Work Header

Hornblower: The Unauthorised Musical

Chapter Text


The captain has accepted,

I’m going out to sea;

With uniform and textbooks, it’s not long before I leave.

I’ll be a great explorer,

Travel waters yet unknown –

To start with, for the first time in my life I’m leaving home.



Oh, you’ll fight for king and for country and for home!



We make for the Justinian,

The rowboat rolls and yaws,

I try to look as certain as the women at the oars,

A stranger on-deck hails me,

I leap from boat to ship,

I almost very nearly kind of manage not to slip.



Oh, he’ll fight for king and for country and for home!



One day I’ll be a strategist,

And analyze the world;

I’ll speak six languages, I’ll plot, I’ll have a way with words,

I clamber up onto the deck,

The ship pitches again,

The stranger smiles and promptly I forget my very name.



Now you’ll fight for king and for country and for home!



The Navy is a tough life,

But I know I’ll survive,

At least that’s what they tell me, I’ll get sea-legs in no time

And I’ll be strong as all of them,

Those sea-dogs to a man,

I’ll match ‘em all as soon as I’m well enough to stand.



Soon you’ll fight for king and for country and for home!



Dear Father, I am writing you this note to let you know,

That it’s all going swimmingly, I’m glad you let me go.

Chapter Text

Another messmate, gentlemen –

-oh, new blood? That’s a change.

Are you sure that he’s alright?

Oh and doesn’t he look strange?

All this waiting takes its toll,
We’ve been in port too long.
Now who is this young scarecrow here?
And what on earth could he have done?

What a place for one to get his first assignment:
A painted ship upon a painted sea.
Who knows? Maybe this time things will be diff-
-erent, a problem shared will be a problem halved.

You only know you’re waking here when you find you can’t dream.
It seems that we have caught the weakness of our Captain Keene.
We may as well be hemmed by ice, for all that we can move

We’re trapped and all there is to do is find something that soothes.

And pray to God that somebody would start another fight.
At least if we were fighting we would know that we’re alive.

Has it been months or years? Am I still drawing breath?
Hard to keep track of things like that when you’re living death.

Chapter Text

Fresh meat? I trust that you’ve told him the rules.

All that you own is his.

Every nasty secret,

Your rum and rations-

Secrets? Now that reminds me!

(Here we go)

(Here we go)

(Here we go)

The higher-ups aren’t looking.
Grab him, ho-old him down.

Open your mind and let him slither in…

And you’d better keep quiet.


Golden boy won’t learn his lesson,


-poor brave fool.

Locking horns with Jack is suicidal.

Doesn’t he see there’s nothing we can do?
That some tyrants cannot be toppled.

Lie down, won’t you curb your tongue?
You don’t know half of what he can do.
It’s best to just keep quiet.

(Keep you quiet, keep you quiet, quiet)


I can’t take this choke-hold very much longer.
It’s injustice, I can’t bear it -
By death or glory I’ll leave this purgatory
And there’s only one thing I can do…
The chance is fifty-fifty.

[aahing from the others]

I have one chance to kill him.


Chapter Text

It seemed the only thing to do
The only way that I could see to bring an end to mister Simpson’s reign
Desertion was no good
The rest of my life would be haunted by his name
I’ve thought ev’rything through –
And whether I fail or succeed, this will end the pain
If I die, I’ll be out of his reach
If I kill, then we all will be free
I’ll deliver us from this malady
We’ll smile again
And we’ll never again feel his boot on our throat
Hear his curses,
Let him take all we own
No more bruises,
No more creeping fear
Don’t do this. We can’t lose you.
Why give him a chance to shoot you?
Simpson’s aim is legendary.
To be free.
The captain sent us into town
Posted to catch any hands who tried to sneak away
And outside I kept watch
While warm in the tavern Simpson drank his pay
Lieutenant Chalk arrived
And what could he do but step inside and out of the rain?
Deck of cards and a table,
Sent for light and a bottle
Called us over and then he proposed
A friendly game

Night wore on, and the wagers grew
Fire and wine and challenge warmed us through
And there came a chance to stage a coup

We can’t let him fight Simpson.
You’re his second, you must stop him.
We both know neither will give in -
I can’t make them.

