Pirate Archetype

Learn all about the pirate archetype, including definition, characteristics, examples and how it relates to the Rebel archetype.

What is the Pirate Archetype?

The Pirate archetype has become increasingly familiar in Western society through their increasing popularity in film and television.

Typically and increasingly the archetypal pirate is portrayed as a dashing, rakish and romantic anti-hero and rebel. The individual pirates concerned in these portrayals can range from harmlessly eccentric to dangerous and rebellious.

However, they are usually bound by their own groups moral code and loyalty to each other, though not by the law.

The leader of the pirate group tends to be handsome and end up succeeding in charming the lead female character in the particular film or TV show.

Pirate Archetype Characteristics & Traits

  • A series of other features are associated with the pirate archetype.
  • For example, the pirate is often depicted as having a West country English accent or a Nautical twang to the words they use, as well as swearing profusely and using stereotypical nautical terminology.
  • Pirate costume is also instantly recognised and associated with the archetype.
  • This can include colourful, period clothing, earrings, a pirate-style hat and an eye patch.
  • Disabilities such as a wooden leg and a hook hand are often associated with the pirate, as is a tendency towards drinking heavily and having numerous tattoos.
  • Weapons associated with the pirate archetype include swords, flintlock pistols, canon and cutlasses.
  • Other features associated with the archetype include the Jolly Roger skull and crossbones flag flying prominently from a wooden ship, treasure and the use of treasure maps with which to locate it, animals such as parrots and monkeys, the singing of sea shanties and tropical locations such as the Caribbean.

Pirate Archetype Examples

An example of the pirate archetype in modern culture is the character of Captain Jack Sparrow and the Pirates of the Caribbean films in which he features.

Played by Johnny Depp, Captain Jack Sparrow is the main protagonist of the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

His characterization is based on a combination of The Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards and Looney Tunes cartoon character Pepé Le Pew. Sparrow can be treacherous, surviving mostly through wit and negotiation rather than force.

He usually flees from dangerous situations and only fights when there is little option.

He features almost all of the physical characteristics associated with the archetype. He is an eccentric character, who tries to remain moral and truthful where possible but struggles with this despite his best intentions.

Further Reading

Further reading on the pirate archetype includes:

  • The Story of the Woman & the Pirate Archetype – by Caroline Myss
  • Pirates in History and Popular Culture – edited by Antonio Sanna
  • Rakes, Highwaymen, and Pirates: The Making of the Modern Gentleman in the Eighteenth Century – by Erin Mackie
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