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"If I don't kill one of you every now and then, you'll forget who I am." note 

"Why fly a black flag, when a black beard will do?"

The Pirate.

Born in the town of Bristol, (maybe), Edward Teach (or Edward Thatch) (circa 1680 – November 22, 1718), better known as Blackbeard, was the most famous pirate of The Golden Age. He was not the richest, nor was his career the longest, and he probably wasn't even the meanest, but he set the standard for Golden Age piracy, codifying the image in popular culture. When we think of pirates, he is the first one to come to mind. Maybe because of his flair for drama, and his weaponization of the terrifying pirate image.

Blackbeard's origins are sketchy; history records very few facts about his life before his pirate career began. English by nationality, he was most likely born in the port city of Bristol, sometime around 1680. His birth name is commonly given as "Edward Teach," but not even that is a certainty. Given that most accounts place him as being fully literate, there is a good chance that he came from at least some money. The earliest reliable historical mention of an "Edward Teach" was that of a privateer in the British Navy during the War of the Spanish Succession, circa 1714. He was apparently a good, if not particularly remarkable, sailor and seaman. After the end of the War, Teach, along with many privateers who now found themselves unemployed, migrated to the Caribbean and took on a full-time career in piracy. So many pirates did this, as a matter of fact, that they actually took over the Bahamian island of New Providence and declared it a "Pirate Republic." It was here that Teach hooked up with legendary privateer Benjamin Hornigold, and wound up commanding a ship under him.

Between 1716 and 1717, Teach and Hornigold raided the Caribbean islands and the Carolina coast, growing in strength and reputation. Eventually they allied with a third pirate, Stede Bonnet, and between the three of them they became a serious threat to the southern British colonies. Toward the end of 1717, Hornigold was forced into retirement and Bonnet voluntarily stepped down from his command, leaving Teach the sole commander of the small fleet. Under Teach's command his crews became bolder, capturing more ships and cargo and increasing their size and strength. One such captured prize, a French frigate called La Concorde, was re-christened Queen Anne's Revenge and claimed as Teach's flagship. And around this time, Teach officially started being referred to as "Blackbeard."

Over the course of 1717 and 1718, Blackbeard continued to raid and pillage, mostly around Florida and Hispaniola, taking more prizes and increasing the size of his fleet. By May of 1718, his fleet had grown so powerful that he successfully blockaded the port of Charleston, ransoming a shipload of high-society Charlestonites for... medical supplies.

Shortly after the Blockade of Charleston, word came down that the British government was about to crack down hard on Caribbean piracy. The pirate-hunter Woodes Rogers was on his way with a fleet of warships, preparing to wipe New Providence clean... but any pirate who surrendered to the authorities before he got there would be offered a provisional pardon. Blackbeard and Bonnet were considering taking the pardon and going straight, but they were wary; the exact conditions of this blanket pardon were subject to the interpretation of the individual colonial governors, so they had to be very careful which local authority they decided to surrender to. They opted for North Carolina, since Governor Charles Eden was actively recruiting privateers, and they made a plan to test his honesty and leniency: they careened their ships on the coast, and Bonnet would head to Bath Town to seek the pardon, while Blackbeard would wait for him. Eden did in fact offer Bonnet a pardon and a privateer's commission, but once Bonnet returned he found that Blackbeard had double-crossed him: Blackbeard had scuttled the ships, marooned the crews, and taken off in a smaller ship with all the valuables he could carry. So pissed was Bonnet that he returned to his pirating ways to hunt down Blackbeard. He failed, and was captured and executed for his troubles. Meanwhile, Blackbeard also got a pardon and a commission as a privateer, operating out of North Carolina's Outer Banks.

Of course, the line between "pirate" and "privateer" is pretty damned fine, and the Governors of other colonies were soon screaming for Blackbeard's head, claiming acts of piracy on vessels out of their ports. It's not unlikely either; privateers were supposed to only sack enemy ships, but some Governors would even allow the sacking of friendly merchant ships as long as they got a cut. In November of 1718, Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia sent Lieutenant Robert Maynard, commander of the Ranger, after him. Maynard tracked Blackbeard to Okracoke Island and engaged him in a ferocious battle. Fighting like a cornered beast, Blackbeard soaked up an insane amount of damage, and was finally brought down, taking ten members of Maynard's crew with him.

Blackbeard has gone down in popular culture as the quintessential pirate. He has a reputation for cruelty as well as cunning. Indeed, his greatest talent might well have been the weaponizing of that reputation for cruelty, crafting an image for himself that was so fearsome that crews would just surrender without a fight if they saw him coming for them. Exactly how much of this reputation was real, how much was him playing it up, and how much was fabricated by the authorities to demonize him, may never be known. Indeed, there is no evidence of him committing a single murder until his Last Stand. His reputation as a Bad Boss who frightened his crew with eccentric actions and Refuge in Audacity ploys probably proved to be his undoing. He had a reputation for randomly killing or maiming whoever his first mate was at the time, and however exaggerated that might be, it wasn't beyond him to do so if it helped his image. One of his own crew-mates played a part in his final defeat.

