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Series / Sharpe

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Here's forty shillings on the drum
To those who volunteer to come,
To 'list and fight the foe today
Over the Hills and far away.

Sharpe is a British series of historical war television movies, adapted from the series of novels of the same name written by Bernard Cornwell, starring Sean Bean as Richard Sharpe, a fictional British soldier in The Napoleonic Wars, alongside Daragh O'Malley as Patrick Harper, and a slew of British talent in supporting roles.

The episodes, which adapt the tale of a Yorkshire soldier who is given a field commission and rises from obscurity to become a decisive force during the Peninsular War of the early 19th century, compress, modify or jettison several aspects of the original novels to fit standard television runtimes, while several new stories were invented for the screen.

The series originally ran regularly between 1993 and 1997, 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.

Tropes that appear in the TV movies:

  • 0% Approval Rating: The Prince of Orange in Sharpe's Waterloo, to the point where the only witness to Sharpe's attempt to frag him is more than happy to turn a blind eye to it.
  • Above the Influence: Catherine offers herself to Sharpe the night before the Final Battle in "Sharpe's Siege". Sharpe, being recently married, refuses. But notes to himself that he'd have trouble doing it if she offered a second time.
  • Adaptational Badass: Lt. Berry from Sharpe's Eagle is a fat blubbering henchman to Lt. Gibbons in the novel. In the TV version he's played by Daniel Craig and becomes a considerably more dangerous villain, while Lt. Gibbons is secondary to him.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Lord Kiely, in the TV version of Sharpe's Battle is much more heroic (and likeable) than his book counterpart (who, notably, is not married; and, rather than the TV version's Redemption Equals Death, is instead Driven to Suicide).
  • Adaptation Decay:
    • The films lack the scale of the battle scenes as described in the books due to budget limitations. For example, the bridge at Valdelacasa is wooden in film, it was stone in the novel.
    • Sharpe's Challenge is an adaptation of prequel books in which Sgt. Obadiah Hakeswill is the main villain, but is set after most of the episodes including the one where Hakeswill finally dies, so Sharpe is given a Hakeswill expy villain who isn't particularly convincing.
  • Adaptation Distillation: In the novels, Sharpe saves Wellington's life in India in 1803. This is moved to 1809 Spain for the film of Sharpe's Rifles.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Harper should be blonde and Sharpe should have dark hair, running to a grey streak as he ages. In face the reverse is true.
  • Affably Evil: Pot au Feu, the French quartermaster in Sharpe's Enemy and one half of a Big Bad Duumvirate with Hakeswill, is noticeably cordial and welcoming for a deserter, offering to cook for his captives.
    • Sir Willoughby Parfitt from Sharpe's Justice is another good example and is incidentally played by the same actor.
  • Age Lift: Sergeant Harper in the novel series is around his mid twenties, it's fair to say that Daragh O'Malley can't make the same claim in the television series.
  • An Asskicking Christmas: The climax of Sharpe's Enemy takes place on Christmas Day.
  • And This Is for...: Harper when he stabs a traitorous Irish soldier who murdered Perkins.
    Harper: This one's for Perkins!(stabs once) This one's for Ireland! (stabs again) And this one's for me. (stabs a third time)
  • Arch-Enemy: Obadiah Hakeswill is somewhat downplayed in this role in the series, appearing only in Sharpe's Company and Sharpe's Enemy. However, the effect he has on Sharpe still lasts throughout the series.
    • 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, which was in an incident that Ducos caused by insulting Sharpe's recently departed wife Teresa. Following his introduction in Sharpe's Enemy, he acts as the Man Behind the Man in later episodes Sharpe's Honour, Sharpe's Siege (in which he and Sharpe never meet despite being aware of each other's involvement) and Sharpe's Revenge.
    • Arguably, Sir Henry Simmerson, by virtue of appearances throughout the series, serving as a recurring obstacle of Sharpe's in Sharpe's Eagle, Sharpe's Sword, Sharpe's Regiment and Sharpe's Challenge.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Played Straight and Subverted. On screen at least pretty much ever other officer Sharpe meets is an aristocrat, and while many turn out to be antagonists or incompetents, others are honourable characters and become allies of Sharpe. The Duke of Wellington is portrayed in a generally favourable light, and the Prince of Wales, while being portrayed as a total lunatic, becomes a patron of Sharpe's. The trope is further subverted in Sharpe's Justice in which the villain is not an aristocrat, but a monied commoner who compares himself directly to Sharpe as a man from humble beginnings who rose to prominence on his own merit.
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: The whole British Army, even the elite riflemen, are shown as a Truth in Television example of this. Sharpe is given no illusions about this early on in his command.
    Sharpe: Did you volunteer for this lot, Cooper?
    Cooper: Uh no, not exactly sir. I was invited to join... by a magistrate.
  • Artistic Licence – History: The series treats the term "Chosen Men" as if it refers to an elite, hand-picked group of riflemen. In reality, "Chosen Man" is just the historic term for "Lance Corporal" and becoming one simply meant that you were advancing in rank.