[WRYLY] We all know Simpson’s skill with cards
The man has never made attempt to employ strategy of any kind
When he began to lose
He claimed one was cheating and brazenly said the fault was mine
And there it was, my chance!
Demanded an apology, for I knew how he’d reply

There was no way that he’d concede
So I told him where he’d find me
On the hilltop, with a pistol in my hand -
And he agreed.

That is where we will finish this
That is where human blood will spill
[ALL] That is where [I/you] might breathe [my/your] last …

Poor lad isn’t yet twenty.
Already his courage shames me.
Charges at the man that I flee.
Just seventeen…

Tomorrow we will meet at dawn
Each armed with a pistol, decided that the other won’t survive.
I’ll have to hit his heart -
Or maybe hit the temple? Surely any major organ would suffice?
I haven’t studied this!
I haven’t read a textbook that could teach me how to take a human life.

And I must - I must keep myself calm
My life depends on a steady arm
But I’m trembling, my life is in my hands,
It’s hard to breathe…

But I swear I will see this through
For my sake, and for both of you
If I fall, I will take him with me.

I’ll see that this is finished
He is so young, burns so brightly
I won’t let him be extinguished
I’ll step in
I’ll save him…

Chapter Text

My principle has been indisposed;
So I will fight in his stead.

So it seems the whelp’s lost his nerve.
He’s sent his nurse to fight his losing battle!

Is Jack’s face the last thing that I’ll see?
His bullet the last thing I feel?
I’m taking one last look at the sky
And my hands are shaking
But I will not run!


All these years inactive,
Tryin’ to keep myself safe.
Comforting his victims,
But when Jack struck I stepped back.
So he kept doing damage,
No-one stayed his hand -
He terrorized his shipmates
Now I take my stand!

This is my last chance,
I’ll make him pay.
This is my last chance,
I’ll make him pay!


Have you seen two sailors?
Tell me which one survived!
Was the other man killed?
Are you certain that’s right?

[I can’t believe he did this.]
[Gave his life for mine.]

Bastard’s somewhere that way.

And he hasn’t much time.

I had to kill Jack.
I had to face him.
To pay him back –
I’m so sorry…


Chapter Text

I’ve got a lot to learn,
My first command, the odds are stern.

We’ve got a ship to burn,
To take and tame or overturn.

Here comes death or glory.
Things gonna get gory.

It’s a perfect story.
“I saw them die, oh, poor me.”


Just keep quiet, men.

(Just keep quiet, men.)

Surprise is on our side –
We’ll make it out alive.

If we do this right,

(If I do this right)

We’ll take them down like flies,

I’ll make them sorry.



You’ll take position and be still.
They mustn’t know a thing until
We’re poised to spring, ready to kill!

Happy with him but not with me?
You double-crossing tease.
If I can’t have you, no-one will.
Come to me. Hush, be still.


Now or never, men!

Break and burn her, men!

Don’t think you’ll be alone –
That whelp will join you soon.

Find the man in charge!

Find the man in charge!

Let’s hope he’ll ‘mit defeat,
He’ll see that he’s beat.


We’re missing one midshipman, so you know.
Don’t see him slain, di’n’t hear him yell.

I swear that he had backup, where’d they go?
Where is he now, where in the hell-
-oh god no.
Oh god no.
Oh, god, no-


Frogs aren’t lying down! [Frogs aren’t lying down…]
Come on now, run ‘em through!
Shouldn’t be hard to do!

Slit ‘em open, lads!

Slit ‘em open, lads!

Watch dozens breathe their last.
Make their wives widows!


Have to salvage this.

Now to finish this.

We’ve won, the ship is ours –
Not total failure.
But, my god, he’s lost…

What a tragic loss!

I’ll get no second chance.
I’ve proved unworthy.

The shame like liquor burns,
But that is all that I deserve, oh –


Here’s what you deserve!