Among the pirates of the Golden Age, all colorful characters in their own rights, Blackbeard stands out on his own level. And he probably would have liked it that way.

Tropes Associated with Blackbeard's portrayal in tales, and fiction include:

  • Awesome, but Impractical: Queen Anne's Revenge had a complement of three hundred men and, allegedly, up to forty guns on board. The former point made her a potential liability, as her relatively large size for a pirate ship required a larger crew complement, making it harder for him to crew the rest of his fleet. There are even some suggestions that he ran her around deliberately so as to disperse his crew to his fleet.
  • Badass Boast: His words to Maynard: "Damnation seize my soul if I give you quarters, or take any from you!"
  • Bad Boss: According to A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates by Captain Charles Johnson, Blackbeard's first mate Israel Hands was shot in the knee when Teach fired at another of his crew, missing him but striking Hands. Hands asked Teach for his reasons, whereupon Teach remarked that, "if he did not now and then kill one of them, they would forget who he was."
  • Bling of War: Blackbeard was not above dolling up his beard with ribbons and beads.
  • Captain Colorbeard: Trope Codifier, its common for stereotypical pirates to have a name like this due to Blackbeard's fame.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: He orchestrated Hornigold's "retirement" to get himself elected full commander of the fleet. Then Stede Bonnet found out the hard way what happens when you trust a guy named Blackbeard.
  • Cool Ship: La Concorde, a heavy 40-gun frigate that Blackbeard was lucky enough to capture intact and rename the Queen Anne's Revenge. Considering most pirates were limited to small sloops and cutters, he would have been a fool not to make it his flagship.
  • Defiant to the End: He had perhaps the most epic Last Stand in the history of naval warfare, taking ten members of Maynard's crew - and a couple of Maynard's fingers - with him.
  • The Dragon: To Benjamin Hornigold...
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Stede Bonnet, injured from a previous sea battle, struck an alliance with Blackbeard and allowed him to take temporary command of his vessel while he recovered. However, the more experienced and charismatic Blackbeard quickly turned the rookie captain's crew to his side and made Bonnet into his "guest," which is to say a captive in all but name and a captain in name only. The only reason the pretense a partnership was continued was because Bonnet never attempted to take back his authority while they sailed together.
  • The Dreaded: He deliberately cultivated this image to get people to surrender without a fight. And it worked.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: He went down swinging. And most likely swearing.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: One of the iconic stories revolves about his crew discussing their probable afterlife destination and deciding to see whether they could take it. They took some sulfur pots below decks and sealed it up to see how long they could take it. One by one, they broke and fled, gasping for air. Blackbeard, unsurprisingly, was the last to emerge, and he did not so much flee as saunter out, proud of his endurance.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Quite literally; on paper he doesn't even exist before 1714.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Zigzagged. Make no mistake, Blackbeard was not a nice man. But the tales of his cruelty were most likely exaggerated, either by the authorities or deliberately by himself.
  • Kick the Dog: His relationship with Stede Bonnet. Blackbeard betrayed his trust, usurped command of his ship for nearly a year and, after the two had obtained royal pardons, robbed Bonnet's ship of all valuables and supplies and fled while Bonnet was briefly away getting a clearance to go privateering.
  • Large and in Charge: Contemporary accounts of Blackbeard indicate that he was very tall, and "spare of frame;" his huge bushy beard probably made him look bigger than he actually was.
  • Made of Iron: And how! It took something like twenty-five stab wounds and five point-blank pistol shots to even slow him down long enough for someone to sneak up behind him and run him through, before lopping his head off. There's even a (definitely dubious) legend that his headless corpse swam around his ship three times before stopping after it was tossed into the sea.
  • Manly Facial Hair: And he would hide plugs of smoldering incense in it, making him look like a flaming monster.
  • Man on Fire: He was known to put burning coals or lit cannon fuses in his beard to scare the hell out of people.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: We can all agree that "Blackbeard" is a far more threatening name than "Edward Teach."
  • Off with His Head!: And according to legend, his headless corpse swam a few laps around the boat afterward.
  • Pirate: Obviously.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: What does Blackbeard want from Charleston? Gold? Rum? Women? No, just medicine for his crew; they're riddled with STDs.
  • The Starscream: To Benjamin Hornigold. Hornigold's refusal to prey on British ships (he was trying to maintain the illusion that he was still a lawful privateer) caused enough resentment among his crew that Blackbeard didn't have to do much pot-stirring to get him voted out of command, and himself voted in.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Blackbeard was a shrewd and devious commander, but his crew were... well, rum-soaked pirates. During the Blockade of Charleston, when the men he sent to collect the ransom started running late, he landed himself to see what was going on, and to deal with any subterfuge on the part of the authorities. He found his men at a nearby tavern. Nothing bad had happened; they just got themselves blind stinking drunk at the first opportunity. It's hard to shed too many tears for the ones he marooned.
  • Villain's Dying Grace: He actually complimented the man who mortally wounded him. "Well done, lad. Well done."
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Standard operating mode for Blackbeard toward his allies.

