Sharpe is a British television drama series starring Sean Bean as Richard Sharpe, a fictional British soldier in the Napoleonic Wars, with Irish actor Daragh O'Malley playing his second in command Patrick Harper. Sharpe and Harper are the heroes of the Sharpe series of novels by Bernard Cornwell; most, though not all, of the episodes are based on the books. Produced by Celtic Films and Picture Palace Films for the ITV network, the series was filmed mainly in Crimea, with recording of other episodes in Turkey, England, Portugal, and Spain. The two final episodes were filmed in Jaipur, India.[1]

Series DVD artwork
Based onSharpe
by Bernard Cornwell
Written by
Directed byTom Clegg
Theme music composerDominic Muldowney
John Tams
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes16
Running time
Original release
Release5 May 1993 (1993-05-05) –
9 November 2008 (2008-11-09)

The series originally ran from 1993 to 1997. In 2006, ITV premiered Sharpe's Challenge, a two-part adventure loosely based on his time in India, with Sean Bean continuing his role as Sharpe; part one premiered on 23 April, with part two being shown the following night. With more gore than earlier episodes, the show was broadcast by BBC America in September 2006. Filming of Sharpe's Peril, produced by Celtic Film/Picture Palace, began on 3 March 2008 in India.[2][3] The first part was broadcast on ITV and UTV on 2 November 2008, with the second part shown a week later, although STV, the holders of the Northern and Central Scottish licensees of ITV, decided not to screen Sharpe's Peril.[4]Sharpe's Challenge and Sharpe's Peril were broadcast in the US in 2010 as part of PBS's Masterpiece Classic season. The complete series is available on VHS (excluding Sharpe's Challenge and Sharpe's Peril), DVD, Blu-ray, and iTunes. The Blu-ray and iTunes releases have been remastered in HD widescreen from the original filmstrips, with the former format available in a special collector's edition box set.[5][6]

Plot summary edit

At the beginning of the series, Richard Sharpe is a sergeant in the 95th Rifles serving in Portugal during the Peninsular War in 1809. When he single-handedly saves the life of General Sir Arthur Wellesley from a group of French cavalrymen, Wellesley gives Sharpe a battlefield commission, appointing him a lieutenant. Sharpe is placed in charge of a detachment of elite "chosen men" of the 95th Rifles. Patrick Harper eventually becomes his best friend and is promoted to sergeant and later sergeant major.

Wellesley and his various spymasters, first Major Michael Hogan, followed by Major Nairn, Major Mungo Monroe and Major General Ross, find Sharpe to be an extremely capable and cunning officer and give him progressively more important tasks. Despite their backing, he has to fight against the strong prejudice of aristocrats (who often owe their army positions to money and social connections rather than to military skill) against an uncouth commoner raised from the ranks. He makes a number of dangerous enemies, such as French Major Pierre Ducos and Colonel Sir Henry Simmerson, and encounters one from his prior service in India, Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill. Sharpe's successes gain him steady promotion, and by the end of the Napoleonic Wars, at the Battle of Waterloo, he is Lieutenant-Colonel Sharpe.

Along the way, Sharpe has a number of romances. He marries the Spanish guerrilla leader Teresa Moreno, with whom he has a daughter. Teresa is killed by Hakeswill. Sharpe then marries Jane Gibbons, who deserts him, squanders his money, and takes a lover. He finally settles down with Lucille Castineau, a Frenchwoman who passes away some time after Napoleon's final defeat. (However, according to The Starbuck Chronicles, another series of Cornwell books, she outlives Sharpe.)

Casting edit

Initially, Paul McGann was cast in the title role; however, two weeks into filming of the first episode in Ukraine, McGann injured his knee playing football and was forced to withdraw.[7][1] When production started again a month later, Sean Bean was given the role because he was the only suitable replacement available at short notice. The first actor cast was Daragh O'Malley as Harper. The character of Rifleman Harris, played by Jason Salkey, did not exist in the books and was created for the television series. The producers wanted a "clever one" and took inspiration from a real soldier who was illiterate but had dictated his own recollections of the war, which were published.[8]

Some actors have played multiple roles in the series. Peter-Hugo Daly portrayed first Sergeant Rodd in Sharpe's Gold and then Bickerstaff, another unruly sergeant who dislikes Sharpe. Julian Fellowes played Major Warren Dunnett in Sharpe's Rifles and also the Prince Regent in Sharpe's Regiment. Tony Haygarth was "Marshal" Pot-au-Feu in Sharpe's Enemy and Sir Willoughby Parfitt in Sharpe's Justice.

