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"Of course I am a thug. You are a thug. What is the Emperor, if not another thug? Thugs win, Richard."
John Lavisser

Sharpe is a series of historical fiction stories by Bernard Cornwell centered on the character of Richard Sharpe.

Sergeant Richard Sharpe saves the life of Sir Arthur Wellesley (from three Frenchmen on TV; from at least half-a-dozen Maratha Indian 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 friend Sgt. Patrick Harper and 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 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 Napoléon 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, alongside 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 by Sean Bean!

    Sharpe novels 
  • Sharpe's Tiger note  (published 1997)
  • Sharpe's Triumph note  (1998)
  • Sharpe's Fortress note  (1999)
  • Sharpe's Trafalgar note  (2000)
  • Sharpe's Prey note  (2001)
  • Sharpe's Rifles note  (1988)
  • Sharpe's Havoc note  (2003)
  • Sharpe's Eagle note  (1981)
  • Sharpe's Gold note  (1981)
  • Sharpe's Escape note  (2004)
  • Sharpe's Fury note  (2007)
  • Sharpe's Battle note  (1995)
  • Sharpe's Company note  (1982)
  • Sharpe's Sword note  (1983)
  • Sharpe's Skirmish note  (short story) (1999)
  • Sharpe's Enemy note  (1984)
  • Sharpe's Honour note  (1985)
  • Sharpe's Regiment note  (1986)
  • Sharpe's Christmas note  (short story) (1994)
  • Sharpe's Siege note  (1987)
  • Sharpe's Revenge note  (1989)
  • Sharpe's Waterloo note  (1990)
  • Sharpe's Ransom note  (short story) (1994)
  • Sharpe's Devil note  (1992)

Tropes found in the Sharpe Series:

  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Mary in Tiger, and Simone in Fortress.
  • Accent Slip Up: The very anti-Irish Sergeant Lynch is of Irish extraction himself; he tries to conceal his accent but it shows at moments of stress.
  • Action Girl: Teresa is a famous partisan leader called La Aguja - The Needle (because she favors the stiletto and the rapier.) She unwinds by killing Frenchmen.
  • 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.)
    • General Calvet, who's pretty much a French Sharpe (though minus Sharpe's proclivity for Crazy Awesome plans to get out of trouble), appearing in Sharpe's Siege and Sharpe's Revenge. He and Sharpe ultimately end up as Vitriolic Best Buds.
    • Napoleon himself quickly awes and charms Sharpe when they meet in Sharpe's Devil - it helps that Sharpe is described as one of Napoleon's beloved 'mongrels', risen from the ranks, who Napoleon can (and does) wind around his little finger.
  • America Saves the Day: In the novel Sharpe's Siege, Sharpe and his force of Riflemen and Royal Marines 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.
  • Anti-Villain: Anthony Pohlmann, the German leader of Scindia's army, generally comes off as a reasonable and affable individual. He criticizes some of the more severe practices of the British Army, and many of his European and Indian officers are happy under his command. After meeting him in person, Sharpe is briefly tempted to join up with him.
  • Arch-Enemy:
    • 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.
    • Another major villain in the India prequels was Major William Dodd, a British deserter in service of the Indian princes. Sharpe bears a great deal of personal hostility toward him for massacring a garrison of British troops, and later because he believes that Dodd was the one who murdered McCandless. While he wasn't quite as personal of an enemy for Sharpe as Hakeswill, he came pretty close.
    • The Duke of Wellington and his historic Arch-Enemy, Napoléon Bonaparte.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil:
    • 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 subversion is Sharpe's Odd 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), which would both stop him being a problem to the corrupt Lord Fenner, and keep him safe from Fenner's vengeance. 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 (Most notably, Sharpe fought at both Trafalgar and Waterloo, a feat accomplished by exactly zero British officers). 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, the bible thumping 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 Mc Coolname: 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.
  • Badass Boast: General Calvet delivers one to Sharpe:
    "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 Riflemen 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, something in 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.
