Sharpe (TV series)

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Sharpe (DVD box set - cover art).jpg
Series DVD artwork
Based onSharpe
by Bernard Cornwell
Written byEoghan Harris
Russell Lewis
Colin MacDonald
Charles Wood
Directed byTom Clegg
StarringSean Bean
Daragh O'Malley
Theme music composerDominic Muldowney
John Tams
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes16
Running time100 minutes
140 minutes (Sharpe's Challenge)
Original networkITV
Picture formatSuper 16 mm film Colour[1]
Original release5 May 1993 (1993-05-05) –
9 November 2008 (2008-11-09)

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, Spain and the two final episodes filmed in India.

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' 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.)


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. 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 actually Daragh O'Malley as Harper.

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.


There are some differences between the series and the novels. For instance, in the books, Sharpe was said to be unusually tall (over 6 ft), was born in Wapping in London and has dark hair with a very noticeable scar on his face. Sean Bean is shorter, blond and, being from Sheffield, he speaks with a pronounced Yorkshire accent. Sharpe is revealed to have been born in Keighley to local woman Lizzie Sharpe in Sharpe's Justice; this contradicts the books, which often state his mother was a London "Cat Street whore" who died in the Gordon Riots. Cornwell was so impressed with Bean's portrayal that, in novels written after the television series started airing, the issue of Sharpe's northern accent and roots was addressed by having him flee from London to Yorkshire when he is a teenager to avoid retribution for the murder of his employer over a woman. He also avoided referring to Sharpe's hair colour.

While in the novels, Sharpe commands a group of roughly thirty riflemen, the series focuses on a much smaller group of "Chosen Men", some of whom were invented for the series. The series's creations Harris and Perkins are introduced in later novels, notably Sharpe's Battle which takes place between earlier novels. These novels also feature Cooper, despite the character being killed off in the novel Sharpe's Rifles. Harris (the educated rifleman) and Perkins (the youngest) share characteristics with Cornwell's originals Tongue and Pendleton, and appear together with them in later novels.

In the first TV episode, Sharpe is a sergeant in the 95th Rifles in Portugal when he saves Wellesley's life. In the books, this occurs earlier in India during the Battle of Assaye while he is serving in the 33rd Foot, and he is rewarded with a promotion to ensign, rather than lieutenant.

Owing to actor Brian Cox's illness, his character, Major Michael Hogan, was replaced with borrowed character namesakes from numerous novels to create three more exploring officers: Major Nairn, Major Monroe, and Major General Ross; this also removed the future death of Major Hogan by disease in Sharpe's Siege. In the TV adaptation, Major General Ross catches malarial fever, but recovers.

Teresa is introduced in the first episode, but does not make an appearance in the books until Sharpe's Gold.

In Sharpe's Challenge, set in 1817, Sharpe states that Lucille, the Frenchwoman with whom he has made a home in Normandy, has recently died of a fever. This is in contrast to the books, where Lucille is still alive in 1820. The characters of Sergeant Bickerstaff and General William Dodd are killed off in this programme. Sharpe's Challenge is a composite of the three prequels that are set in India, creating a number of inconsistencies, since the TV version is set after the events at Waterloo. Bickerstaff's counterpart in the books is Hakeswill, who is killed off in Sharpe's Enemy (both the novel and the TV programme).

Harry Price is shot and apparently killed in Sharpe's Company, when in the book the character killed is Captain Knowles; however, Price, played by a different actor, is alive and well in Sharpe's Waterloo.

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
15 23 April 2006 Sharpe's Challenge India 1803 and 1817
16 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 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]

  • Directed by: Tom Clegg
  • Produced by: Malcolm Craddock, Muir Sutherland
  • Writing credits:
  • Novels: Bernard Cornwell
  • Screenplays:
Eoghan Harris (8)
Charles Wood (3)
Russell Lewis (3)
Nigel Kneale (1)
Colin MacDonald (1)
Patrick Harbinson (1)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Taking Sharpe's Rifles to HD". RRsat Europe. 31 May 2012. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  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.
  5. ^ Sharpe, retrieved 30 August 2020
  6. ^ Sharpe's Classic Collection Blu-ray Release Date April 12, 2011, retrieved 30 August 2020

External links[edit]