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Benjamin Barker / Sweeney Todd
The intentionally sympathetic Villain 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.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: In the stage musical, he is normally played by a rather homely and overweight fatherly type. In the film, he's Johnny Depp.
- A Lighter Shade of Black: Compared to Judge Turpin, he's a saint.
- Anti-Hero: Before Epiphany, where he goes completely mad. After that, he's a Villain Protagonist.
- Anti-Villain: He's the Woobie version of this. He used to be a nice guy with a beautiful wife and daughter until he's sent to Australia under false charges to satisfy Judge Turpin's jealousy, causing Benjamin Barker to be the person he is after his return to 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.
- B.S.O.D. Song: "Epiphany"
- Devoted to You: To his wife, Lucy. He never sought out another woman and fueled his revenge against the horrendous actions done to her. Upon the realization that he accidentally killed her, he's horrified by his actions and turns his rage to Mrs. Lovett who lied about his wife's death.
- Driven to Madness: Having to spend 15 years away from your spouse and child could do that to you.
- Driven to Villainy: He only begins killing to avenge the many wrongs afflicted to him and his family by Judge Turpin.
- Evil Is Hammy: George Hearn's Sweeney is definitely over the top, though even Johnny Depp's Sweeney has his moments.
- Face Death with Dignity: After accidentally murdering his wife, he just allowed Toby to kill him.
- Faux Affably Evil: He puts on a friendly facade towards his unwittingly customers before slicing off their throats. Especially pronounced with both Bamford and Turpin.
- The Hero Dies: Define hero. Taken to mean sympathetic, but ultimately crazy and murderous, then yes.
- He Who Fights Monsters: In pursuing revenge against Turpin, Sweeney becomes a frightening Serial Killer.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: At the end of the play and the film, Toby slits Sweeney's throat with his own razor.
- "I Want" Song: "My Friends", about his desire for retribution.
- Kill the Ones You Love: He unknowingly killed his wife Lucy and almost killed his daughter.
- Killed Mid-Sentence: Although he wasn't cut off, he just stopped singing and accepted his fate:Sweeney: And he was...
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: Sweeney's a raging Serial Killer, yes. But the audience have no problems with him killing Pirelli, who abuses Toby. Or Beadle Bamford. And especially not Judge Turpin.
- Knife Nut: Sweeney's Weapon of Choice is the straight razor.
- Knight Templar: Everything he does in the play was out of revenge towards the man who raped his wife and who planned to marry his young daughter.
- Looks Like Cesare: The film version of Sweeney, in keeping with Tim Burton's chosen aesthetic.
- The Mourning After: Though Mrs. Lovett would dearly love to have him for her own, the only woman Sweeney ever loved was Lucy, and nothing will sway him from avenging her.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Upon realising that the beggar he killed was his own wife, Lucy Barker.
- Not Distracted by the Sexy: Doesn't seem to really notice Mrs. Lovett's obvious flirting.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: The judge sends Benjamin off to Botany Bay on a false charge so that he could get at his wife Lucy.
- Sanity Slippage: After Judge Turpin gets away, he decides that all of humanity either has it coming or would be happier dead anyways.
- Serial Killer: What Sweeney becomes after "Epiphany".
- 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!"
- Tragic Villain: Though a serial killer by the end of the play, he is also a very sympathetic character who was departed on false charges and returns home to find that everyone he ever cared about has been taken from him.
- Villainous Breakdown: He has a couple. The first one after he failed to kill the judge the first time and the second one when he realizes that he unintentionally murdered his supposedly dead wife.
- Villain Protagonist: He seeks revenge against the man who raped his wife and had him sent away.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: While he's become a Serial Killer, you can't help but feel sorry for him given what has happened to his family.
Mrs. Nellie Lovett
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.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Is played by Helena Bonham-Carter in the movie.
- Anguished Declaration of Love: Although she wasn't exactly hiding it previously, she does this during the final sequence of the film:Mrs Lovett: Yes, I lied, 'cause I love you! I'd be twice the wife she was! I love you!
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: She's kind and supportive on the outside, but very insane and cannibalistic inside.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: She wants Sweeney all to herself, going as far as to lie to him about his wife's "death" and hide her existence away from him.
- Death by Irony: Sweeney throws her into her own oven.
- Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Especially in the movie.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: More-or-less adopts Toby after Pirelli's death and genuinely grows to care about him. But she doesn't think twice about killing him when it becomes necessary, even if she's not overly thrilled about it.
