Church shows up, it will either be in the form of a high-ranking prelate, who will be a scumbag, or an honest village priest, who will be a lovely person. Notably, the Inquisitor, Father Hacha, is a foul individual, as is the Cardinal of Naples, who seems to have read about Rodrigo Borgia and tried to imitate him as far as possible, only with more child abuse.
Cool Sword: Sharpe's 1796 Heavy Cavalry Sword. It's a real weapon, but so massive that they're only used by men on horseback. Only those as big and strong as Sharpe are capable of wielding it like an infantry sword.
Corporal Punishment: Flogging was common, Sharpe was on the receiving end of a particularly brutal one. In Sharpe's opinion, flogging only teaches a soldier one thing, "how to turn his back."
Arguably, Sharpe himself. He goes from lowly rifleman to great war hero and ends up able to quote Voltaire to boot. Of course, it helps to have a girlfriend who can speak French.
There is also Rifleman Harris, the only one crazy enough to lug around a small library in addition to his already sizeable kit, and reads Voltaire, William Wordsworth and dirty books by the Marquis de Sade.
Captain, later Major, Peter D'Alembord. He is an elegant and erudite, with exquisitely tailored uniforms and perfect, languid, manners. Also a first-class swordsman and excellent commander of light troops.
Lord Pumphrey. He is described as being a very cultured man.
Cunning Linguist: Isaiah Tongue, one of Sharpe's Riflemen, was a former teacher and often served as a translator. Later Sharpe himself becomes fluent in Spanish and French, mostly by falling in love with women of the appropriate nationalities.
Dangerous Deserter: A few, notably Obidiah Hakeswill, not that he was exactly a bundle of laughs before he deserted.
Played straight with Harry Price. Maybe. He's apparently killed in the adaptation of Sharpe's Company, but three years later a different actor plays "Harry Price" in the adaptation of Sharpe's Waterloo. It's unclear whether he's meant to be The Other Darrin or a violation of the One Steve Limit. In the books, they're the same character and he also appears in most of the intervening novels.
Also played straight with Major Dunnett, Sally Clayton, Don Moreno, Father Hacha, Lieutenant Ayres, Guardsman O'Rourke and Colonel Ford. And Lucille, who's mentioned as being dead in Sharpe's Challenge even though she's alive in novels set later and Word of God states she and Sharpe lived Happily Ever After, with her ultimately outliving him.
Private Clayton is a type 2 example: He's killed in the adaptation of Sharpe's Company whereas in the books he survives until Waterloo.
Death Trap: Mostly inverted, especially during the India trilogy. Its usually Sharpe who keeps throwing the baddies, especially Hakeswill, into a villain's recently abandoned death traps and then leaving him to die. Of course, Hakeswill always survives. In Sharpe's Tiger, Sharpe throws Hakeswill into a pit of tigers. In Sharpe's Triumph, he leaves Hakeswill under the foot of an elephant trained for executions. In Sharpe's Fortress, Sharpe knocks Hakeswill into a pit of snakes. In Sharpe's Enemy, he leaves him to get shot by a firing squad, and that finally sticks.
Deep Cover Agent: El Mirador and the network of spies. They are ensconced through out Europe including occupied territories and even France itself.
Deliberate Injury Gambit: The villain in the novel Sharpe's Gold is a far more skilled swordsman with a superior blade, so to defeat him Sharpe lets himself be stabbed in the leg and then kills his opponent while the guy is trying to pull his blade out.
Dirty Business: McCandless's opinion of his having tampered with a warrant
Dirty Old Monk: Captain Ardiles notes in Sharpe's Devil that the best whorehouses in Chile are the ones the priests use.
Disposable Woman: Mostly averted while Sharpe goes through numerous girlfriends and a few wives, most of them leave him for reasons of their own. When Teresa and Lady Grace die, he spends half the next book feeling deeply depressed as a result. And then there's his reaction to Astrid's death.
Dude, Where's My Respect??: No matter how many times Sharpe saves Wellington's bacon or saves the army or defeats the bad guys or performs other heroic feats, the rich, gentlemanly officers think he's just an arrogant upstart who needs to be taught his place. This becomes a common them with Sharpe often clashing with the wealthy upper class of the officers, except his closest friends, most of whom are in even worse circumstances than his own, as is often the case with soldiers after the war is done.