  • Ascended Extra: Most of the Chosen Men are only featured in the book Sharpe's Battle. They are all prominent characters on the show.
  • Autobots, Rock Out!: The series' opening theme tune is played on the electric guitar. Sean Bean's credit in the opening titles is announced by a distinctive single chord, and during the closing credits, John Tams' rendition of 'Over the Hills and Far Away' morphs into a full blown guitar solo.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Harper's Nock gun. It has seven barrels and can take out multiple opponents at a time, but at the price of enormous recoil, tricky reload and possibly setting a ship on fire. However, Harper, who is a large man, can handle the recoil and is using it on land.
  • Badass Longcoat: Greatcoats were pretty common for soldiers in that period, but Sean Bean made them look awesome.
  • Badass Preacher: Father Curtis from [[Recap/SharpeS3E3SharpesSword Sharpe's Sword]]. In addition to his being an expert swordsman, as El Mirador, he also acts as the centre of the British spy network in the region. Excellent singer, too.
  • Bald of Evil: Obadiah Hakeswill, Major Pierre Ducos and Colonel Brand.
  • Battle Couple: Sharpe and Teresa, particularly in some of the TV movies.
  • Battle Trophy: As typical of wars of the era, obtaining an enemy standard (in other words, capturing their flag) is seen as a complete and total victory superior to an ordinary enemy retreat. The loss of the King's Colours is seen as a shame beyond measure in Sharpe's Eagle, and capturing the Imperial Eagle (the standard of Napoleon's armies) is an equally heroic feat. On a smaller scale, soldiers including Sharpe and his company are commonly seen with looted French gear, often noting its superiority to the standard British army equipment.
  • Bayonet Ya: Seen frequently among line infantry, when the British go up against the French in close quarters. The Rifles are occasionally shown using their sword bayonets (such as in the climax of Sharpe's Eagle)note , although they usually wield the bayonets as sidearms rather than fixing them to their rifles.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Pot-au Feu and Obadiah Hakeswill in Sharpe's Enemy.
  • Blatant Lies: Simmerson in Sharpe's Eagle when he delivers a field report about a bridge's destruction to Wellington, stating that Major Lennox panicked and that Sharpe dithered. Doubly so since Wellington already knows what happened thanks to Hogan.
  • The Book Cipher: A book cipher plays an important role in the TV version of Sharpe's Sword. The key text is Voltaire's Candide.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Sergeant Lynch from Sharpe's Regiment is an Irish soldier who hates Irishmen.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Hagman's fate in Sharpe's Waterloo.
  • Break the Badass: When Perkins is killed, Harper, Hagman and Harris to comfort him in his dying moments, these three hardened soldiers are reduced to Manly Tears by the event, and Harper promptly forgets about everything else to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against his murderer. Sharpe was elsewhere at the time, but the look on his face when he comes back and sees Perkins' body cradled in Harper's arms also qualifies.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Harris is fluent in several languages but is (in his own words) "a courtier to Bacchus and an unremitting debtor" (meaning he was a drunkard and a wastrel).
  • British Brevity: The episodes consist of 16 feature length television films, each one clocking in at just under 2 hours.
  • Brits Love Tea: This being the British army, tea is prevalent. In fact, Sharpe drinks a lot more tea on screen than he does liquor, in spite of being a ranker at heart. He also has vocal opinions on his subordinates' tea-making skills.
    Harris: Come now, sir! Have some soup!
    Sharpe: Soup... if Harper were here, he'd have the tea ready, and he'd have my tent up...
  • Bully Hunter: Invoked by Father Curtis, an Irish priest in Spain and British spymaster, who defends Sharpe's love interest from the lecherous advances of Sir Henry Simmerson. Simmerson asks why the priest would care, since as an Irishman he should hate the English and support the French.
    Curtis: John Bull's a bad neighbor, but Bonaparte's a bully, and so are you.
  • Butt-Monkey: As the youngest of the Chosen Men, Perkins usually gets the most humiliations, like getting taken hostage by Teresa, Disguised in Drag, getting a Tap on the Head from Hakeswill which leads to Teresa getting killed) and having his Love Interest fall victim to the Cartwright Curse.
  • Call-Back: In Sharpe's Rifles, Dan Hagman advises Sharpe to treat an old wound with brown paper and paraffin oil. Eight specials later, when Sharpe has just recovered from being shot Dan Hagman gives Sharpe a gift of brown paper and paraffin oil.
    • Another one happens in Sharp's Waterloo, calling all the way back to Sharpe's Rifles.
      Sharpe: [Upon being given command of the "Chosen Men"] Chosen men, eh? Well... I didn't choose ya!
      [Fast forward to Sharpe's Waterloo]
      Sharpe: [After Harris and Hagman are killed by way of the Prince of Orange's terrible leadership and cowardice] They were my men! I chose them!
  • Camping a Crapper: Sgt. Williams, while about to take a pee, is strangled by the Man in Black in Sharpe's Rifles.
