In Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Liz Swann was taken captive along with her crew members after being made Captain and a Pirate Lord by a dying Sao Feng. A redeemed James Norrington is among those who imprisoned her, but after some soul-searching, he releases them.

Liz is about to escape when Bootstrap Bill tries to stop them. And Norrington says something about 'their destinies have been entwined, but never joined' and faces Bootstrap. Rather than let Liz be re-captured, he shoots the rope she's hanging from, drops her in the sea and gets himself skewered.


He had both his sword and his gun out, and pointing at Bootstrap, but he uses the gun on the rope, and the sword, not at all. He could have just shot Bootstrap, pulled himself onto the rope, then used the sword to cut it. Even if he didn't want to hurt Bootstrap, he could've shot him in the leg or something.

Or he didn't even need to shoot. Climb up to the rope and cut it and follow Liz down. From how Bootstrap was acting, it didn't seem likely he'd have jumped off after them, or had the presence of mind to grab the rope (in which case, just cut it again). And it couldn't be that he couldn't reach the rope: Liz just hopped up and grabbed it, and she's a lot shorter than him.

It was really convenient, I guess, giving Norrington an honourable way to die, to break the love triangle and leave Liz for Will, but still... Did he really mean to get himself killed?


2 Answers 2


Norrington is fully aware that, facing so many of Davy Jones' monstrous pirates, he would not be able to hold them back for longer than maybe a minute. Having fought against them numerous times in Dead Man's Chest, he knows their strength.

Shooting the rope stops the pirates from following Elizabeth and her crew, buying them time to escape and get aboard their own ship.

Norrington's personal state of mind has to be questioned too - his entire career has been numerous ups-and-downs, and moreso than any other character, his resolve and morals have been called into question. Being the "good soldier" in Curse of the Black Pearl lost him the love of his life, and chasing down Jack Sparrow led him into a hurricane where he lost his ship, his crew, and his dignity.

He gains that all back eventually, but is forced to work with Cutler Beckett and dirty his hands by stealing Davy Jones' still-beating heart - his plans of saving Elizabeth backfire once again, putting her in more danger.

So when Norrington is given just one last chance to possibly save Elizabeth and buy her enough time to reach freedom, he realizes it might be his last chance to do something good, to go out - as the OP suggested - with an 'honorable death'.

Nobody controlling him - his last actions were his own, in the desperate hope that the one women he'd wanted (and could never have) would live a few more precious moments.

TL;DR Norrington definitely wanted the 'honorable death', and shooting the rope was the only way of ensuring Davy Jones' men couldn't shimmy down the rope and follow Elizabeth and her crew.

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    But... The question stil stands... He could have done practically all of that, yet still not get himself killed... Unless, you're suggesting he maybe wasn't all there?
    – ASH-Aisyah
    Sep 19, 2016 at 7:48

We can't say whether he meant to get himself killed - certainly his death slowed down any attempt the Dutchman might have made to pursue the Sao Feng's ship, and perhaps Norrington's sacrifice was simply to make amends towards Elizabeth.

One thing we can be sure of though is that Davy Jones' crew aren't affected by conventional weapons - they can be hurt, but not killed. Norrington would have known that his sword and pistol would not be much use against Bootstrap, and perhaps he realised something more dramatic would be required to help Elizabeth escape.

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