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On the topic of my muse, James Norrington. - Vox Audita Perrit, Literra Scripta Manet....
The heard word is lost, the written letter remains...
On the topic of my muse, James Norrington.
I don't normally discuss my muses on this journal, but on my travels around lj tonight, I noticed in strangemuses memories, an entry on PotC characterizations. And all this happened while Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore was on tv. Granted, Pinafore is a comic operetta set in Victorian times, but it was enough to get me thinking about my own view of James.

When my long-term relationship began to falter and fall apart late in 2004, I lost James for a while. Then, a couple of months ago, he returned and he again has his place in theatrical_muse. I honestly missed writing his posts, and doing it now is always enjoyable. My writing for James is better than before, perhaps because I know the muse himself better, if that makes sense.

So, like the post strangemuses made, I came up with a list of points about the characterization of James that I've gleaned. I could have done this for the other characters too, but quite frankly? James is the character I know best. From the moment I walked out of the film, it was James I liked best, better than Jack Sparrow/Will Turner/Elizabeth/Barbossa. The truth of the matter is, while these characters are interesting in their own right, I haven't given enough thought to them to be able to compile notes. So just James it is.

Commodore James Norrington...

- was born into wealth. His mother's dowry was substantial when she married James' father, and Admiral Norrington himself was in possession of property and family assets as the only surviving son in his own family. James himself is the oldest of three, a good ten years older than his younger siblings.
- would've first went to sea in his mid-teens. Spent four years as a midshipman before undergoing the examination for lieutenant at nineteen.
- having been tutored according to the etiquette of the time, is good at restraining himself. He generally isn't prone to angry outbursts, even in battle.
- is a good and fair leader to his men. He won't stand for bullying or fighting, and is prepared to have any man who does it flogged in full sight of the rest of the crew.
- is a Christian, but not in the strictest sense of the word in that he's not entirely taken by some of the clergymen he's met. James prays and reads the bible occasionally, and prefers to worship God in his own way, and not in a congregation.
- loves books and poetry, particularly those written by the ancient authors that have a philosophical undertone to them.
- has a witty sense of humour that he rarely lets anyone see, save those he knows and trusts best.
- is an ambitious man (but not ruthless), who thinks of returning to England one day to be promoted in rank from commodore to admiral, and a position in the admiralty.
- is well-travelled, and would have travelled as far east as India before receiving orders to sail to Jamaica.
- is homesick for England frequently, though he has come to appreciate life in West Indies.
- thinks frequently (and with guilt) of the men that have been killed under his command, whether in battle or otherwise.
- still bears great affection for Elizabeth Swann, but has moved on.
- favours marrying for love over reasons of status or wealth.
- is fluent in several languages for reasons of diplomacy (French, Spanish and a little Dutch, to communicate with the other Caribbean colonies) and academia (Latin and classical Greek, which he learned as a child).
- plays the violin and fences for relaxation.
- enjoys brandy and wine, but not to excess.
- loves the thrill of the chase, which is why I believe he let Jack go at the end of the film. He will not do that again, though.
- has great admiration and respect for his ship, and the sea, not unlike Jack's. This was instilled in him by his father when he was a young boy, and well before he went to sea.

There are many other points I could make about James. A little plot bunny supplanted itself in my mind about a week ago that he might have even met a certain Horatio Nelson late in his life, if he lived well into old age. I guess what I like about that is the idea of the elderly and accomplished Admiral Norrington (in my mind, he does end up getting his promotion) observing and admiring this young lieutenant, who would go on to become one of Britain's greatest naval commanders.

What I also like about James is that he's not a villain, or if he's going to be considered as such, he's a likeable one. You can't hate James. His dignity and grace at the end of the film is always wonderful for me to watch. I will be most interested to see what happens to him in the two sequels to Curse of the Black Pearl. I have every reason to believe that it's him we see in the trailer for Dead Man's chest, staring down that hole with Jack and Elizabeth. And I'm sure I'll be surprised and pleased to discover why he's in pirate garb. It will be interesting!

