Quote 4

“And I did work out something: the rich of the earth indeed create misery, but they cannot bear to see it. They are weaklings and fools just like you. As long as they have enough to eat and can grease their floors with butter so that even the crumbs that fall from their tables grow fat, they can’t look with indifference on a man collapsing from hunger—although, of course, it must be in front of their house that he collapses.”

Prior to this quote, taken from Act III scene I, Peachum has decided to gather more than a thousand beggars to make a real profit from the upper class who turn out for the coronation. He stresses that they would be even worse off if he hadn’t spent so much time figuring out exactly what would inspire people’s sympathy—and charity. His study of the upper class has taught him that to turn a profit, one needs to evoke such a large amount of sympathy, and for this, a costume is required. Of course, one of many ironies about Peachum’s complaint is that he is relatively wealthy, when compared to the beggars that he employs. But unlike the rich he criticizes in the quote, Peachum has no problem looking with “indifference” on the poor and downtrodden.