I've always had a fondness
for stories about polyamorous relationships, because adding a third person
(or more) to a relationship opens it up in complex and fascinating ways. I
think the appeal for me has to do with the idea of surplus, of a surfeit of
emotional/sexual connections, and of not being dependent on one person to
fulfill all those needs. Of course, the extra person complicates things as
well, which makes for interesting narrative possibilities. In fanfiction, a
threesome can be a good way to have your cake and eat it too by honoring the
canon relationship while at the same time exploring the subtextual
possibilities of unconventional 'ships. As much as I love slash, I'm not
entirely comfortable with the tendency some slash writers have of shuffling
the female characters (and especially the love interest) offstage as quickly
as possible, and so, for me, a M/M/F threesome is the perfect way to get the
slash relationship without neglecting the woman.
Pirates of the Caribbean is the polyest fandom I've ever encountered,
primarily because Jack Sparrow has subtext with everyone and everything
on-screen, including but not limited to most of the characters he interacts
with, several different ships, and a bottle of rum. In addition, the
movie's romanticized view of piracy presents it as freedom from society's
constraints and the opportunity to follow your heart wherever it leads (even
into misalliances and scandalously improper entanglements). Of the four
characters most often 'shipped in the fandom, the two who are the most
piratical (Jack and Elizabeth) change very little in the course of the
movie, while the two who are presented as repressed, duty-bound, and opposed
to piracy (Will and Norrington) both loosen up and become more willing to
disregard convention. Not surprisingly, the fandom has interpreted this
disregard for custom to include sexual mores as well, and threesomes
composed of various combinations of the characters (and even foursomes) are
fairly common in PotC fanfic. I'm a sucker for all these sorts of stories,
but of all the various combinations, my favorite is Jack/Will/Elizabeth,
because it doesn't necessitate breaking up Will and Elizabeth, it offers a
dash of het to spice up the slash, and it includes Jack (and as much as I
love all the characters in this movie, Jack is why I'm a PotC fan).
Jack Sparrow is swishy and flashy, and gives off a vague air of debauchery.
He strikes me as a sexual opportunist who likes pretty things and will take
up with boys or girls or whatever is available. Historically, sodomy has
been associated with sailors, and with pirates in particular, and Jack's
effeminate behavior and his tendency to invade the personal space of the men
around him suggest that he would not be averse to buggery, while his leering
interactions with virtually every woman he encounters make his interest in
women obvious. When it comes to sexual encounters, I suspect Jack believes
the more scandalous, the better; corrupting a pair of young lovers sounds
like his idea of a great time. However, Jack isn't quite the lecherous sot
he wishes to appear. The mask of affable, eccentric drunk hides a sharp and
cunning mind. He's wary and manipulative, and completely disregards the law
and traditional morality. However, he is not immoral; he merely follows a
moral code of his own devising. It seems likely that he only kills under
extreme duress, given his actions in the movie and the stories Elizabeth
refers to, and despite his cynical pose, he doesn't hesitate to rescue
Elizabeth after her fall from the parapet, with no expectation of reward,
and quite a bit of risk.
Like Jack, Elizabeth Swann is devious and calculating, but not malicious.
She's convinced that she can manage everyone and everything, if she's only
given the chance. The movie repeatedly depicts Elizabeth and Jack as "peas
in a pod" (as Jack says in one of the deleted scenes). Certainly,
Elizabeth's moral code is much closer to Jack's than Will's; Elizabeth and
Jack see the world in shades of grey, and both are fond of the expedient
choice, although Elizabeth is young enough to still be an idealist. Her
weird blend of pragmatism and idealism can be dangerous. (If she were
religious, she would be a zealot; instead she's a romantic who's willing to
put others in harm's way and compromise herself to save the man she loves.)
She has very little regard for the mores of her time period, and will
disregard convention to do what she thinks is right. At the end of the
movie she declares Will a pirate, but it's clear that she's been a pirate
from the very beginning (indeed the first image of the movie is young
Elizabeth singing the pirate song).