  • Child Soldier: Ensign Matthews in Sharpe's Company (the actor was 17). Generally portrayed as Truth in Television, as teenagers were conscripted for the Napoleonic Wars on both sides; children are seen in yellow Drummers' jackets in several scenes.
  • Chronically Killed Actor: Averted. Richard Sharpe is apparently so badass that not even being played by Sean Bean can kill him. Watching the series today becomes pretty surreal thanks to this, as scenes in which the original audience would have been confident in Sharpe's Plot Armour holding are much more suspenseful to modern viewers who are aware of Bean's reputation.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: There are several examples of this over the course of the series:
    • Major Hogan disappears after Sharpe's Eagle, even though he was present for far longer in the book series, leading the writers to create a string of Suspiciously Similar Substitutes: Major Nairn, Major Monroe, and Major General Ross.
    • Rifleman Isaiah Tongue disappears after Sharpe's Eagle. In the novels, he was killed in Sharpe's Gold, which came directly after Sharpe's Eagle in the books, but not in the TV series which made three episodes in between. No explanation is given for his disappearance from the show, and he is never mentioned again.
    • Rifleman Francis Cooper disappears after Sharpe's Gold. He was present for far longer in the novels, but only after being killed in the opening battle of Sharpe's Rifles and then (somehow) reappearing in later novels owing to the character's success in the TV series.
  • Cigar Chomper: Captain Leroy is often shown smoking cigars in his scenes, particularly when Sharpe meets him and the Battle of Talavera during Sharpe's Eagle.
  • Clothes Make the Legend: Richard Sharpe's Green Rifleman's jacket fits this trope because it's used specifically to distinguish his character from the regular "redcoat" officers.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Sharpe's willingness to do this is often played up to contrast his rough, line soldier upbringing to that of the officer class. When Sharpe is forced into a duel in Sharpe's Honour, his opponent proves his better in swordplay, so he wins by kicking the fellow in the jewels instead. Harper certainly has his moments, too; when he and Sharpe get into a fight in Sharpe's Rifles, he grabs Sharpe's balls.
  • Companion Cube: Hakeswill speaks to his hat as if it is his mother. It's also a handy place to hide a stolen picture.
  • Cultured Badass: A surprising number show up, most of them as part of the "Officer and a Gentleman"-schtick.
    • Rifleman Harris is fluent in several languages and the only one to cart a minor library around Spain. He likes Wordsworth, Voltaire, and, of course, the smutty books by the Marquis de Sade. He is also a member of the elite 95th Rifles, and a Chosen Man of that regiment.
    • Captain Frederickson, a grizzled and heavily scarred company commander from the Royal American Rifles, also speaks several languages and spends his free time discussing politics with American expats and French prisoners, admiring the architecture of several Spanish medieval churches, making landscape sketches in pencil and studying to take the Bar exam after the war.
    • Sharpe himself gains shades of this as the series goes on, mostly through interacting with Harris and being immersed in more high-brow environments after becoming an officer. By the time the Peninsular war is over he is regularly seen trading and discussing books with Harris, and even shows some interest in art.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Captain Leroy, one of the only two competent officers on Sir Henry Simmerson's staff, Sharpe's advocate in Sharpe's Eagle, and generally depicted as a Reasonable Authority Figure is also a man whose money was derived from the slave trade. In the TV series, he specifically has misgivings about Simmerson ordering white soldiers flogged, and Sharpe eventually calls him on it.
  • Demoted to Extra: Because the TV version of Sharpe's Rifles introduces Teresa early, Major Blas Vivar's role is downplayed in her favour. In the books, Teresa debuts in Sharpe's Gold.
  • Disguised in Drag: Perkins when the Chosen Men infiltrate a fort in Sharpe's Enemy.
  • Double Meaning: Sharpe disapproves of flogging, believing it an ineffectual form of discipline that only teaches soldiers how to show their backs.
  • Downer Ending:
    • The TV version of what was to be the last episode, Sharpe's Waterloo, included two of Sharpe's best men and close friends, who had appeared in every previous episode, being killed due to incompetence by the Prince of Orange. And then the recent revival Sharpe's Challenge made matters worse by killing off Sharpe's wife soon after they were married, whereas in the books they live Happily Ever After.
    • Sharpe's Enemy: Sharpe's finally rid of Hakeswill, but not before his enemy fatally wounds Teresa.
  • The Dragon:
    • The Man in Black (real name Tomas Vivar) to Colonel De L'Eclin in Sharpe's Rifles as his right-hand man.
    • Lt. Berry (played by Daniel Craig) plays this role to Sir Henry Simmerson in Sharpe's Eagle. Borders on Dragon-in-Chief in the second half of the episode when Simmerson tells Berry to get rid of Sharpe, since Berry makes the plans.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: The television adaptations are a bit prone to this. Made even worse by their use of flintlock muskets, pistols and rifles; generally these make only a pronounced "click" when pulled back to half-cock (safe position from which the pan may be primed), followed by another when pulled to full-cock. Trying to get a flintlock to make the characteristic set of three closely-spaced, sharp clicks the series uses is... not easy.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: The Chosen Men disguise themselves as French soldiers to rescue Sharpe in Sharpe's Honour, with Perkins as a cholera infectee.
