Sharpe (TV series)

Sharpe is a British television series of stories starring Sean Bean as Richard Sharpe, a fictional British soldier in the Napoleonic Wars, with Irish actor Daragh O'Malley playing his sidekick Patrick Harper. Sharpe and Harper are the heroes of a number 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 shot mainly in Crimea, a few episodes in Turkey, although some filming was also done in England, Portugal and Spain. Two episodes were filmed in India.

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 language(s)English
No. of episodes16
Running time100-140 minutes
Original networkITV
Original release5 May 1993 

9 November 2008

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.[1][2] 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.[3] Sharpe's Challenge and Sharpe's Peril were broadcast in the US in 2010 as part of PBS' Masterpiece Classic season.

Plot summary

At the beginning of the series, Richard Sharpe (Sean Bean) is a sergeant in the 95th Rifles serving in Portugal during the Peninsular War in 1809. When he singlehandedly saves the life of General Sir Arthur Wellesley (David Troughton in the first two films, Hugh Fraser thereafter) 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 the 95th Rifles: The term used for his men, 'chosen men', reflected acknowledgment of the men's rifle marksmanship performance rather than rank; it granted some privileges, such as avoiding certain routine duties. Patrick Harper (Daragh O'Malley) eventually becomes his best friend and is promoted to sergeant and later sergeant major.

Wellesley and his various spymasters, first Major Michael Hogan (Brian Cox), followed by Major Nairn (Michael Byrne), Major Mungo Monroe (Hugh Ross) and Major General Ross (James Laurenson), 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 military skill) against an uncouth commoner raised from the ranks. He makes a number of dangerous enemies, such as French Major Pierre Ducos (Féodor Atkine) and Colonel Sir Henry Simmerson (Michael Cochrane), and encounters one from his prior service in India, Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill (Pete Postlethwaite). However, Sharpe's successes gain him steady promotion. 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. During the course of the series, he marries the Spanish guerrilla leader Teresa Moreno (Assumpta Serna), with whom he has a daughter. Teresa is killed by Hakeswill. Sharpe then marries Jane Gibbons (Abigail Cruttenden, Bean's real-life wife for less than three years), who deserts him, steals his hard-earned money, and takes a lover. He finally settles down with Lucille Castineau (Cécile Paoli), 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 took over the role. The first actor cast was actually Daragh O'Malley in the role of Sgt. Patrick Harper.

Author Bernard Cornwell was so impressed by Sean Bean's performances that he dedicated one of the novels, Sharpe's Battle, "to Sean Bean".

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. In novels written after the television series started airing, the issue of Sharpe's northern accent and roots is addressed by having him flee from London to Yorkshire when he is a teenager to avoid retribution for a murder of an employer over a woman.

While in the novels Sharpe commands a group of thirty riflemen, the series focuses on a much smaller group of "Chosen Men", some of whom were invented for the series. The series' 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 fact that the character had been 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 in India during the Battle of Assaye, while he is serving in the 33rd Foot. The television series also differs in the fact that Sharpe was already a commissioned officer by the time he was posted to Portugal in the novels.

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 film, but does not make an appearance in the books until Sharpe's Gold.

In one of the most recent episodes, Sharpe's Challenge, Sharpe states that his latest lover, Lucille, has died, something never mentioned in the books. 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 and Sharpe's Fortress.

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

The episodes are listed by first airing date.

No.Date AiredEpisode NameSettingDate Set
11993Sharpe's RiflesPortugal1809
21993Sharpe's EagleBattle of Talavera1809
31994Sharpe's CompanySiege of Badajoz1812
41994Sharpe's EnemyPortugal1813
51994Sharpe's HonourBattle of Vitoria1813
61995Sharpe's GoldSpain1813
71995Sharpe's BattleFranco-Spanish border1813
81995Sharpe's SwordFranco-Spanish border1813
91996Sharpe's RegimentEngland1813
101996Sharpe's SiegeBordeaux1813
111996Sharpe's MissionNapoleonic France1810 and 1813
121997Sharpe's RevengeToulouse1814
131997Sharpe's JusticeYorkshire, Peace of 18141814
141997Sharpe's WaterlooBattle of Waterloo1815
152006Sharpe's ChallengeIndia1803 and 1817
162008Sharpe's PerilIndia1818

Cast and crew

Chosen Men

  • 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; returns to narrate Sharpe the Legend; killed in the novel Sharpe's Rifles.
  • 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

Production team

  • 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


  1. "Sharpe news". The South Essex. Archived from the original on 21 February 2008. Retrieved 22 February 2008.
  2. "Sharpe's Peril". Compleat Sean Bean. Retrieved 22 February 2008.
  3. Vickers, Judy (1 November 2008). "Jimmy Gardner - Fighting to make an impact on screen". The Scotsman. Edinburgh.
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