- Exact Words: She didn't exactly lie to Sweeney about Lucy's "death", as she is quick to point out in the final number:Mrs. Lovett: No, no, not lied at all! No, I never lied! Said she took the poison - she did! - Never said that she died!
- Faux Affably Evil: Quite charming and friendly with her customers, but any one of them could end up in a pie and she wouldn't care.
- Hopeless Suitor: No matter what she does, Sweeney won't reciprocate her affections and his late wife Lucy will be the only woman for him, to Mrs. Lovett's dismay.
- Horned Hairdo: Some productions give her one of these.
- Ignored Enamored Underling: To Sweeney.
- "I Want" Song: "By The Sea" and her part of "My Friends".
- Kill It with Fire: Her final fate at the hands of Sweeney.
- 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.
- Literally Loving Thy Neighbor: She has been attracted to Benjamin/Sweeney ever since she was just his neighbor.
- 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!
- Mad Love: She enables Sweeney's serial murders and disposes of his victims by baking them into pies. She continues to make romantic overtures to him despite his obvious disinterest, going so far as to trick him into thinking his wife is dead. He throws her into her own oven to burn to death when he discovers her deception.
- 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".
- Of Corsets Sexy: In the movie. Understandable, due to some sever Adaptational Attractiveness.
- Perky Female Minion: In the stage musical. She is much more obviously batshit in the movie.
- Psycho Supporter: Mrs. Lovett is just as nuts as Sweeney is.
- Supreme Chef: Once she gets her hands on some decent meat, that is.
- Yandere: She loves Sweeney dearly. She keeps his wife's existence a secret in order to have him for herself. It doesn't work. It especially doesn't help that she tries justifying herself by saying that she did it because she loved him and that she can be twice as better as Lucy.
The Beggar Woman
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.
- Beneath Notice: Not that it was her fault and Sweeney was told Lucy was gone after all, but if he had taken longer than a minute to look her in the eye, she could have been saved.
- Broken Bird: Poor Lucy has just gotten raped and nearly poisoned herself, merely driving her insane.
- Chekhov's Gunman: As it turns out, Sweeney does know her. She's his long lost wife.
- The Cuckoolander Was Right: Nobody but her notices the ominous burning smell and smoke from outside the basement bakehouse.
- Famous Last Words: "Don't I know you, Mister?"
- Have We Met?: "Don't I know you, Mister?" Doubles as her Famous Last Words.
- Murder by Mistake: Sweeney murdering her wasn't an accident. He just sure as hell didn't mean to murder her.
- The Ophelia: Thanks to Turpin and the poisoning suicide attempt that followed, she's been reduced to a homeless insane woman who begs for a living.
- Pre-Insanity Reveal: The homeless madwoman that hangs around the barber shop is revealed to be Sweeney's long-lost wife, Lucy. Unfortunately, this isn't revealed—either to Sweeney or the audience—until after he murders her.
- Slashed Throat: By Sweeney, in the play's finalé.
- Walking Spoiler: The reveal that she's Sweeney's supposedly dead wife at the end of the play makes her this.
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.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: In the movie he is in his twenties, handsome in a more delicate fashion, and a tenor.
- 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.
- Meaningful Name: The most optimistic character in the entire work.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: See Spanner in the Works.
- 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 lost wife. After her rape at the hands of Judge Turpin at the masked ball he threw, she committed suicide by poisoning herself.
- Bedlam House: Ended up there instead of a hospital after poisoning herself.
- Bungled Suicide: Her attempt to poison herself led only to the deterioration of her mental state.
- Death Faked for You: Unlike what Mrs. Lovett would have Sweeney believe, Lucy survived her suicide attempt. 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.
- Defiled Forever: After her horrific rape and humiliation, she poisoned herself.
- Driven to Suicide: By the arrest and deportation of her husband, followed by her rape at the hands of Judge Turpin. Except she really survived.
- Go Among Mad People: After she was raped by Judge Turpin and drank the arsenic to try to kill herself, Lucy was sent to Bedlam House (the actual one) instead of the hospital, which, along with the effects of the arsenic, drove the woman quite insane, leaving her as the crazed Beggar Woman. And Mrs. Lovett knew about this all along, and didn't tell Sweeney about it until after he had killed her and recognized her just now. Needless to say, Sweeney does not take it well.
- The Lost Lenore: To Benjamin Barker/Sweeney Todd.
- Rape as Drama: As we learn early on.