  • Dwindling Party: The Chosen Men are slowly whittled down over the series.
  • Edible Ammunition: In Sharpe's Honour, Major Richard Sharpe goes to a convent to rescue/retrieve a woman who was set up to accuse him of murder and is actually a French spy. She's held in the kitchen, cooking, and when Sharpe makes his appearance, the nuns attack him with food like chicken and vegetables. Sharpe grabs the chicken himself and uses the classic move of turning around. That's how you fight wicked nuns.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: The Rifles' green coats denote them as being elite skirmishers who run around the battlefield to harry the enemy in contrast to red-coated soldiers move in disciplined ranks. Hakeswill takes great pleasure in stripping the Rifles of their green coats and forcing them to wear red like common soldiers.
  • El Spanish "-o": Several examples, most of them involving Hagman.
    • When trying to get his boots repaired in Portugal:
    How much to nailee the solee to me bootee?
    • When managing French prisoners:
    Alright, Commez-vous here, Frenchie!
  • Enemy Mine:
  • Ensign Newbie: One of these show up every now and then. Typically they don's survive.
    • Ensign Denny in Sharpe's Eagle. He doesn't make it through the episode.
    • Ensign Matthews from Sharpe's Company is 16. Hakeswill kills him in an attempt to kill Sharpe.
  • 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 (she's never even named). In the books. The TV adaptation did name her, as Lily.
  • Everyone Has Standards: The Man in Black is disgusted when Harper shoots one of his men in the throat using a ramrod as a bullet.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: Major Munro is fond of his bagpipes, boasting that he taught himself how to play. When Sharpe asks a nearby sentry how he stands the racket, the sentry demonstrates that he's wearing earplugs.
  • Facial Horror: Captain Frederickson's head is pretty much covered in scars. He has burn scars all over his head that cost him most of his hair, and took a musket ball in the face which shattered his jaw, knocked out most of his teeth, tore one of his eyes out of its socket on the way out and left him with a Glasgow Grin. He deliberately cultivates his fearsome appearance to instill fear in his enemies, removes his false teeth and glass eye before going into combat (much to the disgust of people around him) and collects teeth from dead Frenchmen to make himself a set of dentures. His men call him Sweet William.
  • Faking the Dead: Sharpe in Sharpe's Honour, the entire squad of Chosen Men in Sharpe's Battle.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: In the TV series, Sir Henry Simmerson is one of the longest-running Sharpe antagonists, appearing intermittedly ever since the second episode. However, it's only in the latest episode, Sharpe's Peril, that Sharpe and Simmerson find themselves actually fighting the bad guys as part of the same unit, and after the battle, Simmerson is a good deal friendlier to Sharpe than ever before, actually shaking his hand and calling him "Richard".
    Harper: Now I've seen everything.
  • Flynning: Sword-carrying extras engaged in this during battle scenes. Also seen when two fencers engage in "pirate halves" to establish that they're sheltered and playing at being duelists rather than warriors like Sharpe.
  • Food Slap: Wine tossed into face, courtesy of Richard Sharpe to two jerk officers in Sharpe's Eagle.
  • French Jerk: Surprisingly for a war series, this trope is often subverted when it comes to Napoleon's army. Whilst there are plenty of card-carrying villains for Sharpe to defeat, there are plenty of honourable men who just happen to be on the opposing side to Sharpe. Straight examples include:
    • Brigadier General Guy Loup, a flashy and unerringly cruel French soldier with his own fiercely loyal brigade, complete with their own special uniforms. Whilst he is A Father to His Men, this extends to allowing them to Rape, Pillage, and Burn their way across the Spanish countryside.
    • Major Pierre Ducos, who is a jerk to everyone he interacts with including his own allies, a nasty misogynist, and Dirty Coward to boot.
  • Friendly Sniper: Hagman seems to enjoy the company of his unit and breaks into song at every opportunity. And he can take a man down at eight hundred yards with a flintlock rifle. To a lesser extent, this is true of the entire rifle unit, who are all a pretty fun bunch of guys.
  • Girl of the Week: Subverted. Sharpe gets married and has the same Love Interest from movie to movie just as often as he has temporary flings.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Sharpe periodically removes his shirt with his back to the camera, thus reminding viewers that he still carries scars from a long-ago (and nearly lethal) flogging. In Sharpe's Eagle he does so before a group of soldiers, making sure they know he too was once one of them.
    "The South Essex. Sir Henry aside, Sharpe, what do you make of them, man for man?"
    "They're flogged soldiers, sir. And flogging teaches a man only one lesson."
    "What's that, Richard?"
    "How to turn his back."
    • Obadiah Hakeswill, on the other hand, has a scar round his neck which only adds to his freakish and sinister appearance.
