Thursday, March 9, 2017

Eleanor Guthrie Was a Tragic Figure on “Black Sails”

About a year ago, I wrote that Eleanor Guthrie was making “Cersei-like decisions” on Black Sails. Such is the nature of tragedies.


I’m speaking in the classic sense of the term: a drama in which the character is brought to ruin by his or her tragic flaw. In Eleanor’s case, the flaw was a short-sightedness that would make fans of Cersei Lannister proud. Like Cersei in Game of Thrones, Eleanor makes decisions to solve the most immediate problem without thinking through the consequences. Appreciating the fallout from her actions isn’t exactly her thing.

When I wrote last year’s post it was about her decision to execute her former lover, Charles Vane. Max warned her against it, but Eleanor didn’t listen, and instead she lit the fuse that would ignite the pirate rebellion of Nassau. After the pirates’ disastrous attempt to capture Nassau in episode one this season, it seemed, for a brief moment, that Eleanor may have recovered from this mistake. But that’s the nature of tragedies. Things seems like they’re going right, until they’re not. And once again, Eleanor’s short sightedness was the cause.


One could argue that from the moment she chose to kill Vane, every decision she made led her to her fate. Her decision to trade Nassau to the pirates for the remains of the Urca treasure, without informing her husband, Woodes Rogers, was the first short sighted decision. After all, it assumed that Rogers, a proud and determined man, would accept her plan without fail, or that Mrs. Hudson could convince him to follow it. In fact, when Mrs. Hudson tries to explain Eleanor’s plan, Rogers points on the flaw in her thinking:
“I fear the instincts that have awoken within [Eleanor],” he tells Mrs. Hudson, “are more insidious than that. She has begun to believe again that disorder in Nassau is inevitable. That civilization is powerless, either through lack of will or capacity to do anything about it. Civilization has a number of faces. To think them all powerless to alter Nassau’s future is a terrible mistake.” 
Eleanor’s decision to fire warning shots to drive Rogers away so her plan with Flint could succeed sealed her fate. She badly underestimated Rogers’ resolve, never considering what he might do if he disagreed with handing the island over to the pirates. Instead, he decides to convince the Spanish governor of Cuba – another face of civilization with the will and capacity to get the job done – to invade Nassau. This decision makes Rogers an equally tragic figure on the show, for anyone who has watched last episode knows what happened next.

Eleanor was a tragic figure, but she was also one of the characters who made Black Sails so great. With only four episodes to go, her character arc was bound to reach its end. 

And it did so in a way that would make William Shakespeare proud.

* Images courtesy of Starz

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