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Characters: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
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Benjamin Barker/Sweeney Todd
The intentionally sympatheticVillain Protagonist. Was born Benjamin Barker and used to be married to Lucy, before Judge Turpin sent him to Australia on a false charge, raped his wife, and adopted his daughter. When he comes back, he has gone completely insane, seeking bloody revenge on Turpin - and later, everyone in London.
Ax-Crazy: Sweeney grows increasingly more unstable as the story goes on, until he is so far gone that he unknowingly kills his wife, whom he believed to be dead, and almost unknowingly kills his own daughter, just because he doesn't want any witnesses.
Berserk Button: When he comes close to killing Judge Turpin and fails, he doesn't take it lightly.
Skunk Stripe: The film's Sweeney has a white one on the front left side of his hair. It's been said that his hair was based off of Dave Vanian from The Damned.
Slashed Throat: He kills all of his victims this way, excluding Judge Turpin, who he repeated stabs in the throat, and Mrs Lovett, who he pushes into the oven. He eventually falls victim to his himself at the hands of Toby in the film's climax.
Straw Nihilist: "We all deserve to die! Even you, Mrs. Lovett, even I! Because the lives of the wicked shall be made brief! For the rest of us, death will be a relief! We all deserve to die!"
Mrs. Nellie Lovett was Benjamin's neighbor a long time ago. She's the owner of a meat pie shop that has fallen on hard times due to the meat shortage in London, and has always had a fondness for Benjamin. She's the one who hits upon the ghoulish idea of disposing of the people that Sweeney murders by baking them into pies in order to drum up some much-needed business for her shop.
Lady Macbeth: When Todd returned to London, he had no hope of seeing his family again and merely wanted to start over. But it was her that encouraged him into chasing after the Judge and turning to murder and cannibalism.
Love Makes You Evil: Everything she did, namely lying to Sweeney about the supposed death of his beloved wife and indirectly causing him to kill her himself, she did for love.
Mrs Lovett: I was only thinking of you! [...] Better you should think she was dead! Yes, I lied, 'cause I love you!
Manipulative Bitch: Depending on how you look at it, she is at heart the cause of Sweeney's madness. Made more explicit by the end of the film, where it is revealed that she lied to Sweeney about his wife's "death".
The Beggar Woman is a mysterious figure that wanders London asking for alms. She is quite mad, and can be quite lewd at times. She seems to know Sweeney quite well, but Sweeney doesn't want anything to do with her.The Beggar Woman is none other than Sweeney's lost wife, Lucy Barker. After her rape at the hands of Judge Turpin at the masked ball he threw, she tried to commit suicide by poisoning herself, but unlike what Mrs. Lovett would have Sweeney believe, she survived, but was driven half-mad in the process. They should have taken her to a hospital, but instead, she wound up in Bedlam, and her fifteen years in Going Among Mad People drove her quite insane.
Accidental Murder: Averted: Sweeney murdering her wasn't an accident. He just sure as hell didn't mean to murder her.
Bedlam House: Ended up there instead of a hospital after poisoning herself.
An idealistic young sailor who saved Sweeney's life on board the good ship Bountiful and brought him to London, Anthony is the other protagonist of the story in general. He meets and falls in love with Johanna, Sweeney's daughter, and seeks to free her from her tyrannical guardian, Judge Turpin.
Determinator: A less cynical reading of Anthony makes him out to be this, especially in the movie adaptation. Yes, he's enamored with Johanna, but when describing her the first words out of his mouth are "There's a girl who needs my help!" And he takes that duty very seriously throughout the story, refusing to be deterred by beatings, threats or having her shipped off to an insane asylum once she makes it clear that she wants him to help her.
The otherwise kind of creepy lyrics of 'Johanna' are rendered decidedly sweeter and more genuine with context and this interpretation. Yes, under normal circumstances it would not be particularly romantic to swear you're going to track a young girl down and kidnap her away, and that in the meantime you'll imagine what it would be like to be holding her. When the girl in question is currently huddled in a filthy corner, terrified and alone, however... it can be read less as an unhealthy obsession and more as an oath to a frightened young woman that he's not going to give up onsaving her just because their path to freedom has gotten harder.
Do with Him as You Will: In the movie, after freeing Johanna from Fogg's Asylum, Anthony leaves Fogg at the mercy of his "children."
Fish out of Water: A lot of portrayals of Anthony make him out to be this, particularly the movie version.
Obsession Song: A good number of people cite "Johanna," particularly the second half, as this.
Official Couple: While Benjamin/Lucy and Sweeney/Mrs. Lovett fans are fiercely divided over who is the first Official Couple, Anthony/Johanna is very much the second.
Spanner in the Works: Sweeney would have killed Judge Turpin and ended the play right there and then in the middle had Anthony, who had recently talked to Sweeney about his plan to elope with Johanna in order to get her away from Turpin, not busted into his shop — with the judge right there in the room — in order to inform Sweeney that he has found Johanna and that she has agreed to the plan. Needless to say, this ends up blowing both the aforementioned plan and Sweeney's attempt to kill Turpin straight to hell.
Stalker with a Crush: The more cynical readings of Anthony's character make him out to be this for Johanna. The lyrics of the second half of "Johanna" definitely don't help things, nor his rather creepy bloody face as he sings it in the movie. Judge Turpin, on the other hand, is ten times worse.
Wide-Eyed Idealist: As Sweeney tells him near the beginning, "You are young. Life has been kind to you. You will learn." Johanna says a variant of the same thing to him near the end.