    • Colonel Brand seems to have a duelling scar.
    • 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.
    • Similarly averted by Major Septimus Pyecroft, who is missing a forearm and whose own facial injuries necessitate the wearing of a leather hood, but is also one of Sharpe's allies and defends a gypsy girl from rogue English troops.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Sharpe gets into a fist fight with Lt. Berry in Sharpe's Eagle when the latter tries to rape Josefina.
  • Groin Attack: Borders on Once an Episode. Sharpe and Harper are both extremely fond of this tactic and deploy it frequently.
    • Harper grabs Sharpe in the balls during a fight in Sharpe's Rifles. Sharpe returns the favour in another fight in the same episode.
    • Sharpe tries to kick Berry in the balls in a fight in Sharpe's Eagle. Berry only sniggers.
  • Hat Damage: Harper shoots off the Man in Black's hat as he retreats during Sharpe's Rifles.
  • Heavy Sleeper: Colonel Runciman sleeps through an entire battle during Sharpe's Battle.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Sharpe's Waterloo depicts Prince of Orange as a selfish, buffoonish glory hog that doesn't care at all for the men he commands and we're supposed to cheer when Sharpe kills him in cold blood after a botched assault. This depiction is considered an exaggeration, although historical debates as to his merits continue to this day, due to some serious mistakes he made at Waterloo.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Both the British and French armies often display horrendous tactics. In Sharpe's Rifles, the British company Sharpe is initially assigned to gets completely wiped out by French cavalry, mainly because they make no attempt form up and fight in lines or squares. Likewise, the French cavalry seems only capable of doing a Zerg Rush. They never dismount and fight on foot with carbines, not even when in narrow city streets where fighting from horseback is totally impractical.
  • Human Shield: Theresa uses Perkins as one when the Spanish guerillas encounter Sharpe in Sharpe's Rifles.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Berry to Gibbons in Sharpe's Eagle. Gibbons is on higher social standing, being the nephew of an aristocrat, while Berry is his friend (and Berry remarks that he's not "top drawer"), but Berry is smarter and tougher.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Happens a few times.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Berry boasts of these in Sharpe's Eagle.
    Berry: "Nobody can beat me with a pistol at 50 paces."
  • Improbable Weapon User: Harper uses a ramrod as a bullet in Sharpe's Rifles.
  • In Name Only: The TV version of Sharpe's Gold, which involves Aztec human sacrifice in Spain.
  • Insistent Terminology: Captain Leroy is not an American, he is a Virginian.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: Almost an inversion - "Over the Hills and Far Away" is frequently used this way, but justified by its being an old folk song about the military.
  • Irregular Series: Ran from 1993 to 1997 before returning in 2006 and 2008.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The TV version of Sharpe.
    Marie-Angelique: You are a good man, Richard, whatever you would have the world think.
  • Lack of Empathy: Major Pierre Ducos has no regard for anyone, even his own allies. Take this exchange from Sharpe's Enemy:
    Sharpe: Fool's errand? That man's wife is held hostage, sir. What is he to do?
    Ducos: Find another.
  • Last Request: Major Lennox asks Sharpe to get him a French Imperial Eagle to make up for losing the King's Colours, before dying of his wounds in Sharpe's Eagle.
  • The Lost Lenore: Cecile, Sharpe's French lover (introduced in Sharpe's Revenge) dies off-screen before the events of Sharpe's Challenge of a fever.
  • Made of Iron: Sharpe takes a great amount of damage over the series, mostly sword slashes and shots to the leg, but he gets shot in the gut in Sharpe's Sword. And that's not going into the scars on his back from 200 lashes.
  • The Man They Couldn't Hang: Obidiah Hakeswill thinks this of himself. With him, it's a literal case, having survived a hanging himself as well as numerous attempts to kill him.
  • Meaningful Echo: When Sharpe is first introduced to the Chosen Men under his command, he utters with contempt: "So, the Chosen Men, uh? Well, I didn't choose you!" Fast forward to the Battle of Waterloo, after the last two surviving Chosen Men, not counting Harper, die, he cries out: "They were mine! I chose them!", in reference to the fact that he did help Hagman and Harris enlist and get the rank of sergeants.
  • Miles Gloriosus: The Army is filled with them because the books and series are set at a time when wealthy men looking for glory bought their commissions and merit-based promotions were extremely rare. The Duke of Wellington is Genre Savvy enough to know when subordinate officers are trying to blow smoke up his assnote .
    • Lieutenant Colonel Girdwood from Sharpe's Regiment writes poetry extolling the glory of combat, but has never fought a real battle in his life. Sharpe eventually bullies Girdwood into leading the South Essex into combat, but a near miss from a cannonball reduces him to a blubbering mess.
    • The Prince Regent is a harmless version of the Miles Gloriosus. He claims credit for great victories and exploits despite never having gone near a battlefield in his life, but everyone humours him since he's more concerned with the ego boost he gets from having his name associated with successful units. Plus, it doesn't hurt one's career to earn his favour when jockeying for position within the army hierarchy.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Just look at how often Sean Bean shows up on that page. Shirtless Scenes in spades.