Duel to the Death: Sharpe duels in a couple of books, mostly against other Britons rather than the enemy. Cornwell successfully averts what the modern reader might expect. Sharpe, having risen from the ranks and being contemptuous of aristocratic twits, does not dismiss dueling as a silly affectation. Instead he takes it very seriously despite Wellington having banned the practice.
Dwindling Party: When Sharpe first takes command of Riflemen in Sharpe's Rifles, they've just been decimated after a battle and he's the only officer left. The number of original survivors besides Sharpe and Harper declines until years later at Waterloo, only Hagman is left, and he dies too.
Sharpe and his Chosen Men are members of the 95th Rifles, an elite unit using camouflage, skirmisher tactics and advanced (for the time) weaponry, hence, the closest thing to special forces in the Napoleonic Era. True to form, everyone seems completely incapable of getting anything done without them. Although 'glamourous' may not be exactly the word; none of them are exactly gentlemen.
Various historical units like the Scottish Grenadiers are noted as elite troops. Same goes for several cavalry units. They are considered prestigious units to be a part of or to lead.
In general, the British Army is noted to suffer from this in the public eye, as everyone admires the Navy over them,
Enemy Mine: Sharpe's Enemy has Sharpe sent to rescue a noblewoman from a horde of deserters, lead by Hakeswill, who are holding her hostage. It turns out they've also captured the wife of Colonel Dubreton, a Frenchman, so he and Sharpe have to work together.
The Engineer: Major Hogan's other hat is that of combat engineer. He is shown most often in the novels as performing various tasks as the engineer he is.
Ensign Newbie: Much like Fresh Meat below, the series has it's fair share. Some accept their lack of experience and defer to Sharpe and other more experienced officers, others are dyed in the wool Upper Class Twits usually with a healthy dose of snobbery.
Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Obadiah Hakeswill. Although it's more of an insane fixation. Sharpe, conversely, doesn't seem to care about who his mother was and she is never named.
Exiled to the Couch: Sharpe removes himself to the barn in Sharpe's Revenge to resist bedding Lucille while his wife's infidelity is still in doubt. This lasts until he finds Harper there, newly returned from London who confirms Jane has taken up with another man.
Extreme Melee Revenge: Sharpe's Company, when storming the breach Sharpe gets carried away and butchers a french soldier who was surrendering. He immediately realizes and regrets this.
Eyepatch of Power: Frederickson has one. He takes it off when going into battle, though.
Fake American: In-universe example, as Sharpe always pretends to be American to avoid anti-British prejudice when encountered alone by potential enemies. At this point in history American and British accents were similar enough for this to plausible thanks to the American Revolution having been fairly recent history.
Fake Defector: In the novel Sharpe's Tiger, Sharpe and Lt. Lawford infiltrate the fortress of Serignapatham to rescue an intelligence officer and scout for a British assault.
Famed in Story: Sharpe and to a lesser extent Harper, are renowned throughout the army and even back home in England for their bravery and feats on the battlefield. The South Essex recruiting Sergeants brag about how the pair are part of the Regiment, and Sharpe is well-received in the court of the Prince Regent.
Fatal Flaw: Sharpe's is beautiful women. He's never quite sure how to act around them. Granted, the fact that he usually ends up in bed with them is a point in his favour, but Sharpe also has a habit of believing anything a beautiful woman tells him.
Sharpe and Lawford, not from fighting but from a common captivity. Lawford even taught Sharpe to read and write.
Sharpe and Patrick Harper. Especially after Sharpe wins the respect of Harper and the men.
Fourth Date Marriage: Frederickson suggests marriage to Lucille the day he meets her. Immediately after she has accidentally shot Sharpe. Of course, she prefers the charms of Sharpe, just like every woman in the Sharpeverse.
Friendly Sniper: Daniel Hagman. He often acts as The Obi-Wan for the younger members of the Chosen Men. Hagman is a cheerful Northerner who loves folk songs, and is easily the best shot in the regiment.