  • Berserk Button:
    • 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. And if he encounters a pimp, that pimp will have a very limited life expectancy.
    • Likewise, Obadiah Hakeswill goes crazy when you insult his mother or when someone like Sharpe thwarts his schemes.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: The young Portuguese officer Jorge Vicente is introduced as very young, highly inexperienced, and excessively polite and proper. The same scene reveals that he's just executed his own sergeant for urging surrender, before leading three dozen panicked volunteers in a counter-attack that saved Sharpe and his Riflemen from a hopeless fight.
  • 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 (it also helps that he's a very big man in his own right, being over six feet tall and powerfully built).
  • 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.) It is worth noting that this pattern sword still only came in at about 2.5 lbs.
  • The Big Guy: Harper, who's absolutely enormous. Sharpe himself is big enough to intimidate most people, and qualifies as this in the books before he meets Harper.note 
  • 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.
  • Black Comedy: The Running Gag of Sharpe's new Ensigns constantly dying.
    • Also, Sharpe's habit of murdering evil and/or dangerously incompetent senior officers becomes this, especially when in Sharpe's Waterloo, Lieutenant Doggett relays to Sharpe the fact that the Prince of Orange has got his men killed for a third time through incompetence (for which Doggett called him "a silk stocking full of shit"). Sharpe says he'll deal with Orange, with Doggett assuming he means he'll talk to the Prince. Cue Sharpe returning a few scenes later and apologising that the Prince wouldn't see reason... and unfortunately, he [Sharpe] had only managed to shoot him in the shoulder as opposed to somewhere lethal.
  • Blood Knight: Admiral Sir Thomas Cochrane wants to free Napoleon from St. Helena and create a "United States of South America" from Spanish and Portuguese colonies. Why? He just really loves fighting. This is Truth in Television, as it happens: he complained about not being given a fleet in the Crimean War, at the age of 73, something Parliament had vetoed on the entirely reasonable grounds that he would probably do something completely crazy with it. On top of that, 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. This is partly justified by the fact that the India books were written after the books about Sharpe's chronologically later adventures, meaning that Hakeswill had to survive India. In-Universe, it might be said that Sharpe does get wise to the fact that trying to murder Hakeswill in elaborate fashions doesn't work, and ends up blowing his head off from point blank range with his rifle.
  • Brave Scot: Quite a few of these throughout the series, especially in the India campaign. Special mention goes to Baird and Campbell, both of whom go on a claymore rampage while assaulting enemy walls.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Even the Duke of Wellington is occasionally annoyed by Sharpe's antics, but he's much too smart and competent (in a military that is portrayed as desperately short on people with either quality, let alone both) to not keep around.
  • 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 Normandy at the end, something he rather enjoys (though he complains that French taxes are 'bloody evil').
  • Camp Gay: Lord Pumphrey, to what by the standards of the time is an outrageous degree, and probably got away with it by Refuge in Audacity. 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 - partly because a lot of the books were written after Sharpe's Waterloo, which confirmed his relationship with Lucille. They always leave, either by running away with his money, dying, or otherwise being written out.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Sharpe keeps drilling into his soldiers, almost to the point of being a Badass Creed, that the key to soldiering is being able to "fire three rounds a minute and stand".
    • Sharpe considers every "Proper Officer" a "Bastard!"
    • Harper's favourite exclamation: "God save Ireland!"
    • Hakeswill's "It says so in the scriptures", his justification for anything.
    • Expert marksman Daniel Hagman shouts "Got 'im!" when he hits his target, and recommends "brown paper and paraffin oil" for any injury.
  • Cavalry Officer: Several characters in the books are noted as leading cavalry unit in both friend and foe alike.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: William Dodd starts out as a deserter from the East India Company army, massacring British troops and joining up with Scindia. When it becomes clear that the Battle of Assaye cannot be won, he absconds with his boss' gold. He then joins up with the Rajah of Berar's army, only later to murder the Rajah's brother in hopes of taking sole command of the mighty fortress of Gawilghur, and from there carve out his own empire.
