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How seldom it is one meets a fellow spirit.
~ Judge Turpin

Judge Turpin (also known as Lord Turpin) is the main antagonist of the 1979 musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and the 2007 live-action film of the same name. He is a corrupt judge who ruined the life of Sweeney Todd.

In the film, he was portrayed by the late Alan Rickman, who also played Joe, Severus Snape, Sheriff of Nottingham, and Hans Gruber.

History

Judge Turpin first appeared when he had Benjamin Barker arrested, due to his infatuation with Barker's wife Lucy. He exiles Barker to Australia on false charges. Lucy is heartbroken, and becomes a recluse, never coming down from her home. Judge Turpin continuously pursues her, sending her flowers each day. He sends his right-hand Beadle Bamford to summon her to his home, "blaming himself for her dreadful plight". At his house, during a masque ball, he drugs and rapes Lucy, who tries to kill herself by drinking poison, though she actually survives and is driven insane before being reduced to begging in the street.

Turpin then takes Barker's infant daughter Johanna, and raises her as his ward. He keeps her locked away from the world and spies on her through a peep-hole in her wall. When Johanna turns 15, Turpin offers her his hand in marriage. She refuses, to which he seems baffled. When he spots Anthony Hope with Johanna, he threatens to kill him if he ever returns. We next see Turpin sentencing a child to hang for petty crimes.

On Bamford's advice, he goes for a shave at Sweeney Todd's barber shop, in order to impress Johanna — unaware that Todd is in fact Barker, returned from Australia and hell-bent on revenge. Todd is about to cut Turpin's throat when he is interrupted by Anthony, who reveals Johanna's plan to escape. Turpin promptly leaves, renouncing Todd's business. Turpin returns home and commits Johanna to an insane asylum, telling the owner Jonas Fogg that she is mad.

Turpin receives a letter claiming that Johanna has repented, and only wants his love. He is delighted and, following the direction of the letter, goes to Todd's shop, where he is persuaded to have a shave. Turpin soon realizes Todd's true identity, and Todd savagely stabs him in the neck before slitting his throat. He then drops Turpin down the chute. Before he bleeds to death, Turpin grabs at Todd's accomplice Mrs. Lovett when she discovers him lying on her cellar floor.

Motivation

The Judge is motivated largely by his puritanical devotion to the law, and by his sexual obsession. He is partly aware of his own perversion. In one musical scene, not included in the Tim Burton film, and left out of some theatrical productions, shows a small sympathetic side to him. In this scene, the Judge watches Joanna through a keyhole while whipping himself, trying to purify his thoughts of her. Sondheim admits in his collected lyrics that he implied the judge finds sexual release during this moment. At the end of the song, the Judge decides to marry Joanna, believing she is the only person who can "cure" him of his lust.

Performers

  • The late Edmund Lyndeck played the original Judge Turpin.
  • The late Alan Rickman played the role in Tim Burton's 2007 film adaptation of Sondheim's musical.
  • Timothy Nolen played the role in 2001.
  • Mark Jacoby portrayed Judge Turpin in the 2005 revival musical.
  • Austin Kent played Judge Turpin in the 1980 London Production.
  • Denis Quilley portrayed Judge Turpin in the London revival.

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