The Beggar's Opera Characters

John Gay

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Captain Macheath

Captain Macheath (mak-HEETH), the swashbuckling leader of a band of highwaymen. A great lover of the ladies, he wins Polly Peachum with protestations of sincere and virtuous affection, privately commenting, “What a fool is a fond wench,” as he prepares to entertain his favorite group of London prostitutes. Thrown into prison by Peachum and Lockit, he plays on the feelings of another “fond wench,” Lucy Lockit, the jailer’s daughter. He soon finds himself in the midst of a stormy quarrel between Lucy and Polly, each of whom believes herself to be his wife. In the farcical conclusion, when he is forced to pick a spouse from the large group of ladies who claim the role, he dances away with Polly.

Polly Peachum

Polly Peachum, the gay, buxom daughter of one of Macheath’s colleagues. She disgraces her family by marrying and thus ruining her prospects for wealth and advancement. She staunchly defends her rights as Macheath’s wife against Lucy with tirades and malicious sweetness, not at all deceived by her rival’s proffered friendship.


Peachum, her father. He dispenses the stolen goods of the robber band and increases his fortune by betraying members of the troop to the police. Determined to leave his daughter free and to prevent her from revealing his double-dealing to her husband, he has Macheath arrested as soon as he...

(The entire section is 466 words.)