Study Guide

Jackie "Tiger" Brown in The Threepenny Opera

By Bertolt Brecht

Jackie "Tiger" Brown

The High Sheriff of London: he's probably a respectable guy, right? If you've learned anything by now from The Threepenny Opera, it's that no one is respectable, and least of all a cop. As constable, Jackie Brown takes bribes from guys like Mac to look the other way while they commit their crimes. He doesn't worry a bit about the morality of the situation.

Old Friends

Jackie and Mac go way back. They "served in India together, soldiers both of us" (1.2.411-412), as Mac reminds him at his wedding. And that war-buddy friendship is the basis for the unfairness, special treatment, corruption, and downright incompetence that characterizes their cops-and-robbers routine in the play.

Brown promises Mac, "There's nothing whatsoever on record against you at Scotland Yard" (1.2.480-481) because he's "taken care of that" (1.2.483). And it's a good thing, for Mac if not the general public, because Mac's record is a mile long. So is Brown's friendship with Mac really all it takes to erase such crimes?


Nope. It's all about the money. Tiger Brown is a sold-out sell-out. Right before his old buddy Mac is to be executed, he goes through a long accounting exercise where the two make sure that all the bribes Mac owes Brown are paid for before the trip to the gallows:

MAC. The accounts, Brown.
BROWN. Very well, if you insist. Well, first of all the rewards for murderers arrested thanks to you or your men. The Treasury paid you a total of…
MAC. Three instances at forty pounds a piece, that makes a hundred and twenty pounds. One quarter for you comes to thirty pounds, so that's what we owe you.

Mac "insists" because he's trying to make his friend feel guilty for letting him hang, but even so, the brazenness is impressive.

A play about London's most wanted criminal and its high sheriff might put you in the mood for some chase scenes or cops-and-robbers action, but Jackie Brown is so corrupt that the only conflict he has with Mac are these passive-aggressive scenes.

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