The General's Daughter: Sharpe ends up marrying Jane Gibbons, the niece of Henry Simmerson, one of the worst of the snobby aristocrats he has to deal with. While Simmerson doesn't have a great deal of power over impeding Sharpe's ascent through the ranks, he sure as hell isn't happy about the turn of events.
Captain Frederickson is a tough war leader and fearsome fighter and marksman, with a deliberately horrifying appearance to scare the enemy. He is also well-versed in such diverse fields as law, architecture and poetry, speaks three languages fluently, and spends his spare time making pencil sketches of Spanish Architecture and discussing politics with Americans.
Sharpe himself is borderline illiterate and ignorant but he is certainly not stupid. He pulls off some surprisingly complex gambits throughout the series, although he prefers to simply walk into his enemies' traps and then hack his way out of them.
Sharpe has a facial scar taken in one of his first swordfights which, pretty much every single book tells us, gives him a mocking, sardonic, look. Obadiah Hakeswill, on the other hand, has a scar round his neck which only adds to his freakish and sinister appearance.
Firmly averted, on the other hand, by William Frederickson, whose facial injuries make him truly hideous but is one of Sharpe's staunchest allies at least until they find themselves competing for the same woman.
"Tell this eunuch he got his wish. He wanted an Englishman. He got one."
Guile Hero: Harper proves himself one in Sharpe's Gold. He waits while Sharpe digs up a grave where they suspected the gold to be buried to see what El Catolico does when he comes to investigate the noise Sharpe makes. El Catolico pokes a pile of manure with his sword, so Harper knows where the gold really is buried.
Hannibal Lecture: Many, many villains give this, usually in the form of a threat or boastful speech. It never takes.
The standard British infantries' red jacket or coat.
Various Spanish units in the series are noted as being overly gaudy and pretty and tend to stand out sharply.
Hollywood Tactics: Usually for reasons of drama and of giving Sharpe a chance of survival, French infantry tactics are Flanderized to the point of being suicidal. Case in point their oft-used "column" attacks, which are presented in the series as a human battering ram that attempts to physically push its way through British lines and are usually shot to pieces; the French evidently forget that the big pointy spears they hold also shoot bullets. In Real Life, "column" was just the preferred French infantry formation when on the march. When in musket-range of the enemy, French troops would deploy in line like everyone else.
At the end of each book, the author mentions the Real Life casualty figures of the book's big battle from both sides. These losses (except for prisoners) are nearly always about even between the French and the Allies. People reading the book could be forgiven for wondering where all the British casualties came from.
Human Sacrifice: Tippo Sultan practices it in Tiger. He has prisoners executed by Jetti's in a sort of pseudo religious practice.
Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each book is named "Sharpe's ______". Also, all the books have more historically descriptive subtitles, e.g. "Sharpe's Company" is subtitled "Richard Sharpe and the Siege of Badajoz, 1812".
I Gave My Word: Lawford has to admit the truth when asked on his word of honor.
Infant Immortality: Inverted, at least for older children. If a child officer shows up, you can bet he'll almost certainly die heartbreakingly right in front of Sharpe's eyes.
Inspired By: The character of Rifleman Harris is named after a real individual, Private Benjamin Harris of the 95th Rifles who fought in the Peninsular War and, upon returning home, dictated an account of his experiences to an acquaintance. Eventually published as "The Recollections of Rifleman Harris", it's one of the few accounts of life in the British Army as an enlisted soldier and was one of Bernard Cornwell's main sources when he researched and wrote the Sharpe novels.
After Major Ducos gets a bloody nose (so to speak) from Sharpe early on in the series, every one of his "destabilise and destroy Wellington's army" schemes simply must involve the humiliation and total annihilation of Richard Sharpe.
Sharpe and Hakeswill have this for each other mutually. Sharpe would love nothing more then to be able to kill and/or humiliate Hakeswill and Hakeswill feels the same about Sharpe.
Hakeswill, for about four books of near-continuous evil.
To a lesser extent, Sharpe himself. He's a thief and a murderer although his victims are all bad people.
Loads and Loads of Characters: Each novel has this, not to mention the staggering amount of characters who recur from one novel to the next. There are many characters in total by the time of the last book.
Military Maverick: Sharpe is described by Cornwell himself as being a loose cannon, and his proud, vengeful nature often gets him in trouble with his superiors and the upper-classes. Fortunately, there's usually a big battle around where he can redeem his honour or settle a score.
