(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

The Irish-born Peter Blood has served in the Dutch and French navies, spent two years in a Spanish prison, and now enjoys the life of a doctor in southwestern England. Blood is skeptical of the rebellion being raised by the duke of Monmouth against King James II, yet when Jeremiah Pitt begs him to come to the aid of the wounded Lord Gildoy, who has been involved in the rebellion, he accedes. As a result, Blood is arrested for treason along with Pitt and the nobleman whose life he has saved.

Gildoy subsequently buys his freedom, but Blood and Pitt are found guilty by the notorious Lord Jeffreys. Before they can be executed, however, the British secretary of state directs that one thousand of the rebels taken prisoner be transported to the West Indies as slaves. Blood and Pitt are shipped to Bridgetown, on the island of Barbados, where they are bought by the militia’s cruel Colonel Bishop to work on his sugarcane plantation. Bishop discovers, however, that it is more profitable to allow Blood to tend to the ills of the island’s aristocracy. As a result of his status, Blood becomes acquainted with Arabella Bishop, the colonel’s attractive niece.

When the Spanish ship Cinco Llagas attacks Bridgetown, Bishop’s troops are unprepared and are defeated, but the attack provides Blood with an opportunity. While the Spanish are celebrating their victory ashore, Blood, Pitt, and a handful of fellow slaves overpower the ship’s remaining crew. They also take prisoner its captain, Don Diego de Espinosa y Valdez, when he returns and confiscate the ransom that the Spanish have collected. Blood’s men destroy the rest of the Spanish boats with cannon before they can reach the ship, but their greatest pleasure comes when Bishop himself rows out expecting to recover the ransom. Forced to swim ashore as the ship sails away, the enraged colonel becomes Blood’s sworn enemy.

Blood agrees to release Don Diego on the Dutch island of Curaçao, but the wily Spaniard steers them to a Spanish settlement on the island of Hispaniola instead....

(The entire section is 845 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Further Reading

Adrian, Jack. Introduction to The Fortunes of Casanova, and Other Stories, by Rafael Sabatini. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. Summary of Sabatini’s life and career, stressing the writer’s central role in the revitalization of historical fiction.

Cordingly, David. Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates. New York: Random House, 1995. Thorough examination of piracy and privateering around the world and their treatment in literature and film. Illustrations, maps, glossary of sea terms, bibliography.

Cornwell, Bernard. Introduction to Captain Blood: His Odyssey, by Rafael Sabatini. New York: Norton, 2002. Appreciation by a fellow historical novelist of Sabatini and his most famous work.

Fraser, George MacDonald. Introduction to Captain Blood: His Odyssey, by Rafael Sabatini. Pleasantville, N.Y.: Akadine Press, 1998. Analysis of the novel as history in the form of romance and an examination of its perennial appeal.

Hoppenstand, Gary. Introduction to Captain Blood, by Rafael Sabatini. New York: Penguin, 2003. Wide-ranging consideration of the novel, its historical background and antecedents, and its place within the development of popular fiction. Suggestions for further reading.

Knight, Jesse F. “Rafael Sabatini: The Swashbuckler as Serious Artist.” Romantist 9/10 (1985): 1-22. Rare extended survey of Sabatini’s life and literary career. Illustrations, bibliography of books and uncollected short stories, filmography.

Olcott, Charles S. At the Home of Rafael Sabatini. Boston: Houghton Mifflin/Riverside Press, 1927. Short appreciation of Sabatini, including a biographical account in his own words. Portraits, numerous photographs.