The Beggar's Opera

by John Gay

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Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 466

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 hears of Polly’s marriage.

Mrs. Peachum

Mrs. Peachum, his wife, who assists him in his shady dealings. She, too, is distressed at the prospect of Polly’s singleminded devotion to Macheath and laments her daughter’s inability to be as fickle as the rest of her sex.

Lucy Lockit

Lucy Lockit, the jailer’s daughter, who, like Polly, falls victim to Macheath’s charms and helps him escape from prison. She is violently jealous of Polly and even tries to poison her, but the two are reconciled by the realization that they have both been duped.


Lockit, her father, who shares with Peachum the profits that come from the arrest of the highwaymen.


Filch, Mrs. Peachum’s favorite, a skillful pickpocket and errand boy for Peachum.

Diana Trapes

Diana Trapes, one of Peachum’s customers, a bawd who buys stolen finery to adorn her “ladies.”

Jemmy Twitcher

Jemmy Twitcher,

Crook-Fingered Jack

Crook-Fingered Jack,

Wat Dreary

Wat Dreary,

Robin of Bagshot

Robin of Bagshot,

Nimming Ned

Nimming Ned,

Harry Padington

Harry Padington,

Matt of the Mint

Matt of the Mint, and

Ben Budge

Ben Budge, members of Macheath’s gang.

Mrs. Coaxer

Mrs. Coaxer,

Dolly Trull

Dolly Trull,

Mrs. Vixen

Mrs. Vixen,

Betty Doxy

Betty Doxy,

Jenny Diver

Jenny Diver,

Mrs. Slammekin

Mrs. Slammekin,

Suky Tawdry

Suky Tawdry, and

Molly Brazen

Molly Brazen, Macheath’s favorite “ladies of easy virtue,” who betray him for Peachum.

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