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In the Les Misérables musical, there's a song "Master of the House", in which the inkeeper sings about how he essentially scams all of his customers into paying much more than they expected. There's one section that goes like this:

Everybody loves a landlord
Everybody's bosom friend
I do whatever pleases
Jesus! Won't I bleed 'em in the end!

I'm a little confused as to how to read the last two lines - specifically, where the "Jesus" is supposed to go. In later stanzas, the "Jesus" is used as an exclamation; here, it can be read as the ending of the previous sentence (I do whatever pleases), especially since it seems to leave off in the middle of the sentence without the "Jesus".

However, if you read it that way, then it doesn't make much sense in context - why would you juxtapose the two sentences "I do whatever pleases Jesus" and then "Won't I bleed 'em in the end"?

How can we read these two lines in a way that makes sense?

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A search of the lyrics reveals them to be rendered like this:

Everybody loves a landlord
Everybody's bosom friend
I do whatever pleases
Jesus! Won't I bleed 'em in the end!

And it's noteworthy that there's almost no punctuation in the lyrics as written: listening to the song, there is a pause at the end of most lines. "Jesus!" is also a repeating motif in the song:

How it all increases, all them bits and pieces
Jesus! It's amazing how it grows!

And , as the OP notes, it is always used as an exclamation.

As such, it would appear we can presume a full stop at the end of "I do whatever pleases". "Jesus!" thus becomes an exclamation: "Oh my! I'll swindle them in the end!". The preceding line can be interpreted as "I aim to do what pleases": this makes sense as a continuity of the preceding lines where the landlord proclaims that he pretends to be "Everybody's bosom friend".

To explain the meaning more fully, look at another repetition of the motif:

But lock up your valises
Jesus! Won't I skin you to the bone!

This essentially means the same thing: "Oh my! Won't I swindle you in the end!". In both cases, the exclamation is a self-satisfied statement of excitement at the landlord's coming enrichment, and perhaps also a rejection of presumed guilt at ripping off his customers. He's emphasising that he's getting rich at the expense of his customers, and doesn't care.

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  • "I do whatever pleases" doesn't make much sense as a full sentence, though. – Mithical Apr 23 at 8:18
  • @Mithical I think it does. "I aim to please my customers". Have edited to try and explain more fully. – Matt Thrower Apr 23 at 8:48
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    @Mithical Yes it does? I aim to please; I do whatever is necessary; I do whatever pleases. – Rand al'Thor Apr 23 at 9:18

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