Chapter Text

The sailor before you is no man of honour.
I’ve seen it myself and I keep to the truth, sir.
Midshipman Simpson ‘ttempted to shoot me.
Brings naught but trouble to King George’s navy.

I trust that this claim is not brought forth lightly.
I’ve seen too much infighting from you already.
These lies mister Hornblower tells must be answered.
I beg your permission to end this with pistols.

Two more go court the Reaper,
They bet the lives last night they fought for.
But this man’s proved trustworthy.
If he speaks true, then Simpson would be
Hanged an-y-way.

You’ll meet at dawn, out of sight of the locals.
The doctor will escort you, give you your pistols.
And until then you will cause no more disruption.
You’re not to breathe one word of this mess to the men.


You’ve been asking for this since I first met you.
And long since before that, as well, I would bet you.
Snot-nosed little kid so eager to show us up.
Let’s see what happens when the bulldog fights the pup.

And again I am to fight him.
Clayton is gone, he cannot step in.
It seems I’m Jack’s last victim.
All the others lost, maybe I will join them –
Gone, gone, gone, gone –

I’ll bet that you cried yourself well sick in mourning.
Don’t weep for those wretches, I’ll send you to join them.
You and your boyfriend can compare last mem’ries,
You sniveling weaklings, you couldn’t defeat me.

You reptile, you coward, you low utter bastard –
Call me what you like, I can’t say I’m that bothered.
You’ll spend your last moments knowing I will walk free –
That you targeted those who would’t make you pay.

How can this go unpunished?
He seeks to evade justice.
I may die, but I promise
Cross my heart, I’ll shoot this bastard
He will go down.

Stand back-to-back.
One, two, three, four.
Five, six, se’en, eight.
Nine, ten, turn, fire –


Chapter Text

If I may,
I would like to present
My latest protégé.
Captain of La Reve.

Captain? He’s a child!
Poor thing looks terrified.
Forgive me, sir, I jest.
I’ve heard all the best.
All the best, all the best.

Oh it’s so good to see, it’s so good to see, it’s so good to see you well.
I think I might be in hell.

It’s good to see you well.
I don’t think we have met.
I adore your dress.

There they were,
There they were,
Hidden on France’s shore.
France’s shore!
Maybe a dozen men.
Dozen men!
Who then ambushed the French,
What heroic men!

I bet you’re mighty proud!
It certainly impressed the crowd.

May I propose a toast?
I propose a toast.
I propose a toast!
Let us all drink.
To your health.

I must say,
I’m longing for the day
That I go home again.
Don’t you miss England?

Well, we can sail you there.
I have a ship to spare.
That’s very kind of you.
[It’s] the least I could do.
You sail at dawn.
We sail at dawn!

Chapter Text

Hello. It's... me. So, I'll be transparently honest, this is my first public WIP and I am beginning to realise that cranking out and publishing chapters of a WIP at current pace is [a] a lunatic thing to attempt during finals run-up, [b] doing crazy things to my anxiety and [c] resulting in them being hacked out in a few panicked hours and ending up pretty meh. Which is no fun for me or you. I'm going away to think about what I've done. Not sure if or when I will return to this. If anyone's really passionate about gay sailor boys singing on a stage, give us a shout and I can stick the outline and ideas I had for the rest of this mess up online or shoot them straight to you, Olympic Torch style. [Olympic tealight. Olympic lit match.] So, yeah. Ball in your court, guys. Stay cool. I'll be back when I have some Diazepam and a completed piece of writing. <3

Chapter Text

Track 2: Setting Sail is to the tune of Come Round Soon by Sara Barielles. [] Before a grey backdrop, semi-transparent screens on wheels [made to look like walls of fog] waft to and fro while shadowy shapes pass behind them. Horatio and his men [and Kitty, wrapped in a boat-cloak and guarded] carefully inch their way about, attempting to avoid roving parties of Spanish sailors.

Why’d they trust me with the poor duchess?
Fool like me sails her straight into the adders’ nest.
Outnumbered four-to-one, all we can do
Is keep real quiet.

Fog rolled in so fast, had us blinded
They don’t know that we’re here, maybe we’ll slip them by
But this fog won’t last us long. [Of course.]
Since we set off nothing has gone right.

