Captain Blood Summary
by Rafael Sabatini

Start Your Free Trial

Download Captain Blood Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Captain Blood Summary

(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. Blood avoids the trap, but Don Diego dies of fright at his hands, earning him the enmity of the Spanish captain’s brother, Don Miguel de Espinosa y Valdez—the admiral of the Spanish fleet in the Caribbean. Blood now joins the many buccaneers on the island of Tortuga who operate under the protection of the island’s French governor. He knows that joining these pirates will damn him in the eyes of Bishop’s niece, but he has little choice. The only outward sign of Blood’s regard for her is to rename his ship the Arabella.

Blood continues to thwart Bishop and Don Miguel, outwitting the latter during a raid on the Venezuelan port of Maracaibo. So notorious has Blood become that the British government decides to enlist him in its own cause by pardoning him, entrusting the task to Lord Julian Wade. Wade’s ship is attacked by Don Miguel, and he is captured, along with Arabella Bishop, who is traveling on the same vessel. Blood rescues them both and accepts Wade’s offer, but Arabella’s misunderstanding of his character and deeds throws him into despair. He also realizes that accepting the pardon will cause him to fall into the clutches of Colonel Bishop, who has become deputy governor of Jamaica. Moreover, Blood’s love for Arabella earns him the enmity of Wade, who has fallen in love with the young woman himself. Unwilling to place himself in the power of these men, Blood rejects his pardon and escapes.

When France declares war on Spain in 1688, Blood is approached by the French governor of Hispaniola with a commission. He accepts the offer only to discover that his new masters intend to make a foolhardy attack upon the Spanish colonial city of Cartagena. Thanks to Blood, the attack succeeds, but the leader of the expedition, the treacherous Baron de Rivarol, sails away with the Spanish treasure.

While pursuing de Rivarol, the Arabella encounters British lifeboats off the coast of Jamaica, and Blood learns...

(The entire section is 1,085 words.)