Majorly Awesome: Sharpe himself who climbs up to and beyond this rank. Being a work of military historical fiction he is not the only one present through out the series of novels.
King Incognito: In Sharpe's Regiment, Sharpe and Harper take on fake identities and enlist as recruits in order to find out what happened to the South Essex Regiment's 2nd Battalion, which doesn't seem to exist yet still draws pay and rations. It works as this trope because the recruiters, Sergeants and officers frequently bring up the great Major Richard Sharpe and his faithful lancer, Regimental Sergeant Major Patrick Harper, as examples of sheer balls-to-the-wall heroism and how far enlisted men can go in the South Essex. There's a great scene where the recruiting Sergeant goes on at length about how he taught Sharpe and Harper everything they know and now they're BFFs, completely unaware that he's talking to Sharpe and Harper.
The Man They Couldn't Hang: Sergeant Hakeswill, who is convinced he can't die because he survived being hanged as a child, and indeed does manage to escape several apparently fatal events. These include being thrown into a cage full of tigers, placed under the foot of an elephant, and tossed into a snake pit. As it turns out, however, he's not Immune to Bullets.
Mercy Kill: At the siege of Badajoz in Sharpe's Company, after the first assault has been repelled, Sharpe sees some poor nameless redcoat staggering about with a bloody ruin where his arm used to be. He shoots him dead on the spot.
The Musketeer: Sharpe carries a Baker rifle (i.e. an extremely accurate long gun) and a 1796 pattern Cavalry sword, a reminder of both his origin and his newfound status. And he is good with both, though a lot better with the gun.
Napoleon Bonaparte: The Big Bad from the perspective of many in the books as his army is invading their assorted home nations and wreaking havoc across the land. Sharpe eventually meets him in exile on St Helena in Sharpe's Devil, but despite having fought his armies for years, Sharpe takes quite a liking to l'Empereur. Lord Cochrane plans to bust him out of the island and set him up as Emperor of a "United States of South America", but Napoleon died before they could try.
New Meat: Throughout the series there are plenty of green recruits and untested regiments that Sharpe has to whip into shape.
Normally, I Would Be Dead Now: In an age where a flesh wound of just about any kind would have a roughly fifty-fifty chance of killing a man, Sharpe survives multiple life-threatening injuries without so much as a brush with gangrene.
Not So Different: Sharpe and General Calvet. Both men from humble origins who owe their positions and success to the men in charge of their respective armies, and who care deeply for their men.
Sharpe may be an officer, but he's not a gentleman.
Lt Col Lawford: Lieutenant Slingsby, tells me that you insulted him. That you invited him to a duel. That you called him illegitimate. That you swore at him.
Capt Sharpe: I doubt I called him illegitimate, sir, I wouldn't use that sort of language. I probably called him a bastard.
Played with for varying officer characters in the books. Some are genuine gentlemen while others are just pretending to keep up appearances. Both are frequent themes and depending on which one the officer comes across as often decides on whether or not Sharpe will like them.
So many throughout the series. Usually from Sharpe's enemies, as their plans crumble into nothingness around them. Special mention to Andre Massena, who is rendered almost catatonic when he sees the Lines of Torres Vedras.
Sgt. Lynch's when he realises that the Irish recruit he's been bullying for the past weeks is a Rifleman Sergeant-Major who outranks him.
The Only One: No matter how large the armies or how complicated the situations, it inevitably falls to Sharpe, the Chosen Men and/or the South Essex Light Company to save the day and defeat the bad guys.
Harper: You and me, we're going to stop a rebellion? Just the two of us? Sharpe: I don't see no bugger else.
Opportunistic Bastard: Obadiah Hakeswill, Richard Shape's Arch-Enemy, is a toadying sadist of a British drill sergeant with his only goals being his own profit and enjoyment. Hakeswill relishes bullying the men in his command, but throughout the India Trilogy, he is quick to desert the British whenever he thinks he has a better shot with the local rulers. He deserts and betrays the British no less than three separate times there and murders the colonel who could have exposed him. In the Napoleonic Wars in Spain, Hakeswill returns and continues attempting to weasel his way up in rank before he takes a chance to desert the British and captains a group of Bandits where he opts to Rape, Pillage, and Burn for for fun with no greater goal in mind.