Sweeney's sixteen-year-old daughter. When she was just one year old, her father was transported for life, and her mother was soon invited to Judge Turpin's mansion. The horrible events of that night would drive her mother to poison herself. She was then taken in by Judge Turpin, who raised her as his own and gave her a sheltered upbringing. But now that Johanna is growing up, she finds her guardian's mansion to be a prison, a cage like the birds whose songs she likes to hear, and she wants more than anything to be free of it. Worse, the Judge, who she has seen all her life as a father, is starting to look upon her with the same hungry eyes that he once looked upon her mother with. When Anthony Hope, a young sailor just arrived in London, catches her eye, the two of them fall in love, and Johanna sees her chance to finally escape.
Alone with the Psycho: Anthony leaves her in Sweeney Todd's parlor, and she sees and hears two people get murdered.
Break the Cutie: Johanna is one of the most innocent of the main cast. The events of the play do not treat her well.
Go Among Mad People: Johanna is thrown into a madhouse by Judge Turpin after he finds out about her plan to elope with Anthony. She's just lucky she doesn't have to spend too much time there.
Hates Being Alone: After Anthony rescues her he leaves her in Sweeney's parlor to hire a chaise, but only after she begs him not to go without her and he comforts her, saying he'll be back soon.
The Ingenue: Subverted - in the play, when Anthony comes to rescue her from Fogg's Asylum and can't bring himself to shoot the asylum keeper, she's the one who ultimately pulls the trigger.
"I Want" Song: "Green Finch and Linnet Bird". It's very much the bittersweet "crushed by life" variant of this kind of song — having spent fifteen years as the ward and essential prisoner of Judge Turpin, all that Johanna dares hope for is the ability to adjust to captivity ("If I cannot fly/Let me sing!").
The Ophelia: Many performances have Johanna as this by the time Anthony rescues her.
Parental Abandonment: Her father was sent away on a trumped-up charge and her mother poisoned herself soon after what happened to her at the Judge's hands though unknown to her, still alive when Johanna was just a year old.
The main antagonist of the play. Judge Turpin is a corrupt judge of London, a man of power with serious problems with controlling his libido around beautiful women. He sent Benjamin Barker off to Botany Bay on a false charge so that he could get at his wife Lucy, whom he ultimately raped at a masked ball he threw. He then adopted Lucy's then one-year-old daughter Johanna as his own, most likely out of remorse for his crime. Unfortunately, the Judge has come to desire Johanna as more than just a daughter with her coming of age. And little does he know that Benjamin has returned, intent upon revenge for Lucy.
Hanging Judge: Turpin's stock in trade. He is decidedly uninterested in whether or not the people called before the stand are guilty or not, as in his view, virtually everyone has done something to warrant a hanging.
Sex Is Evil and I Am Horny: Various theater versions of this musical have various takes on this. Some make him a more clear-cut example by highlighting his self-loathing, while others make him more one-dimensional.
Slashed Throat: He is the last one to fall victim to this, at least the last one done by Sweeney himself.
The Stoic: The Judge is the very picture of composure in both the play and the film. He only loses it on two occasions; the first being when he learns of Johanna's plan to elope with Anthony — from Anthony's own mouth no less! — and when he finally learns exactly who Sweeney is just before Sweeney finally kills him.
Adolfo Pirelli/Daniel O'Higgins (or Davy Collins in the film)
Adolfo Pirelli is a street mountebank who proclaims himself to be the king of the barbers and the barber of kings. With the help of his young assistant Tobias Ragg, he sells a "Miracle Elixir" that is exposed by Sweeney as an arrant fraud, "concocted of piss and ink." He is roundly beaten by Sweeney in a contest for the fastest and smoothest shave. Pirelli later pays a visit to Sweeney's barber shop, where it's revealed that he is not actually Italian, but Irish, and that he recognizes Sweeney from his days as Benjamin Barker. He tries to blackmail Sweeney into handing over half of his earnings to him, which causes Sweeney to snap out and strangle him (or in the film, bludgeon him over the head with a teapot) and stuff him in a chest. After Sweeney gets Toby to leave the shop by promising him a nice big tot of gin, Pirelli becomes Sweeney's very first victim.
Abusive Guardian: Pirelli's treatment of Toby is utterly deplorable, and according to Toby, he's a "good one with the lashings." In fact, if you look closely when he is sharpening his razor, he appears to be repeatedly cutting Toby's hand with every slice.
Affably Evil: His ridiculous personality contributes to this. Until he reveals his true identity, and actually becomes a threat to Sweeney.
Blackmail: When Pirelli recognizes Sweeney from the old days when he was Benjamin Barker, he tries to blackmail him, threatening to tell Beadle Bamford about him if he doesn't hand over half his earnings to him every week. This proves to be his biggest mistake.
Cross-Cast Role: It's not unheard of for Pirelli to be portrayed by a woman to help balance the sexes slightly better among the principal cast (and as a somewhat easier approach to those high notes, especially for non-professional productions). Most notably, Donna Lynne Champlin took the role in the 2005 Broadway revival. It'd be quite a change-up for Pirelli to actually be switched to a female character, though.
Tobias Ragg is the young assistant of a street mountebank by the name of Adolfo Pirelli. Depending on the production, he is anywhere from childhood (such as was the case in the movie) to teenage, but definitely has a childlike air about him. After Pirelli comes into Sweeney's barber shop and does not come out, Toby is taken in by Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett, and becomes Mrs. Lovett's assistant in the pie shop.
Children Are Innocent: Besides drinking ale and being forced into advertising for both Pirelli and Sweeney and Mrs Lovett, he is definitely an example of this. At least, until he finds out the truth about Mrs Lovett and Sweeney during the film's climax.