Edit- 26/05/07

I wrote this entry about a year and a half ago now, and I felt that in light of the two PotC sequels, it was now time to update the James manifesto. Understandably, there are those in the fandom that choose not to take DMC and AWE in their Navy canon. More out of a desire for completeness, I choose to take the sequels as canon. Except for James being killed off. In my version of events, he manages to just survive being attacked by Bill Turner and somehow (for unexplained reasons at the moment...though some sort of Deus Ex Machina, I wager) reunites in Singapore with his old friend and crewmate Captain Theodore Groves, who survived the sinking of the Endeavour. And then they sail back to the West Indies, where James will command a ship christened the Aeneas and continue to be the scourge of piracy (slashiness with Groves optional for those who enjoy that. ;)).

All this said, after two and a half years of writing James Norrington in theatrical_muse, this is the further knowledge I've gained about James. It's a bit of a mish-mash, so don't expect anything chronological here.

- Firstly, that when it came to promotions, James and Groves were in equal contention. The then-Commodore of the Fleet, Thomas Ashworth, ultimately chose to promote James to the rank of captain first, establishing his career path toward the rank of post-captain, and commodore.
- I mentioned earlier that James wasn't prone to angry outbursts. I've since learned that his outlet for anger manifests in battle itself. James is a good fighter, and he is ruthless against the enemy. Moreso, if he's seen the destruction that the enemy has wreaked.
- Related to the above point: James can tell a relatively harmless pirate (eg. Jack Sparrow) from a genuinely destructive one (eg. Barbossa in CotBP). It's the pirates that kill in cold blood and leave a trail of destruction behind that really raise his ire, as it were.
- James is decidedly uneasy about being promoted to admiral at such a young age. His father was promoted to admiral in his mid-forties, and as such, James feels rather unworthy of the rank, believing himself not to have accomplished as much as his father had when he became an admiral.
- Yes, he thinks the new admiral uniform is ugly too. Don't worry, he gets a new one after returning to Port Royal. Without ugly mustard accents.
- Unsurprisingly, he hates Cutler Beckett. It's not so much a matter of the man holding power over him as that James just finds him remarkably irritating. And arrogant. And belittling. And more than a bit pompous. The list goes on! James never takes kindly to a man who abuses his power either. If there was anything I would've liked to have seen in AWE, it would've been Norrington dispatching Beckett himself. Perhaps in revenge for the murder of Governor Swann.
- When James had his commission restored, the first thing he did was burn the clothes he'd been wearing in Tortuga and on the Pearl. He was so disgusted with himself that every reminder of that period had to go. Except his sword (which was given to him by his father on his deathbed) and a signet ring he was bequeathed by an uncle (a RN captain) who died in battle during the War of Spanish succession before James was born.
- James' disgust with his actions does not equal emo. James certainly feels remorse for what he did, but he's not going to sit around and brood on it. My belief is that his motivations for going to Beckett not just lay in honour, but also in wanting to help Liz and Will (on the proviso that they were alive, of course). That said, he has written on the subject of the events in DMC in t_m, but it's one that he hopes to just leave alone for the most part.
- I don't know if I can convey this without innuendo, but James doesn't like other people touching his sword. -_-; That is to say, the sword Will Turner made him to mark his promotion in rank to commodore. He really didn't like Beckett touching it. I'm not sure exactly why, but it's probably something to do with him hating Beckett. A LOT.

I don't know what more I can add to that, though I'm sure there'll be other facts I'll learn as I continue writing him.

Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful
Current Music: Madonna- Die Another Day

3 comments or Leave a comment
strangemuses From: strangemuses Date: December 19th, 2005 03:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, that is an excellent assessment of Norrington!

Sorry I haven't been on TM with Jack. I got swamped by RL. Classes are over and I'm back to my usual routine. Are you still up for a TM-based RP?
normandie_m From: normandie_m Date: December 19th, 2005 06:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Thankyou. :) Don't worry, I understand completely about RL and I'm still game for a roleplay if you are.
fannyfae From: fannyfae Date: February 19th, 2006 03:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is an excellent write-up on James Norrington. I have seen very few people who really grasp him. They either make him too milk-toast and proper, or they make him far too much of a villain. This is a nice balance. You portray him very, very well in TM. :)

Btw, I had seen this, and had to share. Thought you might enjoy it give n our conversation the other night. ;)

3 comments or Leave a comment