Rags to Riches: Both Sharpe and Harper play this trope out over the course of the series:
Sharpe starts as an illiterate private who joined the army to escape a murder charge. He eventually winds up a retired Lieutenant Colonel, who can read and write in four languages and lives on a chateau in France. He also gains and loses and re-gains several fortunes over the course of his career.
Harper similarly joined the army to escape trouble at home in Ireland and he is first featured attempting to desert from the army in Portugal. At the end of the series, he's a retired Regimental Sargent Major who runs a successful business back home in Ireland with his Spanish bride.
This trope is also played out on a smaller scale in many of the novels. Sharpe and Harper often finish a book one rank up from where they started.
The entire damn army. According to Wellington and Hogan, all the enlisted men in the British army are either gutter bastards, drunks, thieves, rapists or murderers and at least three of those describe Sharpe himself.
Truth in Television, witness Wellington's famous quote "I don't know what effect they will have on the enemy, but by God they frighten me".
And even more appropriately, "Our army is the scum of the earth, the merest scum of the earth...but by God, what have we made of them!"
The column of soldiers in Sharpe's Peril comprise of East India Company troops on maneouvres, an incredibly lazy unit of the King's soldiers transporting a prisoner under the command of a pre-pubsescant officer, an engineer and his mate, a pregnant woman, an Indian noble and a priest.
The villains of Sharpe's Enemy are the evil version of this trope, a group of deserters from the English, French, Spanish and Portugese armies who've organised into an army of their own.
The French Dragoons in Sharpe's Rifles freely go about brutalising and massacring the Spanish peasantry. Their commander is happy to let them do this. In fact, this seems to be the French Army's modus operandi during their campaigns in Spain and Portugal.
The British do it as well at the Battle of Badajoz, which again was the standard procedure when an army captured a city. The stupid soldiers found women and drink, the clever ones found the nearest goldsmith and nicked the strongbox. The inhabitants barricaded themselves in rooms and stayed there until it died down.
Teresa Moreno: She leads a band of Guerilla fighters against the French.
Marechal Pot-au-Feu (Marshall Stock-Pot): Leads the army of multi-nation deserters.
El Castrador: Another Guerilla leader that Sharpe has some dealings with.
Red Shirt Army: Many of the common soldiery is perfectly expendable in the novels.
Remember When You Blew Up a Sun?: For Sharpe it is remember When You Captured That Eagle At Talavera? Sharpe's crowning moments of awesome are acknowledged in-canon. The best example is Sharpe's capture of an Imperial Eagle at the Battle of Talavera (Sharpe's Eagle), which made him famous throughout the army and back in England for its sheer difficulty and peril. At least once in all the following novels, a character will say something along the lines of "Hey, you're Sharpe, the guy who captured the Eagle at Talavera!"
Sharpe was originally a Londoner, but since Sean Bean had a Yorkshire accent Cornwell wrote in later novels that Sharpe moved to Yorkshire before being recruited. Sharpe's characterization in the later novels is tweaked to be more like Sean Bean's Sharpe.
The episode of Sharpe's Rifles reduced Sharpe's Rifles to a handful instead of around fifty, setting the tone for the series' stronger Squad feel (except for the episode of Sharpe's Gold, which followed the novels in having a lot more Riflemen but then caused a Continuity Snarl). The novels written during and after the TV series tend to isolate Sharpe, Harper and the TV Chosen Men (Hagman, Harris, etc.) from the army on their own adventures, eventually reuniting with the army for the Final Battle.
The show itself is responsible for Harris and Perkins entering the novels.
Ret Irony: Subverted by d'Alembord, who is due to retire and get married but stays on for one last battle. That last happens to be Waterloo and he is convinced he is going to die. He loses a leg, but survives.