We must get the duchess
out of this damn mess
or die in the attempt
[the attempt]

Something o’er the port side, sir!

So they sneak about for a while, undergo a swift costume change [i.e. they all put on a different hat] and do their very best to “act Spanish”. Nonetheless they are rumbled when one of the Spanish parties circles them experimentally and then calls them right out.

The captain said he trusted me.
Some choice I turned out to be!

This was entertaining,
But that’s enough playtime.
I must demand your ship.
[And your men, and passenger.]

But cheer up; in prison,
You’ll have time to work on
That dear Spanish impression.

Track 3: Conversations With Kitty, to the tune of Cigarette Duet by Princess Chelsea.
[]. Horatio and the Duchess stroll around a vaguely outdoorsy set [which is being constantly altered by stage-hands to give the impression of movement and relative freedom.] For the sake of simplicity, in this version of events Kitty is also being held prisoner [more of a bargaining chip or a hostage, really] and Horatio has already been told of her real identity. And the lyrics first reflect that Horatio is struggling to put faith in someone who lies so easily, but then move on to the subject of escape attempts. Kitty resolving to call in some favours and attempt to transmit strategic information that would allow British ships to come crashing in and take the area over. Spy stuff.
“Sir, you have to trust me. Please believe I’m on your side.”

Chapter Text

It’s me! I’m here now.
You’re gonna be fine.
This place can’t hold you and me.
Escape’s our duty
And satisfaction.
Soon we’ll be back on the Indy.

C’mon, let’s make the captain proud.
You’ve got backup now.
Tell me what you know.
Jailbreak’s getting close.

[I’m so tired.]
[Caught between devil and deep sea.]
[I’m so tired.]
[I don’t sleep soundly now he’s here.]
[Knight in shining armour wants to bring me back to hell, oh-]

What did you do last time?
Tell me how you got out.
Then we can build on that plan.
Please talk to me –
Don’t you see this is a sure chance for freedom?

C’mon, let’s make the captain proud.
Don’t you miss England?
Another try won’t hurt.
What’s your freedom worth?

[Could I be dying?]
[Can’t recall last time ate.]
[Could I be dying?]
[An endless sleep can’t scare me.]
[Pretty sure that I could use the peace and quiet, oh-]

[I’m so tired.]
This won’t be like those last times.
[I’m so tired.]
[An endless sleep is beckoning.]
What else can I say to make you want to go back home?

Chapter Text

Track 5 is to the tune of Evelyn Evelyn by Evelyn Evelyn. [] [who I can’t in good conscience plug w/o mentioning that no matter how great their music their attitude towards disability is troubling to say the least. //dismounts soapbox]. For this scene I wouldn’t change the shed of track 4, but the picturesque outdoor surroundings would be swapped out for a bleak and barren nighttime scene.

Please get up.
Please let up.
You act like you want to stay.
Why bother running away?
Don’t you see, we have a chance?
Back to the ship to hear them sing your praises -
- how you saved the day.

Yes, Archie?
I’ve tried five times to escape –
Maybe the sixth time will take!
Please don’t make me try again.
What kind of Englishman gives up so fast?
Well clearly, a coward like me.

Tell me that you will eat, and get strong, promise me
No way in hell will I leave you to die!
There is no point in my going on.
But what about duty?
And what about duty?
And don’t you miss the sea?
‘F you miss it so much, leave!

Track 6, in which the crew become impatient, is set to Jump the Fence by Mother Mother. The crew complain that the lieutenant has the duchess on one arm and his jailbird on the other and come to the conclusion that if they ever want to be free they have to escape themselves. [Matthews sighs deeply and tells them they’re being stupid. nobody listens.] there’s like one double-entendre-laden verse of “Horry has damn well betrayed us, n.b. is probably having loads of sex” and then it’s the jailbreak. The chaos does not feature singing but is a disaster.