Will Turner is the odd man out in this trio. Even his profession,
blacksmith's apprentice, marks him as more prosaic than the pirate and the
Governor's daughter, and unlike Jack and Elizabeth, he has no interest in
piracy. He's hated pirates since the Black Pearl attacked the ship
on which he was traveling to Jamaica, and he's honed his skill with a sword
in order to kill any pirates he might run across. And yet, in order to
rescue Elizabeth he becomes the very thing he loathes. He (to paraphrase
Jack) springs a man from jail, commandeers a ship of the Fleet, and sails
with a buccaneer crew out of Tortuga; in short, he becomes a pirate, all for
love. He moves from an adamant hatred of pirates to a clumsy caricature of
one when he and Jack board the Dauntless, gradually acquiring more
aplomb and less scruples, until he's finally willing to risk his life in a
daring attempt to rescue Jack (one in which both his dress and his actions
display a piratical panache he must have acquired from Jack). At the
beginning of the movie, Will is much more conventional than Jack or
Elizabeth, but by the end, he's willing to defy social convention and the
law, declaring his love for Elizabeth and saving Jack from the noose.
The movie strongly suggests that Will and Elizabeth have cared for one
another almost from first-sight, when they met aboard the Dauntless
as children, and there is no suggestion that their feelings alter.
Elizabeth agrees to marry Norrington in order to save Will, but she is quite
obviously still deeply in love with Will, and admits it when Norrington asks
her directly. Will's actions declare his love throughout the movie, and in
the final scenes he tells her, "I should have told you every day from the
moment I met you. I love you." Their love for one another is a central
conceit of the movie, and the justification for their actions, which
endanger so many of the other characters. For them to suddenly stop loving
each other would make a mockery of the romance plotline, and make one or
both of them look selfish and capricious.
Despite Elizabeth's strong feelings for Will, there is quite a bit of
subtext to suggest that she and Jack are attracted to one another (there's
even more subtext in the deleted scenes, especially the infamous "peas in a
pod" scene). Elizabeth has always loved pirates, and Jack is very close to
the romanticized view of piracy she's encountered in books (as opposed to
Barbossa and his crew, who represent the harsh realities of piracy). She's
familiar with his exploits, and perhaps has idolized him a bit. At their
initial meeting, she's furious when Jack uses her as a bargaining chip, but
later, when Estrella calls the experience "terrifying," Elizabeth's response
suggests that she found it, not terrifying, but intriguing. Jack is not
immune to Elizabeth's charms; he's clearly enjoying being up close and
personal with her while she returns his effects. His "Easy on the goods,
darling," is hardly subtle, and his advances while they're marooned are also
quite blatant. Even his final "Elizabeth. . .it would never have worked
between us, darling. I’m sorry." suggests that there was something to
Will is both fascinated and repelled by Jack. He seems to represent a
dangerous level of liberty and license that Will fears in himself. And yet,
Jack and Elizabeth are so alike, it's possible that Will could be attracted
to the same qualities in them both. He's kept himself tightly reined in,
refusing to admit to Elizabeth how much he cares for her, and channeling his
energy and passion into sword fighting, but his adventure with Jack brings
the more intense elements in his personality to the forefront. He's forced
to question society's rules and to reevaluate his place in society; he
experiences a paradigm shift, from an external value system to an internal
one, perhaps prompted by Jack's "All that matters is what a man can do, and
what a man can't do." Only after meeting Jack is Will able to confess his
love to Elizabeth, and to defy the law to do what he thinks is right.
Initially wary and suspicious of Jack, by the second trip to the Isla de
Muerta, Will has come to trust Jack and is beginning to know him well enough
to predict the outcomes of some of his schemes. They appear completely
simpatico as they work together to defeat Barbossa. Will respects or cares
for Jack enough to risk his life to rescue him at the end of the movie,
where they again fight together with a kind of intuitive awareness of one
another. The movie eroticizes sword fighting by explicitly linking Will's
skill to his repressed desire for Elizabeth (in Jack's line, "You need to
find yourself a girl, mate."), and the unspoken coordination between Jack
and Will in those last two fight scenes can be read as indicative of
unresolved sexual tension.
Although Will is younger than Jack, he rarely defers to him or allows Jack
to intimidate him; they function as partners, rather than mentor and
student. A good indication of what their future friendship might be like
can be seen in the "immortal Captain Jack Sparrow" deleted scene (clearly
this scene could not be slotted back into the movie as is, but it does give
an indication of how the screenwriters saw the dynamic between the two
characters): Will's laughing but reproachful, "Jack. . ." is very telling.
He's become the ballast for Jack, a voice of reason that balances Jack's
Jack/Will/Elizabeth offers the reader or writer the opportunity to explore
the Jack/Will and Jack/Elizabeth dynamics without negating Will and
Elizabeth's feelings for one another. Jack also brings a different dynamic
to their relationship. While Will and Elizabeth's relationship seems
relatively placid and even-keeled (Will's willingness to let Elizabeth rule
the roost in most things guarantees that they won't often fight), both Will
and Jack and Jack and Elizabeth have more contentious relationships. They
bicker and banter in classic screwball comedy style, and, as with Clark
Gable and Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night, it's easy to
see that conflict as sublimated desire.
