Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Topics: Barber

Sweeny Todd the musical opened in 1979 on Broadway. The musical was directed by Harold Prince, the libretto was written by Hugh Wheeler and the music was written by Stephen Sondheim. The musical is based on the character Sweeny Todd from the penny dreadful story called “The String of Pearls” and on the 1973 play, Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Christopher Bond. The musical Sweeny Todd represents a mirror in a time of the corrupt society within the United States during the 1970s.

Sweeny Todd was produced in a time of great political, economic and social uncertainty.

The 1970s were corrupt in many ways, the first being the United States Government and the United States Judiciary System. In mid-June 1972, members of President Richard Nixon’s committee broke into the Democratic National Committee Watergate Headquarters. Members stole top-secret documents as well as bugged the headquarters’ phones. After the events came to light, Nixon’s committee attempted to cover up their involvement with the ordeal.

Although Nixon resigned before impeachment, he never had charges brought upon him. Despite his clear involvement with the break-in, Nixon was never held accountable for his actions. Sweeny Todd is set in the 1840s to show corruption still exists within governments, even after more than 100 years. In the production, the character Judge Turpin is a highly unethical man yet he yields the power to do as he wishes without interference from others. The Judge was able to remove Sweeny Todd who was originally named Benjamin Barker from his family and exile him to prison in Australia.

Get quality help now

Proficient in: Barber

5 (339)

“ KarrieWrites did such a phenomenal job on this assignment! He completed it prior to its deadline and was thorough and informative. ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

Not only does the Judge separate the family from each other, but he also rapes Lucy Barker (Benjamin’s wife) and tries to have relations with her daughter. This corruption is illustrated further in the song “A Barber and His Wife.” Sweeny Todd reflects butts on these injustices by singing about the Judge, “A pious vulture of the law, who with a gesture of his claw, removed the barber from his plate.” These lyrics show how easy it was for a man of power such as Judge Turpin to ruin Benjamin and his family’s lives all because Turpin was infatuated with Benjamin’s wife. This relates to the corruption within the United States Government and the United States Judiciary System in the 1970s during the Watergate Scandal. In both circumstances, people in positions of power who are supposed to be representatives of justice, law, and morality were able to act unethically and not face the repercussions of those actions.

In addition, the United States was in an economic crisis in the 1970s following post-World War II economic expansion. Inflation and unemployment rates were rising along with rising international competition. This created a large division between the wealthy and poor, similar to the class structure in Sweeny Todd. Sweeny Todd was set in the industrial revolution in London and its poor living conditions reflect the hardships many residents were facing. One example of the economic difficulties that citizens went through is the extreme measures Mrs. Lovett took to survive in a period of economic inequality. She ends up using the bodies that Sweeny Todd kills for her meat pies, so she can sell them to customers and make money to survive. Her using this meat causes her business to be very successful, despite her sinister ways of obtaining the meat. Although this is an extreme example it gets the point across that many people during this period in London and the 1970s in the United States were forced to take unsatisfactory measures to make it through the day.

Lastly, the musical Sweeny Todd reflects how women were treated in the 1970s. Although the women’s equal rights movements made significant strides in the 1970s, equality was non-existent in the workforce and in many other instances. Additionally, the majority of men were openly against the women’s equal rights movements and viewed women’s only purpose in society as to get married and have children. Men in the United States during this period were still openly objectifying women. In the Sweeny Todd production, women are seen as inferior to men and treated as second-class citizens. Within the musical, the song Pretty Women is a duet between Sweeny Todd and the Judge, which shows these flaws inside the system against women. The focal point of the song Pretty Women is how men love to look at women and alluding to the fact that women serve nothing more but the object of the male gaze. Pretty Woman is an illustration of how the objectification of women acts to support men’s homosocial relationships. As mentioned before, the Judge treats women particular bad, even sexually assaulting Lucy Barker, and then attempting to force relations on Johanna. It is imperative to understand the treatment of women in Sweeny Todd because the musical has had lasting popularity throughout the years. The culture in Sweeny Todd is reflective of the culture of how women were discriminated against, assaulted, and demeaned in the 1970s.

Sweeny Todd played an integral part in reflecting on politics, economics, and society within the United States during the 1970s time period. It was important for people in the 1970s to see this representation of the United States but in a darkly humorous way and a different setting and period. These types of musicals not only provide entertainment to viewers but also provide societal context that can help members of society reflect on their society.

Cite this page

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. (2022, May 13). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/sweeney-todd-the-demon-barber-of-fleet-street/

Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7