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An infamous crook known across London for his violent crimes. Nicknamed “Mackie the Knife,” Macheath is dapper, genteel, and uncharacteristically squeamish when it comes to blood. He profits from his antiestablishment sensibilities and from his friendship with the London sheriff, Tiger Brown.
Read an in-depth analysis of Macheath
The proprietor of “The Beggar’s Friend.” Conniving and hypocritical, Peachum outfits poor men as panhandlers to evoke extra sympathy and then demands a percentage of their profits. He trusts no one, not even his wife and daughter. When he learns that his daughter, Polly, has married Macheath, he is sure that his new son-in-law will hurt his business.
Read an in-depth analysis of Peachum
Peachum’s wife and Polly’s mother. Celia Peachum is uninterested in her daughter’s happiness. She faints when she hears the news that her daughter has married Macheath but only because she feels the effort she put into her daughter should have yielded a marriage of a higher caliber. Later, she reveals her sense of feminine wiles and how they triumph over even the strictest bourgeois morals.
The Peachums’ daughter and wife of Macheath. Polly marries Macheath but leaves his side shortly thereafter, when she learns he is wanted by the police and must go on the lam. Polly seems innocent, especially when compared to her conniving parents, but as the play progresses, she reveals her greedy side.
Read an in-depth analysis of Polly
London’s chief of the police. Brown is as corrupt as the criminals he supposedly battles: He even directly profits from their crimes. He and Macheath met as fellow soldiers in the Indian army and have a business deal they both profit from. Brown is torn between feelings of responsibility for his position and allegiance to his friend, so he comes across as weak willed and greedy.
Daughter of Brown and lover of Macheath. Like Polly and Jenny, Lucy has been having an affair with Macheath. The mere fact of the relationship reveals that Macheath has betrayed not only his best friend, Brown, but also his new wife, Polly. When Lucy learns about Macheath’s marriage, she reveals that she is pregnant and implores Macheath to be with her and help take care of their child. However, she later reveals to Polly that she has simply stuffed a pillow under her dress.
Prostitute and former love of Macheath. Though she was once in love with Macheath, she is now one of many prostitutes that live together in the brothel in Wapping. She still displays affection for the criminal, but she can now be bought to act as an informant.
The constable at the jail. Smith exemplifies the corruption that runs rampant through the entire police force. Although he arrests Macheath swiftly, he later accepts the prisoner’s bribe for a more comfortable pair of handcuffs. When Macheath is arrested the second time, Smith considers the thousand-pound bribe for Macheath’s release. He later refuses the offer when neither of Macheath’s henchmen or women can cough up the sum.
The reverend who appears at Macheath’s wedding celebration to Polly and later at the gallows. His lines give the impression that he very well may be a beggar or a thief himself.
One of Macheath’s thieves, nicknamed “Money Matthew.” Macheath reprimands him for taking credit for burning down the children’s hospital when Macheath is the one who set it on fire.
Another one of Macheath’s thieves, nicknamed “Hook-Finger Jacob.” He is the first one of Macheath’s thieves to accidentally reveal that Macheath has been with another woman.
Another one of Macheath’s thieves, nicknamed “Robert the Saw.” He joins the men to set up the stolen wedding breakfast for Macheath and Polly.
Another one of Macheath’s thieves, nicknamed “Wally the Weeper.”
Another one of Macheath’s thieves.
A prostitute Macheath sleeps with and stays with when he escapes from jail the first time.
A beggar whom Peachum enlists as help after Peachum makes him pay up for illegally pleading for money on his territory. Filch feels guilty taking money from other people, which is his chief means of generating income.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Threepenny Opera!