What Is The Theme Of Self-Gain In The Beggar's Opera

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“The Beggar’s Opera” by John Gay is an opera that tells the story of Peachum, who runs a gang that commits criminal activities. Peachum’s daughter, Polly, falls in love with Captain Macheath, who is a highwayman. Polly’s parents are not happy with the marriage as they do not want her money to go to Macheath and they make plans to kill him by having him hanged for his criminal activities as a highwayman. In “The Beggar’s Opera” betrayal and using people occur in order for a character to gain something for themselves. Peachum desires money for himself from his gang and he betrays them when they are no longer of use. Friendships in the play are not portrayed as being good ones as friendships are for self-gain such as to get information. Lastly,…show more content…
Macheath is in trouble because he has married Polly. Her parents plan to have his life because they disagree with the marriage. Macheath is talking to some of the members of the gang and tells how useful their friend, Peachum, is to them. Macheath states, “Business cannot go on without him. He is a man who knows the world, and is a necessary agent to us…for the moment we break loose from him, our gang is ruined (547. 2.2. 29-35).” Macheath is looking at a gang member as being useful to him and if they lose him the gang would be lost. Therefore, Gay portrays self-gain even in…show more content…
In marriage, being a widow is the hope to be gained by a woman according to Peachum. He states, “Where is the woman who would scruple to be a wife, if she had it in her power to be a widow whenever she pleased (544.1.10.26-28)?” The play shows that marriage is not a thing of value because what a wife has to gain comes through being a widow. Polly’s parents are talk about how it would grieve them to hang Macheath. Mrs. Peach says, “our own lives are in danger (545.1.11.13-14).” Peachum agrees with his wife that for their own gain and to save their lives they should have Macheath killed. Polly has gained a watch and marks of Macheath’s favor by allowing him some liberties. Macheath is telling Lucy that Polly is not his wife for self-gain. He tries to make it look like Polly is only joking. I believe he is doing this to make him look good to the lady. Therefore, he could be gaining the affection of another woman by making Polly look bad. Macheath mentions that Polly’s, “vanity makes her think he’s her own forever and ever (552.2.9.69-70).” Polly seems to think her vanity helps her gain a man according to

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