Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Beggar's Opera Term Paper

The Beggar's Opera Research Paper

Macheath, Peachum, and Lockit, these are just some of the players in the 1728 ballad opera called The Beggar's Opera. It was the first real English ballad opera and, by almost any measure, the most popular English theater work of the eighteenth century. Of course you can't read about the Beggar's opera, without reading about the man who created such a brilliant satire.

On September 16, 1685, during the reign of Charles II, a man by the name of John Gay was born. Although an orphan until the age of ten, his kind uncle raised and schooled Gay throughout his life. As he became older, Gay became a mercer, which he disliked very much. In 1712, Gay became the secretary to the Duchess of Monmouth. Immediately after losing a small fortune in the South Sea, Gay was appointed Lottery Commissioner, a job he held for the rest of his life. Gay never married, and divided his time among his friends, especially the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry and the members of the Scriblerians, including Swift and Pope. In 1732, Gay returned to London, where he died on December 4 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.


After Gay wrote "The Beggar's Opera", he made a substantial amount of money by selling the copyright to John Watts on February 6, 1728. Watts printed the music on copper plates; without words, in two separate gatherings at the end, and published the text is octavo. The public did not like the way that the music was being published and demanded the music and lyrics together on one sheet. Watts agreed to the urges of the public and published another text in a second octavo on April 9, 1728. The text of the second octavo underwent several substantive changes: The alteration of a sentence in Act 1 scene 6, the addition of have in the first line of Air 7, the continuous numbering of the Airs throughout the play, the addition of a sentence in Act 2 scene 4, and the change of weary to wary in Air 40. But what was the Beggar's Opera? What did it consist of? And what was it about?

The Beggar begins by explaining his opera to the Player; here Gay takes the opportunity through the Beggar to explain himself to the audience, and even apologizes for the informality of the piece. The Beggar and the Player are hurried as Act 1 begins. The Setting is in Peachum's house, where he is going over his accounts, and he rationalizes his own hand in the industry of the trade of stolen goods, with an Air that gives us the theme of the play itself. He goes on to berate every realm of professional employment and reasons that they all manage to cheat each other. The following scenes introduce us to Filch, a thief whom Peachum employs, Mrs. Peachum and the dilemma that exists about their daughter. It is rumored that their daughter Polly has "taken a fancy"ng to convince of the falsehood of the rumors through one of the most famous and popular of gang leader and womanizer Captain Macheath and they soon learn through the prying of Filch and the confessions of Polly herself. Polly first enters with her father Peachum tryi Airs of the Opera, Air 6 or "What Shall I Do To Show How Much I Love Her." Polly sings "Virgins are like the fair flower in its luster. But, when once plucked,"tis no longer alluring." (Gay 12). Telling her father she knows how a lady is to handle herself towards Captain Macheath. As the truth is quickly revealed that Polly and Macheath are married, Peachum devises a plan in which Polly will have her husband hung and receive her dowry. The Act ends with Polly retreating to her room where she has Macheath hidden.

The final scenes of the opera collapse in on Macheath, as he drinks himself into a song. In a series of ten emotionally moving and melodramatic songs Macheath sings an empty reassurance to himself. He then sings to the tune of green sleeves "Since laws were made for every degree, to curb vice in others, as well as me, I wonder we han't better company upon Tyburn tree!" Upon concluding the tune enters two men from Macheath's gang who promises to fulfill his last request of seeing Peachum and Lockit to the gallows themselves. Lucy and Polly follow, weeping over the misfortune of their beloved husband, when suddenly four more wives enter, each carrying a baby.

And so The Beggar invites Macheaths reprise in which he confesses his love and marriage to Polly and proclaims a celebration in which everyone dances and the happy moral ending is restored.

Obviously John Gay completely reverses the norm of a typical opera while making The Beggar's Opera, but many critics would question the meaning of this ballad opera. Critics of The Beggar's Opera remain surprisingly puzzled on elementary interpretive problems. The key issues, according to critics, are the standards of judgment that are applied to the characters, events, and sentiments of this non-opera. Response to the work must depend heavily on the standards brought to it, since the play itself doesn't present us with explicit values and judgments. Seemingly Gay either assumed that the audience would know what standards to apply, or intended to leave at least some part of his audience puzzled and uneasy. Another question critics ask is if The Beggar's Opera is a satire, what does it attack? Most critics have taken an alternative to the multiplicity of the satiric targets. The satiric objects are: politics, Italian opera, literary forms (especially comedy of sentiment, tragedy, and the happy-ending convention in opera), and society's structure and conventions.

John Gay and his Beggar's Opera is something to remember. Gay allowed us to make light of the truths of morality. It's easy to see why this work was the most popular work of the eighteenth century.

Warning!!! All free sample term papers and college term paper examples on The Beggar's Opera topics are plagiarized and cannot be fully used in your high school, college or university education.

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