Track 7 is to the tune of New Albion 1 by Paul Shapera. A line of prisoners [incl. Matthews and Archie] in cells the size of refrigerator boxes look bleakly on while in the foreground the Don addresses a hole in the ground and by extension the prisoner implied to be in it. Haitch isn’t heard from at all in this scene. First sings the Don, then the Duchess [who is working on that secret agent business], then Archie. Matthews might get a “told you so” segment.

Give me the culprit’s name / and I will put him in his place / and release you, and give you back all of your privilege. / We both know that plan wasn’t yours / [7 beats silence, as he pantomimes listwening for a response] / well fine then, you can stay there ‘til you weep that you were born.”

Track 8 comes to you live from inside the Naughty Box. To the tune of Mama by My Chemical Romance. And really it’s just Horatio repeating what he told the Don off-screen and losing touch with reality. Shouting about how the whole escape attempt was kind of his fault and how he’s just a big failure because this is what the poor edgelord does without his boyfriend on hand.

“Señor, the only fault is mine. Señor, I take blame for the crime. I beg your forgiveness, for I crossed a line. Señor, the only fault is mine.”

Really static staging here. Just Haitch sat on the floor of a darkened empty stage, hemmed in one spot by this single square of light [with bar-shaped shadows across it, natch], No furniture, no other characters, just this one guy in his little square. Just to bring the isolation across. And near the end I’d wanna get some kind of back-up voice playing from No Clear Location, maybe some backup singers hidden in the wings, unknown shadows flickering across the square of light, something to give you the feeling that Horatio is kind of going to pieces in there. And then right at the end this shaft of light would turn up dramatically to give the impression of a prison door being opened, and then the curtains would close. And we just. Kind of assume that marks the end of the imprisonment, even if it doesn’t. End act 2.

Chapter Text

Track 1: Loyalty Lies. Establishing the ship [for the first four songs the set would be the same part of the deck, a forecastle in the background, a mast in the centre, the port and starboard sides of the ship to the left and right of the stage] with Sawyer putting on one of those “I know where loyalty lies” sermons. To the tune of A Complete History of the Soviet Union as Told by a Humble Worker Arranged to the Melody of Tetris by Pig with the Face of a Boy [], with some of the verses cut out bc that song, like its title, is nightmarishly long. A lot of pacing and pointing. Red lighting, the mast and rigging dark silhouettes. And all the other characters behave as Sawyer thinks they are behaving, which means suddenly everyone’s pantomiming villainy, scuttling about and whispering in Ominous Huddles.

Track 2: Wellard Again. The light goes back to sky blue to show we’re moving back to reality and Wellard is dragged to the front of the stage for Punishment. Sawyer begins the song, proclaiming the boy’s crimes, but most of the lines go to the officers, who are spread out in the back, looking on with various levels of disgust and muttering about Sawyer being mad. A crowd of ordinary crew members stand around Wellard and Sawyer watching the beating, swaying and taking long swigs of grog in time with the beat. All to the tune of Look Down from Les Miserables. [].

Track 3: Watch & Watch, to the tune of Over & Over by Chris Garneau. [] Twilight, and the deck is empty except for Horatio. During the musical preamble he seems to doze, but he starts awake when Matthews appears on deck and the lyrics begin. They have that little chat – “hot damn I’m tired” “how many hours to go” “94” “ah” – and then M returns below decks just before the instrumental interlude begins.
Enter Sawyer, looking dishevelled and old. Silently, as the instrumental plays, he offers Horatio the pistol, pointed at his [Sawyer’s] own chest. And as the words come back in there’s a sad little sequence where Sawyer asks for death and Horatio feebly attempts to dissuade him. Clive comes on-deck to retrieve the captain and returns him to his quarters. For that one last sequence – starting in the original with the lyric “we’re rockers anyway” – Horatio gets a very tired solo. About how it’s hard to reconcile the great man he’s heard about with the person the captain has become.

Chapter Text

Track 4: is to the tune of Dream a Little Dream of Me [the Mama Cass Elliott cover] []. It’s now night-time, and in “the milk-light of moon” the OTP have a little chat. Not a lot of movement here, but in the instrumental I like to picture them attempting that particular entwined shuffle you do when you’re couple-dancing for the first time. One perking up the courage to take the other’s hand and twirl him around like they’re ballroom dancing during the instrumental. As the music fades out the moonlight dims, so the boys are just silhouettes. The gap between them closes. The lights go down.