    Hogan: Sharpe?
    Sharpe: Yes sir?
    Hogan: Stop showing off, Sharpe.
  • The Neidermeyer: The Army is filled with them because the books and series are set at a time when wealthy men looking for glory bought their commissions and merit-based promotions were extremely rare. The Duke of Wellington is Genre Savvy enough to know when subordinate officers are trying to blow smoke up his assnote .
    • Sir Henry Simmerson, the original commander of the South Essex Regiment, is more concerned with superficial things like proper marching and making sure his men stand ramrod straightnote . He's absolutely useless in combat and spends every appearance as the Butt-Monkey of every character he goes against.
  • No Full Name Given: Harris is only ever known as Harris. Hagman lampshades it when he asks about his name. invokedWord of God gives his name as Benjamin.note 
  • "Not So Different" Remark: In Sharpe's Rifles, Sharpe discovers that he's risking his men's lives for an ancient legend: that if the flag of St James is hoisted at Torre Castro, the people of Spain will rise up against the French. Furiously, he confronts Hogan:
    Sharpe: Do you really believe men will fight and die for a rag on a pole?
    Hogan: You do, Richard. You do.
  • Only Sane Man: Captain Leroy in Sharpe's Eagle finds himself in this role among the officers in the second half of the episode, as Simmerson is The Neidermeyer, Lennox is dead, Sharpe gets himself caught up in a feud with Gibbons and Berry (particularly the latter) and Denny is in awe of Sharpe, which gets him killed.
  • Outranking Your Job: The TV series suffers from this, owing to the small budget the show had. Most episodes retains the named officers from the books, but didn't have the money for a full battalion. So often five or six officers would be leading only 30 or so men.
  • Papa Wolf: Sharpe's Company has Sharpe's wife Teresa and his infant daughter Antonia in the city of Badajoz, where there is a large possibility that they will be killed in the ensuing Rape, Pillage, and Burn that would result from invading the city. This is one of the reasons Sharpe wants to lead the charge into Badajoz (the other is so he can remain a captain).
  • Post-Victory Collapse: Dobbs during Sharpe's Eagle when he manages to fire four rounds a minute after receiving 75 lashes.
  • Rank Up:
    • Sharpe is introduced as a sergeant and rises through the ranks to eventually become a lieutenant colonel.
    • Harper is a belligerent chosen man who flourishes when he becomes a sergeant and becomes sergeant major before retiring.
    • In Sharpe's Waterloo, Sharpe arranges for both Harris and Hagman to be made sergeants as a favour to his old companions.
  • Rape as Backstory: Theresa has this, as explained by Major Blas Vivar in Sharpe's Rifles.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Berry and Gibbons gave Josefina a "nice honeymoon." What's worse, they (Berry in particular) only did it to try and piss Sharpe off enough to lead to his disgrace.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic:
    • A perfectly historically correct flintlock lighter, which no-one seems able to identify, shows up in the first episode.
    • Major Blas Vivar carries a strange object which looks like a pistol without a barrel, and at one point uses it to set a piece of paper on fire. The object is in fact a flintlock lighter, of a type that was the height of fashion among tobacco smokers during The Napoleonic Wars.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • In Sharpe's Waterloo, the Prince of Orange is a snivelling brat and an incompetent military leader who has caused the deaths of many, many of his own men. One of his immediate subordinates has finally had enough:
    Doggett: You did it again! Colonel Sharpe said you would do it again, and you did! All those men dead because you wanted to get out? You coward!
    Rebecque: Doggett! His Royal Highness cannot be called a coward.
    Doggett: No, dammit. No, not cowardice, not that. Just so he can dance and prance, and make high cockalorum, while men die? Horribly? It is too much, I declare, too much! I shall say it! [hesitates, then plunges on] You sir, are a silk stocking full of shit! [rides away]
    Wellesley:...Major Hogan reports a number of losses, Sir Henry. He says you first lost your head, and, instead of destroying the bridge, you marched over it. He says you then lost your nerve and ran from a small French patrol. He says you lost ten men, a major and two sergeants. He says you finally lost your sense of honour and destroyed the bridge, cutting off a rescue party led by Lieutenant Sharpe. Major Hogan leaves the worst to the last: He says you lost the King's Colours.
    Simmerson: The fault was not mine sir. Major Lennox must answer-
    Wellesley: Major Lennox answered with his LIFE! As you should have done if you had any sense of honour! You lost the colours of the King of England. You disagraced us, sir! You shamed us, sir! You will answer. By God you will answer! The South Essex is stood down in name. If I wipe the name I may wipe the shame. I am making you a battalion of detachments, you will fetch and carry. The Light Company put up a fight, so I will let it stand under a new captain.
    Simmerson: To be commanded by the newly gazetted Captain Gibbons, sir?
    Wellesley: To be commanded by the newly gazetted Captain Sharpe, sir.
    Wellesley: A man who loses the King's Colours loses the King's friendship.
