The Beggar’s Opera (Penguin Classics)

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‘Whore and rogue they call husband and wife:
All professions be-rogue one another'

The tale of Peachum, thief-taker and informer, conspiring to send the dashing and promiscuous highwayman Macheath to the gallows, became the theatrical sensation of the eighteenth century. In The Beggar’s Opera, John Gay turned conventions of Italian opera riotously upside-down, instead using traditional popular ballads and street tunes, while also indulging in political satire at the expense of the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole. Gay’s highly original depiction of the thieves, informers, prostitutes and highwaymen thronging the slums and prisons of the corrupt London underworld proved brilliantly successful in exposing the dark side of a corrupt and jaded society.

Bryan Loughrey and T. O. Treadwell’s introduction examines the eighteenth-century background of musical theatre and opera, the changing cityscape of London and the corruption of the legal system. This edition also includes a note on the music in The Beggar’s Opera and suggestions for further reading.

Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (January 6, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140432205
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140432206
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.3 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 ounces

Customer Reviews

Fine for what it needs to be

 on October 9, 2013
By Ash
It’s got the full text, which is what I wanted.

Not bad but not thrilled either

 on May 28, 2013
By Aaron Whitehouse
First of all the story is great, I love the story itself. For the story I could recommend this greatly.

Classic and cheap

 on December 25, 2013
By Amazon Customer
Not sure why this is not free, seeing as how the book has public domain for a century or two, but the price is affordable, so what the heck.

Five Stars

 on July 16, 2015
By hippias rex
Very good read. Purchased for a course. Would purchase from seller again.

Five Stars

 on March 14, 2015
By Nayely Arredondo
The book arrived ok and it was not dammaged at all

Crime, Love and the Opera

12 people found this helpful.
 on March 29, 2000
The Beggar’s Opera by John Gay is an artful yet honest representation of London in the early 1700s. As the Editor’s introduction notes, it is a political satire that brings to life the actions of such notorious figures as Jonathan Wild and Robert Walpole. In the Beggar’s introduction the reader is made aware of the author’s intent to mock the recent craze of the Italian Opera, which is considered by Gay to be thouroughly “unnatural.” Immediately after that we are exposed to the corruption of a city offical, Peachum (whose name means “to inform against a fellow criminal”), as he is choosing which criminals should live, as they are still profitable, and who should not, as they have turned honest. Peachum’s character of both an arch-criminal and law man is interesting enough in his daily dealings; add to that his daughter’s recent marriage to a highwayman (who the father then plots to send to the gallows). Not to mention what happens when the highwayman runs into an old aquaintance of his, who visibly shows his earlier affection, and you have what makes to be a highly entertaining, emotional, and educational story of 18th century London. The dialogue is well written, and the only problem a modern reader might have is the operatic aspect. I suspect that the mockery of the opera is not felt as much when read but rather when performed. Note to reader: it makes it much easier to understand if you read the introduction. There you will find instances of “real” London that the playwrite is satirizing. For all lovers of period English pieces who enjoy a cynical wit.

Birth of the Modern Musical – John Gay’s Genius Overwhelms Italian Opera

6 people found this helpful.
 on May 13, 2007
By Michael Wischmeyer
From its first performance, January 29, 1728, The Beggar’s Opera was an absolute success. In that period a box office hit might be continued for four or five nights. Remarkably, The Beggar’s Opera ran sixty-two nights in London, and was produced nearly every year thereafter to 1886. Its popularity quickly spread to Wales and Scotland, France and Germany, and even to the New England colonies (and became a favorite of George Washington).

This was originally just for a class,but a great book!

4 people found this helpful.
 on March 3, 2014
By AshNicole
Originally, I was not thrilled on reading this book. The book was assigned to me in my British studies class and I was not looking forward to it. However, I was pleasantly surprised at two things. First, it was short read and easy to comprehend. Last, it was really funny! John Gay’s writing is tough yet flowery, which I love. I’m glad I did read this book because now I want to read some more of his work. On the contrary, this would be strictly for enjoyment purposes.

A delicious romp

12 people found this helpful.
 on November 21, 2000
By Orrin C. Judd
Life is a jest; and all things show it, I thought so once; but now I know it. – John Gay’s epitaph As we sit here, nearly 300 years removed from the debut of The Beggar’s Opera, it’s hard to recapture the effect that it had on the England of 1728. So look at it this way, John Gay was the Sex Pistols of his day and The Beggar’s Opera hit London like Never Mind the Bollocks….

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