Soon we’ll be safe in harbor
On land, it won’t be so hard to wander
Us two, we might get lost –
You mean flee.
Won’t you run away with me?

Indulge me.
Just picture it. A cottage by the sea,
The two of us, as safe as can be.
Won’t you run away with me?

…It might be nice to vanish.
Elope and leave this ship to its madness.
And though it’s nothing more than a dream…
Won’t you run away with me?


Track 5 is to the tune of the mob’s song from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. [The 1991 animated version.] [] The stage is lit up in harsh chiaroscuro. Sawyer has raised the alarm. People scramble out of the shadows to sing their lines – all pretty much amounting to “WHAT IN GOD’S NAME” with occasional forays into “EVERYTHING IS GOING TO HELL” - and then dash back into them. All the while there’s an ungodly commotion, crashes in the darkness, the general impression of panicked/fighty chaos. At the end of the song we hear a crash and the lights come up to show the four lieutenants and Wellard, all equidistant from where Sawyer is lying unconscious.

Chapter Text

Track 6: Laudanum is to the tune of He’s Hurting Me by Maria Mena [].

We cannot go on waiting for your judgement.
We don’t have the time to play these games.
You must oblige us with a formal statement.
Don’t damn us all to save his name.

All have turned against me, all are traitors.
And doctor, even you aid the betrayers.
Have I not served alongside you these long years?
And yet you turn your back on me.

The captain is a legend and a hero.
How can you dogs not understand?
And yet you dare to think you could fill his shoes.
You’re just boys playing at command.

Doctor, not a moment can be wasted.
Is not a man on this ship to be trusted?
We need you to declare the captain unfit.
Oh doctor, my dear friend, you must help me!

See reason!
[SAWYER] [to Clive]
Make them listen!
Take command then – see if I care!
We cannot, without your-
[oohing; exit Clive]
[HORATIO] [spoken]
without your statement.

If Clive won’t play along we must subvert him.
If we do he’ll make sure we are doomed.
I don’t see that we have another option.
Well then, that is what we must do.


Track 7 is to the tune of Cut Off Their Thumbs #1 by The Mountain Goats. []. Horatio and Buckland find themselves in court, trying to justify their usurping the captain. The song ends with no conclusion having been reached, but it being clear that the judges are out for blood and certain to get it. I kind of like the idea of Bush narrating this, on his sick-bed in the foreground, temporarily blessed with Narrator Magic in order to explain what the hell is going on despite being too ill to actually attend the trial.
“The air is hot and still, grim-faced sailors line the pews.
Two lieutenants try and explain what they had to do.
The captain has been shot and two men lie bandaged in bed.
Before the week is out they’re going to have somebody’s head.”
Track 8, Closing Number / The Goodbye is a medley-mashup-mess of the other songs that have come before with new / slightly new lyrics. [Which I ttttttotally didn’t rip off from Hamilton. //sweats] Horatio visits the boyfriend in the sickbay. The lighting is straddling the border between warm and dingy. Horatio fully expects to be hanged tomorrow, so he’s doing the tearful goodbye thing, and Archie fully expects to get in the way of that plan tomorrow, so he’s also doing the tearful goodbye thing. And it’s just fantastic and horrible. It’s possible that Archie actually tips his hand confession-wise to Horatio, appealing to the “I’m going to die anyway so I might as well die for both of us” line of argument. In that case… Well. The scene becomes rather grimmer and more depressing.
[ARCHIE] [to the tune of “The Mob Song”]
‘S not about right or wrong,
They just want a man to hang;
A scapegoat who can carry all the blame.
Right at the end, Horatio returns alone to his cell and miserably reprises Run Away With Me, once again lit tastefully by moonlight. One can imagine that he’s constructing a Cunning Plan, but nothing is made explicit.
On land we are so fragile
On land the admirals spoil for their kill
And all I want is you and the sea
Won’t you run away with me?