    • Sharpe gets in a true zinger in Sharpe's Siege when the Comte de Marquerre's attempt at a triumphant homecoming is rejected by his sister:
    Sharpe: You make your bed, Marquerre, and then you lie in it. Without complaining. Trouble with you is you wanted it all. You wanted to go away, be a spy for years, then come back, have everyone pat you on the back, tell you what a big hero you are. The world's not like that, Marquerre. You made your bed with Bonaparte. Maybe he'll give you a medal. Maybe not. As for me, next time you're in my sights and outside of a flag of parlay, I'll shoot you.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Most times when someone makes a Heel–Face Turn, they will die. Examples include Kelly from Sharpe's Enemy and Lord Kiely from Sharpe's Battle.
  • Remember When You Blew Up a Sun?:
    • After Sharpe's Eagle, someone will bring up the fact that Sharpe took an Imperial eagle at the battle of Talavera.
    • Even more often, the fact he saved Wellington's life (in Sharpe's Triumph) is brought up. On one occasion, Hogan even reels off a list of his past exploits, including destroying the powder magazine at Almeida and capturing a breach at Badajoz.
  • Schmuck Bait: In the TV version of Sharpe's Rifles, Sharpe gets Harris to make a sign reading "Keep Out" in French, and puts it at the entrance of a booby-trapped building. Sure enough, the next French cavalrymen to pass fall for it.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: The Chosen Men try this twice during the first two episodes.
  • Shout-Out: George Wickham, a military officer and antagonist of Sharpe's Justice, shares a name with a character from Pride and Prejudice, who is also a military officer and an antagonist.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: In Sharpe's Peril, Sharpe happens to run into the bastard son of his late nemesis Hakeswill, currently under arrest for a theft he didn't commit. Sharpe beats the poor guy up until Harper stops him, but in the end Hakeswill Jr. saves the day and Sharpe and Harper's lives.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The series is very much in the cynical corner.
  • Smug Super: Unlike your average glory-seeking aristocratic officer, Lord Kiely from Sharpe's Battle can back up all his talk of fighting war in "the old ways" with his prowess on the battlefield.
  • Snow Means Death: It's snowing during Sharpe's final duel with El Matarife in Sharpe's Honour.
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: In Sharpe's Waterloo, Sharpe clearly says "Fuck you" to the Prince of Orange, but his words are drowned out by a convenient explosion.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The adaptation of Sharpe's Eagle has Gibbons flee the field with Simmerson and survive rather than being killed by Harper after attacking Sharpe at Talavera. This is mainly because the adaptation reduces Gibbons from the Final Boss to an inept sidekick.
    • Several characters survive the series by virtue of not appearing in the adaptation of the book where they died (Hogan, Nairn, Leroy, Windham, Tongue, Smith, Carline, Lassan). Occasionally a new character is created to die in their place, most notably Colonel Berkeley in Sharpe's Sword.
    • Cooper is a very curious case. In the book of Sharpe's Rifles, he is killed in the opening ambush but in the TV adaptation he survives and goes on to be a main character. Confusingly, following this Promotion From Extra, Cornwell had Cooper appear in novels set after Rifles with no attempt to reconcile the discrepancy. Despite how the TV version of Cooper disappears with no fanfare whatsoever after Sharpe's Gold.
  • Spectacular Spinning: Sharpe fends off the nuns in Sharpe's Honour by spinning a chicken over his head.
  • Spiking the Camera: Lt. Berry spends most of his introductory scene looking right at the camera.
  • Spiteful Spit: Sharpe spits into Hakeswill's hat, which he (Hakeswill) talks to as if it's his mother, in Sharpe's Company. The hat is where Hakeswill is hiding the portrait he stole and framed Harper for stealing.
  • The Squad: Sharpe and the Chosen Men. More prominent in the TV series, where there's only five Chosen Men besides Sharpe and they get a lot of character development, compared to the books where there's a dozen or two Riflemen who are only named and mentioned specifically when needed.
  • Standard Snippet: "The Girl I Left Behind Me" is one of the regular leitmotifs.
  • The Starscream: Harper spends the first half of Sharpe's Rifles as this. He tries to take command away from Sharpe after Captain Murray's death, but gets interrupted by the arrival of Teresa's partisans.
  • Stuffy Brit: The high-ranking officers who are not Aristocrats Are Evil and this will be this trope. Case in point Sir Augustus Farthingdale from Sharpe's Enemy, who writes a book on soldiers' conduct and never set a foot on a battlefield. If anything, Wellington and Nairn are amused by it.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Wellesley does not react well to Simmerson attempting to deflect blame for his failure onto Major Lennox.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: In "Sharpe's Eagle," our first look at Sir Henry Simmerson is accompanied by "The Rogue's March." It plays again when Simmerson orders the idiotic attack across the bridge that results in the loss of the colours.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The intelligence officers who replace Major Hogan in later episodes of the TV show.