Works Featuring Portrayals of Blackbeard Include:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • There are two characters inspired by Blackbeard in One Piece. One is Edward Newgate, aka Whitebeard (he doesn't have an actual beard, but rather an impressive white mustache), a powerful pirate and member of the Four Emperors. The other is Marshall D. Teach, aka Blackbeard, a traitorous crew member of Whitebeard who later kills him and takes his place as an Emperor, possibly becoming the Big Bad of the entire story in the process. Notably, Whitebeard's last name and Blackbeard's first name combined form Edward Teach. In addition, a character Blackbeard kills off-screen for his Devil Fruit is named "Thatch," after a name the historical Blackbeard used on occasion when forced to go undercover.
  • SD Gundam World Heroes has a character based off of Edward Teach named Edward Second V, second-in-command of Benjamin V2 Gundam, who's based off of the real Edward Teach’s captain Benjamin Hornigold. What's curious about this is that Edward and Benjamin are also based off of the Second V and the Victory 2 Gundam respectively, both of which are Mid-Season Upgrades of the Victory Gundam from Mobile Suit Victory Gundam, with the Second V replacing the Victory 2 in the novelization.

    Comic Books 
  • In Batman #4, Batman and Robin battle a gang lord named Thatch who impersonated the historical pirate Blackbeard. Thatch organized his gang to disguise themselves as pirates and often assaulted wealthy people on ships in the middle of the sea.
  • In one of the earliest adventures of Fantastic Four (1961), the group is sent back in time to steal Blackbeard's treasure. In doing so, however, Ben Grimm ends up inspiring the legend of Blackbeard in the first place.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Anne of the Indies: Blackbeard is mentor to Captain Anne Providence. He is portrayed as a Boisterous Bruiser, but one with a vicious streak. When Anne defies him and refuses to hand over one of her crew to him (on the ground that the man has signed her articles and is therefore under her protection), Blackbeard swears vengeance and vows to hunt her down.
  • The patron saint of, and codifier of all things pirate in film, Robert Newton, portrayed him in the 1950s RKO movie Blackbeard The Pirate. Newton, who effectively single-handedly created the modern perception of what pirates were with his portrayal of Long John Silver in the Disney version of Treasure Island (1950), was of course perfect casting for history's most notorious pirate.
  • Blackbeard's Ghost: The spirit of Blackbeard (Peter Ustinov) has been imprisoned in limbo by his wife, who happened to be a witch. A college track coach (played by Dean Jones) unwittingly recites a magical incantation that makes the ghost of Blackbeard visible only to him. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: Taking inspiration from the below-referenced book, Blackbeard here has already been resurrected by some means never explained, and is seeking the Fountain of Youth to permanently prolong his life.
  • Pan: Blackbeard serves as the main antagonist of Neverland, mining Pixie dust to restore his youth using slave labor.