Rousing Speech: Sharpe gives one to nervous regulars a few times, most notably in Sharpe's Eagle:
Sharpe: You don't see a battle. You hear it. Black powder blasting by the ton on all sides. Black smoke blinding you and choking you and making you vomit. Then the French come out of the smoke - not in a line, but in a column. And they march towards our thin line, kettledrums hammering like hell and a golden eagle blazing overhead. They march slowly, and it takes them a long time to reach you, and you can't see them in smoke. But you can hear the drums. They march out of the smoke, and you fire a volley. And the front rank of the column falls, and the next rank steps over them, with drums hammering, and the column smashes your line like a hammer breaking glass... and Napoleon has won another battle. But if you don't run, if you stand until you can smell the garlic, and fire volley after volley, three rounds a minute, then they slow down. They stop. And then they run away. All you've got to do is stand, and fire three rounds a minute. Now, you and I know you can fire three rounds a minute. But can you stand?
Running Gag: Young and promising officers who gain Sharpe's grudging respect tend to die.
Sacred Hospitality: McCandless charges Pohlmann with this after his horses are stolen. The mere fact that they are enemies doesn't prevent Pohlmann from regarding this as just.
In Sharpe's Tiger, then-Sergeant Sharpe and Lt. Lawford are sent to infiltrate Serignapatham and rescue Colonel McCandless, an intelligence agent. To prove his loyalty to Tippo Sultan, Sharpe is given a loaded musket and told to kill McCandless. Naturally, the musket doesn't fire properly. Sharpe later tells Lawford that he knew the gunpowder used to prime the musket was bad, but its left ambiguous whether Sharpe knew about the bad powder before or after he fired the weapon.
Subverted later in the same novel when British scouts are seen outside the fortress walls, Sharpe and Lawford are given rifles and told to shoot the scouts. Sharpe tries in earnest to kill one of the scouts but his shot goes wide; Lawford tries to shoot wide of his target but ends up killing the soldier by mistake.
Played extremely straight in Sharpe's Challenge, when Sharpe and Harper are the Fake Defectors. Sharpe is ordered to kill Harper using a musket he just loaded, but at the last moment he realises that the powder is bad and the shot won't fire, so he goes along with it.
Cornwell ties in his novel Sharpe's Escape into C.S. Forester's 1932 novel Death To The French by implying that Forester's protagonist, Rifleman Matthew Dodd, was part of Sharpe's Light Company during the Battle of Bussaco (Cornwell later confirmed that the Dodd in his novel is supposed to be the Dodd from Forester's). Death To The French, which follows the wartime adventures of a British rifleman who is separated from his Regiment during that battle, was likely one of the inspirations for the Sharpe novels.
In the book Sharpe's Tiger, the Moonstone from Wilkie Collins' novel of the same name makes a brief cameo appearance. Sharpe steals it.
Rifleman Benjamin Harris was named after a soldier in the Real Life 95th Rifles, who dictated (he was illiterate) a story of his memories from the Peninsular Campaign, and whose book served as an inspiration for the Sharpe series.
Shot in the Ass: How Sharpe decides to end a duel in Sharpe's Revenge... Pity the guy he shot ended up presiding over a hearing for a crime Sharpe was alledged to have commited.
Most of the villains in the Sharpe-verse are aware of the Magnificent Bastard trope, but just can't quite make it there, ending up as this instead:
Sir Henry Simmerson thinks he can use his wealth (he privately raised a regiment) to wage a successful campaign in Spain and gather fame and power in Parliament. Unfortunately, he doesn't know the first thing about war and is a veryDirty Coward. Also has elements of the Know-Nothing Know-It-All.
Lt. Colonel Christoper in Sharpe's Havoc comes up with a truly brilliant Xanatos Gambit, which either makes him the richest man in Europe or a British war hero. Unfortunately, he is too arrogant, sadistic, and incompetent to adapt his plan when Sharpe starts taking third options all over the place.
Manuel Batista is a sadistic profiteer too busy trying to make a pile of money off of his governorship of Chile to do anything about the fact that Spanish rule in South America is collapsing around him.
Pierre Ducos comes very close to being a Magnificent Bastard, but his arrogant dismissal of soldiers as "unthinking brutes" and hopeless cowardice, plus his wimpy failure to fight ,in contrast to his British counterpart Lord Pumphrey, who is at least prepared to personally kill people. This makes him a Smug Snake who the audience is just waiting to be killed.
Obadiah Hakeswill is possibly one of these, given his overconfidence and mistaken belief that he can't be killed.