  • Suspiciously Small Army: In the TV series, the units involved in the battles tend to be rather small, no doubt because of budget constraints. Often works fine when depicting small-unit actions in Spain, breaks down miserably when trying to depict the battle of Waterloonote . In Sharpe's Eagle the entire Light Company is thus missing except for the Riflemen, who were supposed to only be attached to that company - which makes Wellesley's praise for the Light Company unintentionally hilarious.
  • Take a Third Option: In Sharpe's Rifles, the Man in Black presents Sharpe with two rival visions for Spain: A dark, superstitious monastery, or an enlightened, scholarly court. Sharpe replies that he's neither a monk nor a prince, so he'd choose a tavern.
  • Take Up My Sword: In Sharpe's Rifles, Captain Murray gives Sharpe his sword so the other men will recognize him as an officer before he dies from his wounds.
  • Threw My Bike on the Roof: The series has both a hero and a villain destroying each other's stuff.
    • In Sharpe's Enemy, Sharpe gets heartbroken, and in utter frustration, he destroys a French spy's glasses. Said spy came to demand that the British surrender. The spy was a jerkass and had it coming. Nothing to gain from it, except it was a good way of showing the French Jerk who the alpha dog is.
    • In Sharpe's Honour, the jerkass spy plans an elaborate revenge because Sharpe's chosen men and the British army defeated the French in a battle that he thought was an easy French victory. After series of misfortunes, Sharpe ends up caught by the French. The spy smashes Sharpe's telescope that he received from Wellington himself. Nice try doing your revenge and trying to break Sharpe, jerk spy, but it was a bad idea. Sharpe used one broken piece as a weapon and it helped him to escape.
  • Token Enemy Minority: Major Leroy, an American Loyalist officer in the British regular army at a time when England was still occasionally in direct conflict with the United States like The War of 1812. Though, since he specifically describes himself as being 'from Virginia' rather than America, he's not that much of an enemy.
  • Unfriendly Fire:
    • In Sharpe's Company, Hakeswill tries to shoot Sharpe under cover of a skirmish, only to shoot Ensign Matthews.
    • Sharpe's Regiment includes the highly unpleasant Sergeant Lynch, who constantly bullies those under him and kills a new recruit's dog. At the end, when the regiment he's in is marching on the French, he's faced with enemy soldiers aiming guns and turns to flee, only to get bayoneted by vengeful recruits.
    • In Sharpe's Waterloo, Sharpe ends up attempting to assassinate the Prince of Orange due to his incompetence getting not only many British and Dutch soldiers killed, but also multiple members of the Chosen Men. Unfortunately, he only wounds the bastard, though it's enough to take him off the field.
  • Uriah Gambit: Upon learning of the tensions between Sharpe and Lt.s Berry and Gibbons, and realising that he will have no option but to punish Sharpe if he is caught duelling Berry, Wellesley decides to send the two of them out on a nighttime skirmish with the French, clearly hoping that the problem will sort itself out in this way. It does.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Hakeswill and Girdwood. Simmerson is constantly on the verge of one.
  • Villainous Crush: Gibbons has one for the Countess Josefina in Sharpe's Eagle. She falls for Sharpe instead, then Leroy.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot:
  • Warrior Poet: Rifleman Harris, created for the TV series, is the closest thing the series has to this trope. In one of the movies, Sharpe's Sword, he's involved in a lengthy sub-plot were he must find a copy of Voltaire's Candide in order to find a French spy. Besides that, he's one of the few literate members of The Squad, and Sharpe often gets a lot of esoteric information from him, whether he wants it or not.
  • Weapon Specialization: Richard Sharpe uses his Baker rifle to devastating effects. He also carries a 1798 pattern cavalry sword, which is essentially a sharpened club with a knuckleduster attached.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Rifleman Isaiah Tongue disappears after Sharpe's Eagle and Francis Cooper disappears after Sharpe's Gold. At least Cooper has an excuse since he gets wounded.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: From Captain Leroy to Sharpe after the efforts of Sharpe to capture the French Eagle result in the death of another young officer who followed him into the battle. All the more so as Sharpe undertook the action in order to secure his own promotion to captain.
  • World of Snark: Sarcastic comments are thrown around in every direction, usually by the Chosen Men or Wellington's spymasters, and Sharpe and Harper in particular.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Berry's plan in Sharpe's Eagle amounts to this; he and Gibbons rape Josefina, knowing Sharpe will call them out. Berry will take up the challenge and they'll duel; if Berry wins, Simmerson is down an enemy. If Sharpe wins, he'll forfeit his reputation by disobeying Wellington's ban on duelling.
  • You Are in Command Now: Sharpe takes command of the Chosen Men when Captain Murray dies.
  • You're Insane!: Or rather "Vous êtes fou!" - from Pot-au-Feu to Sharpe after Sharpe shoots the ladle he's holding out of his hand.


Sharpe Protects The Condesa

Lieutenant Sharpe and Captain Leroy defend a lady from rapine fellow officers and the superior that protects them.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / OfficerAndAGentleman

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