  • Blackbeard is one of the Americans summoned by Mr. Scratch to serve as the Jury of the Damned in The Devil and Daniel Webster.
  • Garfield's Ghost Stories had a story where Garfield comes face to face with Blackbeard's headless ghost.
  • The Legend of Anne Bonny: Blackbeard's exploits inspire the titular character to make her own fortune, though through less brutal piracy. In 1717, she uses her position as Governor Charles Eden's secretary to steal some of the stolen merchandise Blackbeard pays to Eden in exchange for protection. After she injures one of Teach's crewmembers, he forces "Andy Cormack" to serve onboard the Queen Anne's Revenge that sets sail from Edenton. She escapes in Nassau and gets away with freeing two of Blackbeard's slave girls and stealing some of his loot. She later learns of Blackbeard's death at the hands of her archenemy Lieutenant Robert Maynard and hides his stolen loot which she uses to make life good for herself and her surviving loved ones many decades later.
  • Ology Series: Blackbeard is one of the famous pirates who's mentioned by Captain William Lubber, the narrator of Pirateology: A Pirate Hunter's Companion. Notably, the female pirate Lubber is trying to catch, Arabella Drummond, is heavily implied to be Blackbeard's sister, cousin, or childhood sweetheart. She ended up starting her career as a pirate as she was trying to reach the Caribbean and find Blackbeard. She very nearly reached him during his final stand in Okracoke, but was unable to save him in time and embarked afterwards on her own raids to leave terror in her wake. She even owns a ship's cat she named Mr. Teach.
  • On Stranger Tides: Here, Blackbeard (called Edward Thatch) is a voodoo shaman, who allies himself with Hurwood in an elaborate plot to resurrect himself in another body after his death at Okracoke and abscond with his hidden riches.
  • Peter Pan: Captain James Hook is said to have been Blackbeard's boatswain. The 2006 Authorized Sequel Peter Pan in Scarlet has a revived Hook state would never have served such an uneducated man and that all suggestions that he has are merely rumours started by his enemies.
  • Makes a brief cameo in The Sea Of Monsters, where it's revealed he didn't die at all, but was kept prisoner for centuries by Circe. Oh, and he was a son of Ares.
  • Treasure Island: Blackbeard is mentioned in passing, as characters discuss an incidence of his cruelty that inspired the sea shanty "Fifteen Men on a Dead Man's Chest." Dead Man's Chest is an actual place: a barren, coffin-shaped rock in the Virgin Islands. According to the story, Blackbeard left a bunch of mutineers there with nothing but a sword and a bottle of rum, then came back a month later to see what had happened. Nearly all of them had either starved to death or killed each other, but fifteen men had managed to stay alive... somehow...

    Live-Action TV 
  • Ray Stevenson portrays Blackbeard in Black Sails starting in season 3. Curiously, they don't portray his death as all the historical records claim. Rather, Woodes Rogers is the one who killed him. Rogers ordered Teach to be keelhauled, expecting a gruesome death, but Teach went three times when once would have killed anyone else, embarrassing Rogers to the point he just shot Teach in the head.
  • Crossbones: The central premise of the series is that Blackbeard (played by John Malkovich) faked his death and is now ruling a secret island kingdom.
  • Surprisingly, the actual Blackbeard has yet to appear on Doctor Who, but an imaginary version of him is summoned during the climatic Public Domain Character-vs-Public Domain Character battle of "The Mind Robber".
  • The Ghost and Mrs. Muir: In "Not So Faust", Blackbeard is one of the three judges summoned by the Devil to serve as Claymore Gregg's Jury of the Damned.
  • He got a song in Horrible Histories. And here it is.
  • He appears a few times in Legends of Tomorrow, where he is depicted as a Dirty Coward who panics and sells out his comrades whenever he is in danger, which greatly disappoints Mick Rory. However, he can fight if pressed.
  • The Netflix docudrama The Lost Pirate Kingdom has Blackbeard (played by James Oliver Wheatley) as one of its main characters. His portrayal is initially sympathetic, but he gradually undergoes a Face–Heel Turn over the course of the series, losing his mind to syphilis (which he may have had in real life, but we're really not sure) and eventually selling most of his black crewmen into slavery to make the deal with Eden (Blackbeard did sometimes sell the human cargo of seized slave ships, but there is no evidence he ever did this to members of his own crew). There are also some Fan Disservice scenes of him injecting mercury into his penis.
  • He appears as a minor villain in a few episodes of Once Upon a Time, notable as the only definitely real historical figure to appear in one of the show's fiction-inspiring otherworlds.
  • Blackbeard is a major character in the HBO Max comedy Our Flag Means Death, played by Taika Waititi. The show focuses on his growing relationship with "Gentleman Pirate" Stede Bonnet, taking many historical liberties for comedic effect.

  • Referenced in the song "Jolly Roger" from Adam and the Ants' album Kings of the Wild Frontier.
    Of all the pirates on the seas
    The worst of them was Blackbeard
    So damnable a fiend from Hell
    He was the one they most feared
    Any man who sailed with him
    Was taking quite a chance
    He'd hang them from the gallows
    Just to see if they could dance, haha

    Video Games 

  • The main antagonist of webcomic Whispers in the Wind is Bailey Thatch. Although he has Blackbeard's name and infamous reputation, Bailey has none of Blackbeard's physical qualities. Facing him is Scarlet Maynard, also inspired by real figure Lieutenant Robert Maynard, the man who brought Blackbeard's head back to Virginia.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Mask: In a Halloween Episode, Skillit brings zombies of three former users of the mask. One of them is Blackbeard.
  • The Simpsons: Appeared among the Jury of the Damned in Treehouse Of Horror IV. He was also the only British-born character among them. The rest were Americans.
  • Spongebob Squarepants: The Flying Dutchman's appearance is unequivocally based on Blackbeard, although dealing with Spongebob and Patrick's brand of idiocy doesn't do much for his fearsome demeanor.
  • Time Squad: The guys visit Blackbeard to discover that he's an environmentalist who's more preoccupied with saving the whales than pirating.