  • Cigar-Fuse Lighting: Richard Sharpe borrows a cigar from another officer when he has no slow-match to light fuses with.
  • Clear My Name: The novels (and TV adaptations) Sharpe's Honour and Sharpe's Revenge. In both cases, Sharpe is framed by Major Ducos as part of a plan to derail Wellington's campaigns.
  • Cloak & Dagger:
    • Major Ducos is responsible for French intelligence, Hogan's Evil Counterpart, and a notable opponent of Sharpe.
    • The "El Mirador" network of spies.
  • Clothes Make the Legend:
    • 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 ('grasshoppers') 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 local 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. This is a common feature of Cornwell's writing, owing to a childhood as part of a fairly extreme Christian sect which left him with a hearty distaste for organised religion.
  • 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."
  • Corrupt Quartermaster: In Sharpe's Fortress, Sharpe's nemesis Sergeant Hakeswill wangles a supply sergeant's slot, and colludes with his captain to sell off prodigious amounts of goods. Sharpe himself averts this trope, remaining honest and highly competent during his own stints as a quartermaster (even if he doesn't like the job very much), with the worst that can be said about him is that he takes a Bothering by the Book/Exact Words approach to orders (again, because he doesn't like the job).
  • Court-Martialed:
    • In Sharpe's Tiger, Sharpe is court-martialed after being goaded into striking the malevolent Sergeant Hakeswill. He's sentenced to two thousand lashes, effectively a painful death sentence, but the flogging is interrupted after 200.
    • Sharpe faces another court-martial in Sharpe's Honour, when he's falsely accused of murdering a Spanish aristocrat. He's convicted and sentenced to hang for political reasons, but another convict is hanged in his place, leaving him free to clear his name.
  • Covers Always Lie: A small but persistent one. The Harper editions of the series use contempory paintings of the British military as their cover illustrations, with one face out of the painting featured on the spine and back cover to imply that this is Sharpe. The issue is that the figure thus distinguished is in most cases dressed in the standard British redcoat uniform, but riflemen like Sharpe have their own green uniform (and it's established very quickly in the series that Sharpe regards this as an important badge of distinction and will not wear the red coat unless he has absolutely no choice).
  • Cultured Badass:
    • Arguably, Sharpe himself. He goes from lowly rifleman to a great war hero fluent in French and Spanish and ends up able to quote Voltaire to boot. Of course, it helps to have a Spanish wife, then later a girlfriend/life-partner 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.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Mentioned in passing by Sharpe, in reference to Tippoo Sultan.
    [His bodyguards] were all big bastards, and he were but a fat little bugger. But he died as hard as any six of them.
  • Cultured Warrior:
    • 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, while not much of a warrior, is described as being a very cultured man and does do his own dirty work when required to.
  • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Wellington's spymasters have a tendency to be this, as does Wellington himself. Even Sharpe has his moments.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • Subverted for Perkins in that he was created for the show and introduced into the novels later, and he survives the book version of the episode where he dies.
    • 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 Dunnet. In the Sharpe's Rifles book, he's captured by the French in the raid. In the adaptation, he is cut down by Colonel De L'Eclin.
    • Played straight with the Claytons. In the books, Clayton makes it all the way to Waterloo and his wife Sally does as well. In the series, Clayton is shot dead at Badajoz while the Chosen Men charge the hole and his wife Sally is raped and murdered by Hakeswill.
  • Death by Childbirth: Lady Grace and her child both die. This deeply affects Sharpe, leaving him miserably depressed for most of the next book.
  • Death Faked for You: In Sharpe's Honour, Sharpe is falsely accused of murdering a Spanish aristocrat. He's convicted and sentenced to hang for political reasons, but another convict is hanged in his place, leaving him free to clear his name.
  • 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. Pretty much everyone who hears about this thinks that Sharpe was insane.
