The Beggar’s Opera – February, 28 2013
John Gay (1685/1732)
Great friend of Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope who had helped him come up with the idea
for The Beggar’s Opera.(1728)
The world of the thieves and the highwaymen offers an extended satire of the parliamentary
system suggesting that it is just robbery and gangsterism. The social system of the beggars is
as elaborate and hypocritical as that of the upper class Brecht translated
Satirizing the world of music too: Before The Beggar’s Opera was written, 2 sopranos
Francesca Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordini had actually come to blows on stage.
More importantly however, it changed theater – invented a new game- the ballad opera in which
popular tunes are sung with new original lyrics - the audience would recognize the tunes and
be able to hum or, soon, sing along.
o Close connections to the Comedia d’arte – went into society in order to
learn of the societies environment in order to incorporate these ideas in
The play is a reflection of an overwhelming need for independence that was felt by the lower