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Judge Turpin

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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 in the many adaptations of Sweeney Todd.

He was portrayed by the late Alan Rickman (who also played Joe, (Help Severus Snape, Sheriff of Nottingham, and Hans Gruber) in the 2007 film, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Character overview

In most adaptations, Turpin is the primary villain, who ruins the title character's life and turns him into a monster. He unjustly exiles Benjamin Barker to Australia in order to have Barker's wife, Lucy, to himself. He rapes her, after which she attempts suicide by drinking arsenic, which drives her insane. He then adopts Barker's daughter, Johanna, as his ward, planning eventually to marry her.

He is aided in his corruption by his servant and constant companion, Beadle Bamford. His character is possibly based on Reverend Lupin from The String of Pearls, due to similar-sounding names and both characters expressing the desire to marry Johanna Barker (Johanna Oakley, in The String of Pearls).

In Sweeney Todd

In Stephen Sondheim's musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Judge Turpin has 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 the Beadle to summon her to his home, "[Blaming] himself for her dreadful plight." At his house, during a masque ball, he drugs and then rapes Lucy, who tries to kill herself by drinking poison; she survives, but is driven insane and 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 Beadle 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 Fogg's Asylum, telling the authorities 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 and before bleeding to death, Turpin grabs at Mrs. Lovett's dress.


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.


  • Edmund Lyndeck played the original Judge Turpin.
  • 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 the Judge Turpin in the London revival.


Sweeney Todd *Pretty Women*05:34

Sweeney Todd *Pretty Women*


  • Turpin is similar to Judge Claude Frollo; they are corrupt, self-righteous ministers who lust after the heroine and are willing to go to scary lengths to be with them.

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