  • 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, which is half-depressed, half-enraged.
  • Do with Him as You Will: Dubreton hands Hakeswill over to Sharpe in Sharpe's Enemy.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Sharpe to Lieutenant-Colonel Girdwood, with this being explicitly noted by Hogan - Sharpe's de facto commander of the South Essex and has Girdwood (who's suffering from Sanity Slippage) entirely under his thumb.
    • Technically speaking, Sharpe to Lawford, when the latter commands the South Essex, though in contrast to the example above, this is a partnership - Lawford is a good soldier, but he's primarily focused on using his military career as a boost for his political career, which is where he thrives. At the same time, he recognises Sharpe's brilliance and trusts him completely, meaning that he takes Sharpe's advice and on the battlefield, generally lets him do exactly as he pleases.
  • Dress-Coded for Your Convenience: And Truth in Television to boot. Sharpe and the Riflemen wear dark green, the rest of the British army wears red, the French wear blue and the Spanish wear a variety of browns.
  • Dropped Glasses: In Sharpe's Enemy, Sharpe smashes Major Ducos' glasses. Badass, sure, but earning the ire of a ruthless French spymaster winds up causing Sharpe havoc for years to come.
  • 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 (with a very few exceptions) think he's just an arrogant upstart who needs to be taught his place. This becomes a common theme 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.
  • Due to the Dead: When looting the palace of Tippoo Sultan, Sharpe pointedly refuses to take the Sultan's jewel-encrusted sword, instead placing it in the dead man's hand. He states that a "proper soldier", like himself and the Sultan, deserves to go to God with his weapons in his hand.
  • 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 duelling as a silly affectation. Instead, as part of his Honour Before Reason mentality, he takes it very seriously - more seriously most of the genuine aristocrats - despite Wellington having banned the practice.
  • The Duke of Wellington: The series' Big Good, although Good Is Not Nice and he has a limited tolerance for Sharpe's shenanigans when they cause him trouble - however, he is still willing to give him considerable latitude on the grounds that Sharpe gets results, at one point complains that his attempt to promote Sharpe has been rejected when he hears that Sharpe was now on detached duty working for Hogan, and he does acknowledge what he owes Sharpe, finally giving him command of the South Essex at the Battle of Waterloo, bidding him to take them forward.
  • 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.
    • Of others associated with him, D'Alembord loses a leg and Private Clayton dies.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous:
    • Sharpe and his 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, (for the most part) everyone seems completely incapable - on a unit level, at least - of getting anything done without them. Although 'glamorous' 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. Dubreton ends up being a Friendly Enemy. Ducos, who first appears in this book, does not.
  • 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 its 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. Their survival rate, or lack of it, ultimately becomes a Running Gag.
  • 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.
  • Exact Words: Done twice in Sharpe's Triumph, both to prevent Sharpe from being arrested by Hakeswill. The first time, McCandless smudges the "e" in "Sharpe" on the warrant, then tells Hakeswill that he obviously has the wrong man, since the warrant is for a "Sergeant Richard Sharp" not "Sharpe". The second time, Colonel Wallace tells Hakeswill that he's allowed to arrest Sergeant Sharpe, but not Ensign Sharpe.
  • 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 Mêlée Revenge: Sharpe's Company, when storming the breach Sharpe gets carried away and butchers a French soldier who was surrendering. He immediately realises and regrets this.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Frederickson has one. He takes it off when going into battle, though. Along with his false teeth and his horsehair wig.
  • Fake American: In-universe example, as Sharpe always pretends to be American to avoid anti-British prejudice when encountered alone by potential enemies, a habit he started in Copenhagen. At this point in history American and British accents were similar enough for this to be plausible thanks to the American Revolution having been fairly recent history - also, the habit of Royal Navy deserters of defecting to the States.
