The Beggar's Opera Analysis

915 Words4 Pages
The Beggar's Opera (1728) by John Gay has undergone many critical examinations. There are many various views on the "hidden agendas" that led to its creation. Examples include the satire on the political sphere like Walpole and his statesmen, or the social sphere with the biased law system due to the inequality between the rich and the poor. Or even the satire on Italian Operas being too dramatic. The formation of this opera eventually led to the term "Ballad Opera" being coined; considering the fact that Gay may have adopted this particular style since he had "experienced comedie en vaudeville possibly during his trips to France in 1717 and 1719" (Rogers, 2014, p.174) When answering the question, certain aspects of The Beggar's Opera require…show more content…
The very first air consists of Peachum singing "And the statesman, because he's so great, thinks his trade as honest as mine" (Gay, 1760, p.11). Peachum's trade appears to be honest, but, in fact, built on manipulations. Just as a statesman, who although is of a different status, yet are doing the same thing. The character of Peachum in this play largely models after thief-taker Jonathan Wild, who "manipulated the law and order to gain power"(Van Der Kiste, 2013). The modelling also drew links to Walpole, as he "constructed and manipulated working majorities of placemen and dependents"(Jones, 1992, p.42). Placing myself into the shoes of the patrons watching the play, the relation to this satire could be strong as this was after the financial crisis of South Sea Bubble. Furthermore, the state of the society, which will be discussed later in the Social Circumstances, are in turmoil as well. Emotionally attaching myself to blame one of the leading figures in the parliament would be a natural thing to do. Another common link to Walpole is that of Macheath, whereby his "two women (Polly Peachum and Lucy Lockit) are paralleled to Walpole's wife and his mistress" (McGeary, 2013, p.103). However, I did not feel this satirical element as strongly as compared to the first one. Perhaps because of a change from using Peachum to Macheath in satirising Walpole, which was actually coined as a "rotating" method (Roberts, 1969, p.19); or maybe that the plot of Macheath and the two women was not exactly paralleled to Walpole's marriage life. However, it is then interesting to see how one can draw connections between The Beggar's Opera and the political circumstances. Although it also begs the question of whether it was Gay's intention to satirise Walpole in the
Open Document