Lord William Hale suffers from the same utter failures of manliness and morality that plague Ducos. He is possibly the most pathetic example on this list, being cuckolded by Sharpe, drugged by his wife to facilitate said cuckolding, mocked behind his back by everyone and belittled to his face by Sharpe. and is ultimately shot in the face by his wife when he confronts and tries to murder her over her infidelity. What places him squarely in this trope is that the audience does not feel one jot or iota of sympathy for him, even pre- murder attempt.
Cpt. John Lavisser so desperately wants to be a Magnificent Bastardinvoked, even lampshading this in a speech. He really isn't, his only significant achievements being torturing a defenceless old man and threatening his daughter with same. This gets him nastily killed.
The Smart Guy: Harris. He is an excellent source of needed, as well as completely unsolicited, information, speaks French and Portugese and the go-to guy for anything that requires two brain-cells to rub together.
Isaiah Tongue, a former schoolteacher, serves as the team's smart guy before Harris makes his canon immigration.
Sociopathic Soldier: Obidiah Hakeswill, although admittedly he has managed to climb the ranks a bit. He delights in torturing other soldiers and using dirty tricks to help fuel his personal debauchery. He is so inherently vile and nasty that even officers are afraid of him. The only reason he is kept around is proves himself useful in propping up inept or corrupt officers and keeps the ire of the men suppressed by fear and bullying.
Spin-Offspring/Babies Ever After: Sharpe and Lucille's son, Patrick Lassan, is a minor character in The Starbuck Chronicles, another series by Cornwell set during the American Civil War. In that series, Patrick is a Chasseur Colonel of the French Imperial Guard and a French Military Observer attached to the Union Army. He carries and uses Sharpe's old sword, though his father was apparently disappointed that his son joined the French cavalry rather than the British infantry. By 1862, when the novel was set, Sharpe had died and Lucille was still alive. Patrick's sister Dominique is mentioned as the Countess of Benfleet and the mother of five children.
Spot of Tea: This being the British Army, tea is never far away. At one point, when Harper is absent, Sharpe complains about the other Chosen Men's inability to make a decent cup of tea.
Major Hogan. While in the guise of an engineer he frequently engages in cloak and dagger actions. He gathers intelligence while surveying roads and bridges both the enemy and Wellington may use and often advises Wellington based on this info.
"El Mirador", in Sharpe's Sword. Not just a spy master but also a network of contacts and informants including ones placed at various levels in the French Empire.
The Squad: Sharpe and the Chosen Men. Sharpe leads a band of rifleman throughout the Napoelonic Wars. There are several key characters and plenty of Red Shirt and Mauve Shirt characters to flesh out the squad.
Still Wearing The Old Colors: In Sharpe's Waterloo, Sharpe wears his usual uniform despite being repeatedly ordered to change into a newer one.
Storming the Castle: Literally, and regularly. There are several instances where a fortress has to be taken. Sharpe will frequently find himself taking part in some hard or famous sieges. Like the Siege of Seringaptam in India or the Siege of Badajoz in Spain. Sieges of varying scale and intensity occur through out the books.
See Suicide Mission below for the Forlorn Hope. Attacks on breaches were often considered an act of suicide as the first troops tripped the enemy traps, ambushes, and were the first targets of readied enemy cannon and troops.
Infantry in column against a line, and loose formations or one-on-one against cavalry was often akin to committing suicide.
Cavalry attacking a prepared infantry square was often detrimental to the cavalry unless they found a breach to exploit.
Directly attacking artillery loaded with double loads of canister or grape shot would result in a large number of casualties and attempts were usually made to avoid that scenario.
Suicide Mission: The Forlorn Hope, derived from Dutch verloren hoep or "lost troop", who are the first men to charge through a breach opened in an enemy fortress' walls—nine times out of ten they naturally catch the brunt of the enemy defence and get killed, but if they survive, they get instant promotions. Sharpe ends up leading one in order to confirm his promotion to captain.
Take That: In Sharpe's Eagle, Lieutenants Berry and Gibbons are named after the author's first wife's divorce attorneys.
Taking the Veil: La Marquesa in Sharpe's Honour. By no means voluntary on her part.
