A swashbuckler is a heroic archetype in European adventure literature that is typified by the use of a sword, acrobatics, guile and chivalric ideals. The archetype also became common as a film genre.


1. Archetype
A swashbuckler is a protagonist who is heroic and idealistic: he rescues damsels in distress, defends the downtrodden, and in general saves the day. Swashbucklers are not unrepentant brigands or pirates, although some may rise from such disreputable stations in redemption. His opponent is typically characterized as the dastardly villain. There is a long list of swashbucklers who combine outstanding courage, swordfighting skill, resourcefulness, and a distinctive sense of honor and justice, as for example Cyrano de Bergerac, The Three Musketeers, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Robin Hood, and Zorro.

2. Etymology
"Swashbuckler" is a compound of "swash" archaic: to swagger with a drawn sword and "buckler" a small shield gripped in the fist dating from the 16th century.

3. Historical background
While man-at-arms and sellswords of the era usually wore armor of necessity, their counterparts in later romantic literature and film see below often did not, and the term evolved to denote a daring, devil-may-care demeanor rather than brandishment of accoutrements of war, and modern "swashbuckling" heroes might not carry swords at all.
Swashbuckling adventures and romances are generally set in Europe from the late Renaissance up through the Age of Reason and the Napoleonic Wars, extending into the colonial era with pirate tales in the Caribbean.

3.1. Historical background Literature
Jeffrey Richards traces the swashbuckling novel to the rise of Romanticism, and an outgrowth of the historical novel, particularly those of Sir Walter Scott, ". medieval tales of chivalry, love and adventure rediscovered in the eighteenth century". This type of historical novel was further developed by Alexandre Dumas.
John Galsworthy said of Robert Louis Stevensons 1888 swashbuckling romance, The Black Arrow, that it was "a livelier picture of medieval times than I remember elsewhere in fiction." Anthony Hopes 1894, The Prisoner of Zenda initiated an additional subset of the swashbuckling novel, the Ruritanian romance.

3.2. Historical background Theatre
The perceived significant and widespread role of swordsmanship in civilian society as well as warfare in the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods led to fencing being performed on theatre stages as part of plays. Soon actors were taught to fence in an entertaining, dramatic manner. Eventually fencing became an established part of a classical formation for actors.

3.3. Historical background Movie
Consequently, when movie theaters mushroomed, ambitious actors took the chance to present their accordant skills on the screen. Since silent movies were no proper medium for long dialogues, the classic stories about heroes who would defend their honour with sword in hand were simplified and sheer action would gain priority. This was the birth of a new kind of film hero: the swashbuckler.
Four of the most famous instructors for swashbuckling swordplay are William Hobbs, Anthony De Longis, Bob Anderson and Peter Diamond.
The larger-than-life heroics portrayed in some film franchise adventures most notably the Indiana Jones movies set in the modern era have been described as swashbuckling.

4. Film
The genre has, apart from swordplay, always been characterized by influences that can be traced back to the chivalry tales of Medieval Europe, such as the legends of Robin Hood and King Arthur. It soon created its own drafts based on classic examples like The Mark of Zorro 1920, The Three Musketeers 1921, Scaramouche 1923 and The Scarlet Pimpernel 1934. Some films did also use motifs of pirate stories. Often these films were adaptations of classic historic novels published by well-known authors such as Alexandre Dumas, Rafael Sabatini, Baroness Emma Orczy, Sir Walter Scott, Johnston McCulley, and Edmond Rostand. Swashbucklers are one of the most flamboyant Hollywood film genres, unlike cinema verite or modern realistic filmmaking. The genre attracted large audiences who relished the blend of escapist adventure, historic romance, and daring stunts in cinemas before it became a fixture on TV screens.
As a first variation of the classic swashbuckler there have also been female swashbucklers. Maureen OHara in Against All Flags and Jean Peters in Anne of the Indies were very early action film heroines.
Eventually the typical swashbuckler motifs were used up because they had so often been shown on TV screens. Later films such as The Princess Bride, the Pirates of the Caribbean series and The Mask of Zorro include modern takes on the swashbuckler archetype.

5. Television
Television followed the films, especially in the UK, with The Adventures of Robin Hood, Sword of Freedom, The Buccaneers, and Willam Tell between 1955 and 1960. US TV produced two series of Zorro in 1957 and 1990. Following the 1998 film The Mask of Zorro, a TV series about a female swashbuckler, the Queen of Swords, aired in 2000.

6. Actors
Actors notable for their portrayals of swashbucklers include:
E. H. Sothern 1859–1933 was especially known for his heroic portrayal of Rudolph Rassendyl in the first stage adaptation of The Prisoner of Zenda, which he first played in 1895. The role made him a star.
Errol Flynn 1909-1959 was famously known for the action adventurer typified Hollywoods idea of the swashbuckler in films as Captain Blood 1935, The Adventures of Robin Hood 1938, and The Sea Hawk 1940.
In early 1883 James ONeill 1847–1920 took over the lead role in "The Count of Monte Cristo" at Booths Theater in New York. His interpretation of the part caused a sensation with the theater-going public and a company was immediately set up to take the play on tour. ONeill bought the rights to the play. "Monte Cristo" remained a popular favorite and would continue to make its appearance on tour as regular as clockwork. ONeill went on to play this role over 6.000 times.
Burt Lancaster 1913-1994 Although he was very much an all-round actor successful in any kind of role, two swashbuckling films where he was the lead were The Flame and the Arrow 1950 and The Crimson Pirate 1952.
Benoit-Constant Coquelin 1841–1909, was a French actor, and "one of the greatest theatrical figures of the age." He played "Cyrano de Bergerac" over 400 times and later toured North America in the role.
Douglas Fairbanks 1883-1939 was a Hollywood movie star of the silent film era and was widely regarded as the predecessor to Errol Flynn.
Mikhail Boyarsky born 1949, who played dArtagnan in dArtagnan and Three Musketeers and its four sequels, as well as other swashbuckler characters in historical adventure movies like Gardes-Marines, Ahead!, Viva Gardes-Marines!, Don Cesar de Bazan, The Dog in the Manger, The Prisoner of Chateau dIf, Queen Margot, among others.

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