  • Fake Defector: In the novel Sharpe's Tiger, Sharpe and Lt. Lawford infiltrate the fortress of Seringapatam 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, which both Harper and Hogan lampshade. 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, and doing anything she asks him to boot. As Hogan at one point complains, King Arthur would have loved Sharpe, precisely because of his habit of leaping on a white charger and looking for ladies to rescue.
  • Feed the Mole: Sharpe's Sword. It's Sharpe feeding information to la Marquesa that allows The Duke of Wellington to win the Battle of Salamanca.
  • Field Promotion: How Sharpe is risen up from the ranks to the officer's mess in the first place. He saved Wellington from enemy soldiers after Wellington was unhorsed in India.
    • Implied at Waterloo, when the Duke tells Sharpe the South Essex is "your Battalion now" during the climax of the battle.
  • Fire-Forged Friends:
    • 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 shortly after meets her. Not long after she has accidentally shot Sharpe. Of course, she prefers the charms of Sharpe, just like almost every woman in the Sharpeverse who isn't paired off with someone else - this is lampshaded by an upset Frederickson, who complains, 'how many women do you want?!'. Then again, Frederickson, while a good man, is hardly a looker and described as something of a misogynist - he doesn't necessarily see women as beneath him, but he doesn't like them very much, probably as a defence mechanism against rejection. Sharpe, by contrast, is roguishly handsome, awkwardly charming, and Major Hogan at one point remarks that King Arthur would have loved Sharpe simply for his proclivity for hopping on a (metaphorical) white charger and galloping to the rescue.
  • Friendly Sniper: Daniel Hagman, a cheerful Northerner who 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.
  • Genius Bruiser:
    • Captain Frederickson is a tough commander and fearsome fighter and marksman, with a horrifying appearance that he accentuates 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 landscapes, discussing architecture with Frenchmen and politics with Americans.
    • Sharpe himself is borderline illiterate and ignorant but he is certainly not stupid. He speaks fluent Spanish and, eventually, French, 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.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars:
    • 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.
  • Groin Attack: It's a favourite. Sharpe ends one fight with a Giant Mook by stabbing him in the balls.
    "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.
  • Gutted Like a Fish: Leroux in Sharpe's Sword uses this to escape from a military hospital at one point, cutting a corpse open and disguising himself with the resulting organs to make it look as if he died like this. Later, Harper finds the body that the organs were stolen from, and realises what's happened.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Many, many villains give this, usually in the form of a threat or boastful speech. It never takes.
  • He Knows Too Much:
    • Sharpe's Peril. Sharpe and a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits are hunted across India after learning that a rogue cavalry squadron is running a secret drug trade using opium stolen from the East India Company.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Sharpe and Harper. They become life long friends and the two are rarely separated after they become friends.
  • Highly Conspicuous Uniform:
    • 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.
  • Historical Villain Downgrade: The author's note for Sharpe's Enemy notes that he'd written Pot-au-Feu as more of an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain than the ruthless criminal he probably was — presumably to differentiate him from Hakeswill, with whom he teams up.
  • 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 books (except for the siege books and Sharpe's Waterloo, which go into loving detail about the Allied casualties) could be forgiven for wondering where all the British casualties came from.
  • Human Sacrifice: Tippoo Sultan practices it in Tiger. He has prisoners executed by Jetti's in a sort of pseudo religious practice. Note that Tippo Sultan actually ABOLISHED human sacrifice in real life.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: Colonel Girdwood does this to Harper in Sharpe's Regiment, luckily Sharpe helps Harper escape.
  • 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 honour.
  • 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. Played straight in Sharpe's Peril, where the sole survivor of a massacred Indian village is a girl of about four, who ran away and becomes a sort of Morality Pet for one of the East India Company soldiers.
  • Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: Sharpe does it to a mutineer in Sharpe's Gold.
  • 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.
  • Ironic Echo: In Sharpe's Triumph, McCandless throws Hakeswill's "It says so in the scriptures" catchphrasenote  back at him, and unlike with Hakeswill, what he says is actually in the scripturesnote .