List of episodes edit

The episodes are listed by first airing date.

No. Date Aired Episode Name Setting Date Set
1 5 May 1993 Sharpe's Rifles Portugal 1809
2 12 May 1993 Sharpe's Eagle Battle of Talavera 1809
3 25 May 1994 Sharpe's Company Siege of Badajoz 1812
4 1 June 1994 Sharpe's Enemy Portugal 1813
5 8 June 1994 Sharpe's Honour Battle of Vitoria 1813
6 12 April 1995 Sharpe's Gold Spain 1813
7 19 April 1995 Sharpe's Battle Franco–Spanish border 1813
8 26 April 1995 Sharpe's Sword Franco–Spanish border 1813
9 1 May 1996 Sharpe's Regiment England 1813
10 8 May 1996 Sharpe's Siege Bordeaux 1813
11 15 May 1996 Sharpe's Mission Napoleonic France 1810 and 1813
12 7 May 1997 Sharpe's Revenge Toulouse 1814
13 14 May 1997 Sharpe's Justice Yorkshire, Peace of 1814 1814
14 21 May 1997 Sharpe's Waterloo Battle of Waterloo 1815
  • 23 April 2006 (Part 1)
  • 24 April 2006 (Part 2)
Sharpe's Challenge India 1803 and 1817
  • 2 November 2008 (Part 1)
  • 9 November 2008 (Part 2)
Sharpe's Peril India 1818

Cast and crew edit

Chosen Men edit

  • Sean Bean as Sergeant, later Lieutenant-Colonel, Richard Sharpe (1993–1997, 2006, 2008)
  • Daragh O'Malley as Rifleman, later Sergeant and then Sergeant Major, Patrick Harper (1993–1997, 2006, 2008)
  • John Tams as Rifleman, later Sergeant, Daniel Hagman (1993–1997) – killed in battle in Sharpe's Waterloo.
  • Jason Salkey as Rifleman, later Sergeant, Harris (1993–1997) – killed in battle in Sharpe's Waterloo; not at Waterloo in the novel and presumably survives.
  • Lyndon Davies as Rifleman Ben Perkins (1993–1995) – stabbed by O'Rourke in Sharpe's Battle and dies in Harper's arms; survives in the novels.
  • Michael Mears as Rifleman Francis Cooper (1993–1995) – disappears after Sharpe's Gold due to a disagreement with the production team; returns to narrate Sharpe the Legend; killed in the novel Sharpe's Rifles but resurrected for several of the later-written books.
  • Paul Trussell as Rifleman Isaiah Tongue (1993) – disappears after Sharpe's Eagle and never returns; he may be dead or left the army to go back to England; killed in the novel Sharpe's Gold.

Supporting characters edit

Production team edit

See also edit

Reception edit

Cornwell dedicated the 12th book Sharpe's Battle, to Sean Bean and said "When I write Sharpe these days, I hear Sean's voice."[9]

Footnotes edit

  1. ^ a b "About Sharpe". Drama. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015.
  2. ^ "Sharpe news". The South Essex. Archived from the original on 21 February 2008. Retrieved 22 February 2008.
  3. ^ "Sharpe's Peril". Compleat Sean Bean. Retrieved 22 February 2008.
  4. ^ Vickers, Judy (1 November 2008). "Jimmy Gardner - Fighting to make an impact on screen". The Scotsman. Edinburgh.[dead link]
  5. ^ "Sharpe". Retrieved 30 August 2020.
  6. ^ "Sharpe's Classic Collection Blu-ray Release Date April 12, 2011". Retrieved 30 August 2020.
  7. ^ Ferrier, Morwenna (15 March 2009). "My body & soul: Paul McGann, actor, 49". The Guardian. I had been filming Sharpe and injured my leg. I woke up in London's Cromwell Hospital to a call from Sean Bean. He'd been drafted in to take over the part.
  8. ^ "Alum Actor Jason Salkey Uses TV Role Inspiration to Follow in His Father's Footsteps". Hampshire College. 22 July 2021. Retrieved 1 April 2022.
  9. ^ Sarah Hughes (23 June 2014). "Sharpe is an action-packed alternative to the World Cup". The Guardian.

External links edit