Tall Poppy Syndrome: How dare this jumped-up sergeant go around leading troops. How dare he be good at it.
Sharpe or even anyone of lesser status gaining fame, glory, riches, and increased status over their titled peers often gets this sort of reaction.
Wellington himself is targeted to varying degrees by his rivals in the novels in similar fashion. Wellington is considered an upstart by many of the peerage and has to frequently contend with their backbiting and politicking to try and blunt his successes.
There Is No Kill Like Overkill: In Sharpe's Siege, Frederickson orders one of his riflemen to stop the French raising the alarm during a night-time raid. So he cuts their heads off.
Most of the books have a final sentence that concludes with the title words.
An Aversion is Sharpe's Waterloo, which concludes "and the world was at peace".
Too Dumb to Live: Many of the officers that Sharpe encounters or any number of foes who decide he is not any real danger to them.
Took a Level in Badass: New officers serving under Sharpe tend to gain a lot of experience and become good officers or die, in very short order. Of particular note is Jorge Vincente, first encountered as a young Portuguese student-turned-soldier with no real military experience, cut off from his army alongside Sharpe. By the next book he appears in he's basically become a Portuguese Sharpe right down to carrying the same weapons as him to emulate what he believes makes Sharpe successful.
This is noted as being common for the soldiers who have suffered a hard siege in taking a fortress to turn and vent their frustration on those who remain inside. The most notable in the books and Truth in Television is the Siege of Badajoz in Spain.
When the close-quarters fighting starts, with swords and bayonets and improvised weapons, everyone gets this, from the gentleman officers to the lowliest privates.
Up Through the Ranks: Sharpe was a sergeant until he saved Wellington's life, and was rewarded with a field commission. Richard Sharpe is a commoner and is a lot more coarse than the otherwise mostly aristocratic officer corps, but he makes up for it with sheer skill.
Marshal Massena goes through a very pronounced one after seeing the Lines, and realizing just how screwed his army is.
John Lavisser is transformed from a Smug Snake to a weeping coward after Sharpe frees his hostage, steals his list of British informants and kills his men. His begging does not help.
Pierre Ducos goes through a long one, Sharpe now inhabiting his very nightmares.
Lord Fenner, when his former sex slave turns up with the evidence to ruin him, has a surprisingly brief one.
Colonel Girdwood has one on his first taste of battle.
And another one whenever a dog approaches.
And another whenever he is reminded of anything Irish.
Simmerson has many but his notable is after Wellington tells him off after he finds he caused the Kings Colours to be lost.
Hakeswill's final raging denial: "You can't kill ME!".
Villainous Valor: Notably, Calvet, Loup, the Comte de Moromuorto and De L'Eclin are not afraid of Sharpe and are more than capable of going toe-to-toe with him. The Tipoo Sultan is the ultimate example, being one of the few men who Sharpe truly respects.
Weapon of Choice: Sharpe's Baker rifle and heavy cavalry sabre. At the time, infantry soldiers fought with muskets or rifles and bayonets. The officers used pistols and sabres. Not only do the rifle and sword make an effective combo, but they aptly represent where Sharpe has come from and what he is now.
We Have Reserves: Several of the officers and commanders take this attitude in the books. Sharpe however makes it his mission to convince the troops that they are more than that. Sharpe will often get angry at pointless loss of life or loss of troops. Often this brings him into some kind of conflict with said leaders.
What Does She See in Him?: The sentiment many have in regards to Sharpe when some wealthy or privileged lady takes an interest in him.
Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: If Sharpe had just told Teresa to kill Hakeswill when she had a knife at his throat, there wouldn't have been any problem. They spend that entire series knowing that he's trouble and reacting to all the underhanded things he does and they never just kill him. This is likely, aside from narrative purposes, to be because it is made clear that Hakeswill is an absolute master at brown-nosing the officer class and is thought of as a superb Sergeant by them for that very reason.
Worthy Opponent: Sharpe regards Napoleon as one in the books. They seem to get on pretty well when they meet in Sharpe's Devil.
What the Hell, Hero?: Sharpe, being born in a London slum in the 1770s, does things that his contemporaries would either find unexceptional and that they would find as shocking as modern readers do. Examples would be cuckolding husbands and the revenge murders of Berry and Gibbons.