  • It Has Been an Honor: To Gudin, after they are found out, in Tiger.
  • It's Personal:
    • 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. This is ultimately his downfall, though on several occasions he comes extremely close to succeeding.
    • Sharpe and Hakeswill have this for each other. Sharpe would love nothing more then to be able to kill and/or humiliate Hakeswill and Hakeswill feels the same about Sharpe.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Hakeswill, for about four and a half 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.
    • Sergeant Havercamp of Sharpe's Regiment also gets away with everything he did, as he's a Lovable Rogue and points out, accurately, that he's the best recruiting Sergeant that Sharpe's got.
    • Lieutenant-Colonel Girdwood appears to be this, at first... then it becomes very obvious that Sharpe's keeping him around because he can control him.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, especially when they're administered by a firing squad - or at least, he appears to survive, then Sharpe administers the coup de grace with a rifle bullet from point blank range.
  • 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.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Sharpe is decidedly prone to murdering his enemies, whether they're on his own side or not.
  • The Musketeer: Sharpe carries a Baker rifle (i.e. an extremely accurate long gun by the standards of the time) 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.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Jorge Vicente believes that the French ideals of liberté, égalité, and fraternité have a lot to recommend them, and that the Portuguese government could do with some serious reform. But his love of his homeland outweighs his philosophical ideals, and so he fights for Portugual.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: A lot of the French villains and Spanish partisans, e.g. Brigadier Loup ("The Wolf"), La Aguja ("The Needle"), El Castrador ("The Castrator").
  • Napoléon 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 - though he does, at one point, very nearly die of fever induced by a wound and is found in a ward for the dying.
  • 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, have reputations for ruthlessness, and who care deeply for their men.
    • Lord Cochrane in Sharpe's Devil is also reminiscent of Sharpe when he was younger, carving out a reputation for being able to pull off the impossible, repeatedly doing insane things and getting away with them - and he was every bit as mad in Real Life as he's depicted as being in Sharpe's Devil, if not more so. They're even pretty much the same age, with only two years between them.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: McCandless plays this on Sharpe's behalf, after tampering with a warrant.
  • Odd Friendship: Gutter-brawler Richard Sharpe and aristocrat William Lawford. It began when they spent three months chained to the same cell wall in India, at which time Lawford taught Sharpe his letters. Sharpe repaid him by breaking him out and, to a degree, teaching him how to fight (or at least, how to be a soldier - though he's bookish, Lawford is noted as an excellent marksman).
    • Though it doesn't last as long, Sharpe is also friends with Lawford's uncle McCandless, an old, well-educated, highly moral, extremely religious Scottish intelligence officer for the East India Company, who has a lot of faith in Sharpe and believes that, for all his flaws, he is a good man. Him being shot in the leg is a large part of why Sharpe doesn't join Pohlmann, as he legitimately cares about the man.
  • Officer and a Gentleman:
    • 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.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • 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 Sergeant-Major Harper, who is itching for payback. He gets another one when he realises that he's been sent on a mission to concealed part of the battlefield with Harper and several other Irishmen, who've also suffered under him, and they're all grinning at him...
  • The Only One: No matter how large the armies or how complicated the situations, it inevitably falls to Sharpe, his Riflemen, and/or the South Essex Light Company to save the day and defeat the bad guys - or at least, do what needs to be done to let the rest of the army win the battle.
    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.
  • Overly Long Name: Sharpe's Sword introduces La Marquesa de Casares el Grande y Melida Sadaba. Ironically, she's actually French.
  • Picaresque: Cornwell describes the series as this in the afterword of Sharpe's Eagle.
  • 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 (albeit a small one with a leaky roof) 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 Sergeant Major who runs a successful pub and horse thieving 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.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits:
    • 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 (since Sharpe's attitude to rapists is positively murderous and he's rarely seen drunk, save when he's phenomenally depressed, the rest is merely a matter of eliminationnote ).
    • 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"note .
