|“||Seems an awful waste/ Such a nice, plump frame wot's 'is name has/Had... Has! Nor it can't be traced/Business needs a lift, debts to be erased/Think of it as thrift, as a gift/If you get my drift!||„|
|~ Mrs. Lovett in "A Little Priest"|
Nellie Lovett, better known as Mrs. Lovett, is the secondary antagonist of the Sweeney Todd legend, featured most prominently in the Stephen Sondheim musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and its 2007 film adaptation. She is the title character's accomplice, who bakes his victims' flesh into meat pies, which she then sells.
She has been portrayed by several different actresses, including:
- Angela Lansbury in the original 1979 Broadway production
- Patti Lupone in the 2004 Broadway revival
- Helena Bonham Carter - who also portrayed Dr. Serena Kogan in Terminator: Salvation, Skynet in Terminator: Genisys, and Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter film series - in Tim Burton's 2007 film adaptation of the musical
- Imelda Staunton - who also portrayed Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter film series - in the 2012 West End revival
The Sweeney Todd story dates back to the 1846 penny dreadful The String of Pearls, in which Mrs. Lovett is introduced as the business partner and accomplice of the titular serial killer, a barber who slits his customers' throats; Mrs. Lovett then bakes their remains into meat pies, which she sells in her pie shop. In the original story, she also keeps children chained up in her cellar to work as her servants. In most versions of the story, her relationship with Todd is platonic, although some versions portray them as lovers.
In Sweeney Todd
In Christopher Bond's play Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Stephen Sondheim's musical adaptation of the same name, Mrs. Lovett is a middle-aged widow - her husband, Albert, having died of gout - in Victorian London who runs a failing pie shop known for "the worst pies in London". Years prior to the main action of the story, she was Benjamin Barker's landlady, and was secretly in love with him, even though he and his wife Lucy were happily married with an infant daughter, Johanna. When the evil Judge Turpin has Barker arrested on a false charge so he can have Lucy to himself, Mrs. Lovett briefly takes care of Johanna until Turpin takes custody of her after raping Lucy.
Fifteen years later, Barker - now calling himself Sweeney Todd - shows up at Mrs. Lovett's pie shop and once again rents a room from her. Mrs. Lovett is still in love with him, so she lies that Lucy committed suicide after Turpin assaulted her. (She in fact went insane after drinking poison, and is now a mad beggar woman who calls Mrs. Lovett a witch.) Todd swears revenge on Turpin, and Mrs. Lovett agrees to help him. Meanwhile, she and Todd meet a young orphan named Tobias Ragg who is apprenticed to Todd's rival Adolfo Pirelli, and forms an instant bond with the boy. Pirelli, who is really Todd's former apprentice Davey Collins, blackmails Todd, forcing Todd to kill him; he and Mrs. Lovett then take Tobias in, and Mrs. Lovett becomes like a mother to him.
After Todd misses a chance to kill Turpin, he swears revenge on the whole world, resolving to kill as many people as he can to satisfy his rage. This gives Mrs. Lovett an idea: she will bake his victims into meat pies to improve her dying business. The plan works, and her pie shop is soon a runaway success. She plans to use the money to marry Todd and move to the seaside, even though Todd is completely uninterested in her. Meanwhile, Tobias begins to fear the increasingly unhinged Todd, and promises to protect Mrs. Lovett from him.
In the story's climax, Todd finally kills Turpin, and also kills Lucy, unaware of who she truly is. Upon discovering that he has killed his own wife, Todd realizes that Mrs. Lovett lied to him. She claims to have been trying to protect him, and declares that she would be a better wife to him than Lucy ever was. Todd pretends to forgive Mrs. Lovett and to accept her proposal, and she starts dancing with him, overjoyed. Todd then throws her into the bakehouse oven, and leaves her to burn to death. Moments later, a vengeful Tobias slits Todd's throat.