The three characters complement one another well. Will and Elizabeth are
both capable of providing a steadying influence to Jack's chaos; Jack
provides an element of danger and excitement that Elizabeth seems to crave
(as much as she loves Will, it's possible to see her growing bored with him
when the day to day realities of marriage to a blacksmith set in), and Jack
and Elizabeth appeal to Will's wilder nature. Jack is so attached to the
Black Pearl, it's hard to imagine him fully committing to a human lover;
Will and Elizabeth don't need him to be their end-all and be-all, since they
have one another as well. Similarly, Jack is unlikely to be jealous of
their attachment to one another.
Although it's difficult for me to see either Will or Elizabeth abandoning
their relationship for Jack, both Jack and Elizabeth are unconventional
enough to embark on a polyamorous relationship, and, by the end of the
movie, Will has changed into someone who could also be open to a
nontraditional relationship. And, although polyamory would have horrified
polite 18th century society, unconventional relationships were not uncommon
among pirates. Some pirates even practiced matelotage, a kind of
homosexual union in which two male lovers swore loyalty to one another and
shared their possessions and even a wife, if one of them were married.
Textually, the strongest evidence for the threesome is in the final scenes
of the movie:
Norrington: You forget your place, Turner.
Will : It’s right here…between you and Jack .
Elizabeth : As is mine.
Norrington: So this is where your heart truly lies, then?
Elizabeth : It is.
Having already confessed his love for Elizabeth, Will publicly states that
"his place" is to protect Jack, a statement which argues for more than
obligation or a sense of fairness as the motivation for the rescue.
Elizabeth moves beside him and says, "As is mine." positioning herself not
only as Will's lover, but as Jack's friend/protector. Norrington's
question, "So this is where your heart truly lies, then?" and her response,
"It is" overtly refer to her feelings for Will, but in the context the
exchange could just as easily include Jack, since Jack, Will and Elizabeth
have established themselves as a unit.
The first time I saw Pirates of the Caribbean, I was immediately struck by
the Jack/Will/Elizabeth vibes, and I wanted nothing more than for Will and
Elizabeth to run away with Jack and for them all to be polyamorous pirates
together. Since Disney is highly unlikely to offer us this scenario in the
sequel, I felt compelled to write my own version in which that happened, and
in fact, started writing it as soon as I got home from the first viewing.
That story was the first long piece of fanfiction I wrote, and in no time I
was completely immersed in this wonderful fandom. To quote
"Our canon is based on a theme park ride and contains pirates, zombies and a
monkey. It has Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Jack Davenport and Kiera
Knightly. We have swordplay, subtext and did I mention the swishy pirates?
We are the luckiest fans in the world."
Fic Recs and Resources:
The majority of Jack/Will/Elizabeth stories focus on how they get together,
often with Will and Elizabeth becoming pirates: one of the earliest and
best examples of this is
"A Pirate's Life,"
a long, satisfyingly plotty story with wonderful characterizations.
"Meet the Ocean" (part
is notable because it includes voodoo and the supernatural (despite the
supernatural elements of the movie, magic rarely crops up in PotC fic), as
well as a focus on the negotiations necessary to make the relationship
work. My own
is another example of this genre.
"And a Bottle of Rum. . ."
series is a darker take on this premise, which explores some of the possible
pitfalls of a threesome.
shows how Will's more conventional attitudes might slow down the development
of a threesome, and how Jack and Elizabeth might resolve the problem.
There are also some good established relationship stories and PWP stories
that are more focused on what happens after they get together.
"A Scandalous Lack of Morals"
is great fun and very hot (ponderosa121
drew the fabulous Jack/Will/Elizabeth picture at the beginning of this
essay, as well as
this wonderful one).
is a charming story set after Will and Elizabeth have become pirates and the
three of them have become lovers.
is a very sexy story with spot-on characterizations.
gives a glimpse of how the three of them might interact in an established
is a different kind of established relationship story - one in which Will
and Elizabeth have remained in Port Royal.
is a good place to find PotC fic of all kinds.
is a lj community devoted to Jack/Will/Elizabeth stories.
is a community for fanfic featuring three or more characters in a romantic
or sexual relationship.
The best web resource for Jack/Will/Elizabeth stories is
Steal Your Heart Away.
You can also find some Jack/Will/Elizabeth stories at
The Blacksmith's Pirate,
which is primarily a Jack/Will archive.
linaelyn for their invaluable help and