    • And even more appropriately, "Our army is the scum of the earth, the merest scum of the earth... but by God, what fine fellows have we made of them!"note 
    • 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 Portuguese armies who've organised into an army of their own.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn:
    • 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.
  • Rebel Leader:
    • Teresa Moreno a.k.a. 'La Aguja' (The Needle, a name Sharpe gave her). 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.
  • The Red Baron: All partisans get a nickname, with Teresa being known as 'La Aguja' (the Needle - Sharpe gave her the name). Other notable heroic partisans include 'El Castrador' (exactly what it sounds like), and villainous ones include 'El Catolico' (Teresa's betrothed, so named for his habit of saying the Latin prayer for the dead as he kills his enemies) and 'El Matarife' (the Slaughterman).
  • 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 achievements 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!"
  • Ret-Canon:
    • 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, particularly Ensigns, 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.
  • Sergeant Rock: Patrick Harper pretty much occupies this position
    • We only have about one scene of Sharpe leading men as a sergeant, but from what brief interactions we see, and considering the fact that not getting punished for his men being killed actually makes Sharpe feel worse, he may have been this, to a degree.
  • Self-Made Man: Sir William In Sharpe's Justice and, to a lesser extent, Sharpe himself.
  • Shoot Your Mate:
    • In Sharpe's Tiger, then-Private Sharpe and Lt. Lawford are sent to infiltrate Seringapatam 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 it's left ambiguous whether Sharpe knew about the bad powder before or after he fired the weapon.
      • It's a good bet he knew the musket wouldn't fire though. As he so rightly points out to Lawford, at that point the Tippoo Sultan had no idea whether or not Sharpe and Lawford were spies and potential assassins, and so the last thing he would do is give Sharpe a working weapon while he was standing right next to him.
    • 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 by a matter of inches; 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.
  • Shot in the Ass: How Sharpe ends a duel in Sharpe's Revenge (though according to Sharpe himself, he was aiming for a gut shot).
  • Shout-Out: A good many:
    • 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.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!:
    • Wellesley's aforementioned chewing out of Henry Simmerson is the best example.
    • Sharpe delivers a truly memorable example when he interrupts someone's Hannibal Lecture by kicking them down a well.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Part of why Sharpe is so attractive to women - he's rough, but he's a genuinely decent man.
  • Smug Snake:
    • 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 very Dirty 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 Bautista 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 morality and courage 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. Further, he 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 Bastard invoked, 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 Portuguese 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 (unsurprising, considering that he'd be close to 90) and Lucille was still alive, though apparently very lonely. Patrick's younger 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.
    • Sometimes, even Harper can't make a decent cuppa:
    [After the battle of Quatre Bras, Sharpe and Harper used a discarded French cavalry breastplate to cook their dinner in. The next morning, Harry Price found them loitering on the edge of the battlefield, and shared a drink with them]
    "That was a bloody horrible mug of tea."
    "It had a bit of dead horse in it," Harper explained helpfully.
  • The Starscream:
    • Ducos turns out to be this to the French Empire, stealing part of the Imperial treasure then running away.
    • Other examples include incompetent and scheming officers who try to take Wellington down.
    • Sharpe is generally this to any useless superiors, and even tries to murder the very useless Prince of Orange at Waterloo - though only after the Prince's incompetence had got several entire battalions slaughtered and he looked set to get more killed.
  • The Spymaster:
    • 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.
    • Lord Pumphrey. Officially works for the Foreign Office, in the fine tradition of spies pretending to be/working as diplomats. Gathers intelligence, serves the interests of His Majesty's Government, is perfectly charming and has no discernible morals whatsoever.
    • "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 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 Seringapatam in India or the Siege of Badajoz in Spain. Sieges of varying scale and intensity occur through out the books.
  • Suicide Attack:
    • 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 Is Shameful: When Cochrane takes Valdivia in Sharpe's Devil, its military governor kills himself rather than fighting to the end, which Cochrane dismisses as a "cowardly way out".