- Trauma Conga Line: Her husband is arrested and sent to Australia on a false charge, she's brutally raped at a ball by the man who sent her husband away, her daughter is taken away from her by her rapist and she finally poisoned herself. Except that wasn't the end of it as she survived. Instead of sending her to a hospital, Lucy was sent to Bedlam House, which, along with the effects of the arsenic, drove the woman quite insane, leaving her as the crazed Beggar Woman.
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!").
- Love Interest: For Anthony.
- 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.
- Big Bad: Turpin is technically the villain of the play, and he puts the plot in motion.
- Depraved Bisexual: Possibly. While going through his erotica collection with Anthony, he casually mention the 'catamites of Greece'. A catamite is a young male prostitute.
- Dirty Old Man: An extremely evil example, being a rapist with an intention to marry his victim's daughter.
- Evil Sounds Deep: When played by Alan Rickman.
- Actually, most of the time. The part is just written low.
- 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.
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: The climax of the "Poor Thing" scene. Poor Lucy...
- Kangaroo Court: All of Turpin's trials are this way. Particularly Benjamin's.
- Kick the Dog: It's his lifestyle.
- Love Father, Love Son: He lusts after Johanna just as he did with her mother.
- Lust: The Judge's main vice, which sets the entire plot into motion.
- Pet the Dog: A bit straight then subverted. Lovett states he might had a least a conscience, thus why he did raise Johanna as her own. Only he didn't count on falling in lust with her when Johanna grew up, and rationalizes that marriage with her is the best way to protect her.
- Obsession Song: "Johanna (Mea Culpa)," which is often cut from productions due to length and possible Squick.
- Oh Crap!: The Judge's reaction on learning just who Sweeney is — just before Sweeney finally kills him.
- Sex Is Evil: According to Judge Turpin.
- 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.
The right-hand man of Judge Turpin, Beadle Bamford does the main job of carrying out the Judge's orders. He is quite easily flattered, but can also be quite cruel.
- Alliterative Name: Although "Beadle" is his title and not his first name.
- The Dragon: To Turpin, as he does all of his bidding
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Makes mention of a daughter named Annie in the first act, whom he seems to love, at least.
- Fat Bastard: In the 1981 recorded production, and the movie.
- Jerkass: Oh yes. Very much so. He seems to take sadistic pleasure in beating up Anthony after the latter was kicked out of the Judge's house.
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.
- Abusive Dad: 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.
- Asshole Victim: After his abuse of Toby, can anyone deny that Pirelli is one of the more deserving victims?
- Blackmail Backfire: When Pirelli recognizes Sweeney from the old days when he was Benjamin Barker, he tries to blackmail him, threatening to tell Beadle Bramford about him if he doesn't hand over half his earnings to him every week. This proves to be his biggest mistake.
- Braggart Boss: Did you know he had the honour of shaving the Pope?
- Camp Straight: In the films. Being dressed flamboyantly definitely helps.
- 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.
- Averted in the film, where he is played by Sacha Baron Cohen.
- Dead Man's Chest: After Sweeney kills him, he stuffs his body into a chest.
- Evil Is Hammy: Quite up on par with Sweeney, as a matter of fact.
- Faux Affably Evil: His ridiculous personality contributes to this. His smiles are fake and he Would Hurt a Child.
- Fauxreigner: Pirelli is not Italian, but Irish. He was once an Irish boy who Benjamin hired to sweep up hair for a time.
- Funny Foreigner: Often with the most absurd of accents and costumes.
- Jerkass: : He abuses his child assistant and attempts to blackmail Sweeney.
- Slashed Throat: The first of a lot of characters that end up this way.
- Snake Oil Salesman: Pirelli's stock in trade.
- Would Hurt a Child: See Abusive Dad above.
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.
- Because You Were Nice to Me: His fondness for Mrs Lovett.
- Break the Cutie: By the end of the film.
- Children Are Innocent: Besides drinking ale and being forced into advertising for both Pirelli, and later 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.
- Corrupt the Cutie: In the film's climax, he slits Sweeney's throat after he realises what he and Mrs. Lovett had done to him.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: The revelation that Mrs. Lovett's pies are made from human meat drives him to insanity.
- I Am A Humanitarian: Accidentally, thanks to eating the pies cooked by Mrs Lovett. When he realises this, he becomes shocked and distraught, leading to his Sanity Slippage and Beware the Nice Ones moments.
- Sanity Slippage: Played straight in the play. Heavily implied (to a lesser extent) in the film, seeing as how he ended up slitting Sweeney's throat.
- Slashed Throat: The film's climax has him slit Sweeney's throat.