  • 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.
  • Superstitious Sailors: In Sharpe's Siege, Captain Killick takes full advantage of sailors' reputation for superstition; he invents a legend that hanging a sailor in still air is bad luck, and when he wants to make his ship look unsalvageable he has the figurehead removed because "No sailor would take away a figurehead if a ship still had life in her."
  • Tactical Withdrawal: Most of the novel Sharpe's Escape follows Wellington's retreat through Portugal to the Lines of Torres Vedras.
  • 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.
    Marcos: Si senor - now they cannot give alarm.
  • Title Drop:
    • 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.
  • The Tooth Hurts: Poor Harper has a horrible toothache in Sharpe's Siege.
  • Unfriendly Fire:
    • So many examples that you might start to wonder whether there was anyone left for the French to kill.
    • Gibbons and Berry are both killed by Harper and Sharpe respectively.
    • Hakeswill has no trouble killing soldiers on his side if it is in pursuit of his own goals or to pay someone back for a perceived slight.
    • Sergeant Lynch is forced to go into battle with a squad of Irish soldiers led by Harper. The last time he's shown, they've all started grinning at him and Harper later reports that he regrets to say that Lynch was killed in the confusion. And his remains were regrettably spread over a wide area.
  • Unstoppable Rage:
    • 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.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Most of the officers. The Prince Regent, an example of Truth in Televsion.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Many.
    • Marshal Massena goes through a very pronounced one after seeing the Lines of Torres Vedras, 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 most 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.
  • Warrior Poet: Jorge Vicente is a lawyer by trade and a nature-loving philosopher and poet by inclination. Then he joins the Portuguese army, and swiftly proves himself to be courageous, intelligent, a natural leader, and highly capable in battle.
    "I love my country more than I love Monsieur Rousseau," Vicente said sadly, "So I shall be a soldier before I am a poet."
  • Weapon of Choice: Sharpe uses a Baker Rifle and a 1796 heavy cavalry sabre for fighting in close quarters. He prefers, and is much more skilled with, the rifle. Not only is the pairing very effective in combat as the cavalry sword is able to power through lighter officer swords and the rifle has more range and accuracy than either a musket or a pistol, but they serve as a reminder of the character's humble beginnings and where he is now. Sgt. Harper, Sharpe's second-in-command, uses a Nock gun, a seven-barrelled rifle developed in limited numbers by the Royal Navy; the gun has understandably immense firepower, especially at close range and with it, ridiculous recoil (in real life the British found the gun was Cool, but Inefficient as it was very heavy, very slow to reload and it would even often injure the operator by breaking or dislocating their shoulder; Harper never experiences this issue).
  • 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.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Sharpe and Teresa's baby daughter, Antonia, is taken by Teresa's family, and just disappears after that. Partly justified, since Sharpe seems to consider her better off being raised by her aunt and uncle than by 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.
    • The Tippoo Sultan in Sharpe's Tiger. While Sharpe does loot the jewels from his body, he leaves the Tippoo's sword, and salutes him as he dies, outright saying he deserves to keep it, as he fought hard and died like a soldier.
  • 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.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men:
    • Whenever Sharpe has to get somewhere by ship in the books, particularly in Sharpe's Trafalgar and Sharpe's Devil.
    • Sharpe finds himself at the heart of the battle of Trafalgar onboard a British Warship.
  • Worthy Opponent: Quite a few of the books will have an honourable French sergeant or something, but particular mention goes to the deeply-likeable General Calvet.
  • Wrecked Weapon: Sharpe's Sword. Sharpe's sword breaks and Sergeant Harper sets out to find a new one for him while Sharpe is recovering from a near lethal injury and subsequent infection.
  • You're Insane!: Sharpe's Devil has the "one-hero-to-another" version, delivered by Sharpe (who's had enough of war) to Cochrane (who definitely hasn't).

Boromir would have fared better if he could fire three rounds per minute in any weather!


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