Term Paper: Beggar's Opera, Written by John

Pages: 5 (1499 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Plays  ·  Buy This Paper

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] " (I.viii) (P. 58)

Despite the fact that there are many improbable elements in Gay's work, his characters are sufficiently human to keep the audience interested. This is part of the effectiveness of his satire. Human beings are used as a metaphor for an inhuman, predatory society. The audience is inclined to sympathize with the low-life characters rather than condemning them. clearly drawn. Polly Peachum and Lucy Lockit act as juxtapositions of the artless and the wise. Polly is sweet-natured and trusting, while Lucy is occasionally wise in the ways of the world, but also jealous and temperamental.

Macheath entrust both girls with his affections, deceiving them in this way. This leads to the adventures that end in his waiting to be hanged.

Again, although it is clearly unethical to see two women at once, the audience is on the side of Macheath. This situation is a metaphor for the prison system and the harsh penal code of the time.

In this way Gay's entire opera becomes a satiric metaphor for the society in which the author lived from day-to-day. In this way his satire found its way to targets such as Robert Walpole and other politicians, Dandelion opera, and the harsh penal code dictating capital punishment for relatively small offenses.

Another way in which the opera is kept realistic is through the use of words and language. Each character had for example his or her own elevated or coarse way of speaking. An element contributing to the popularity of the work at the time is that fact that the music is taken from popular ballads and street songs to provide as colorful a selection as his characters. Among others, Gay wrote new words for the stirring march tune from Handel's Rinaldo.

The opera was an overnight success at its premiere in 1728. The freshness of subject gave rise to a new genre of opera entirely. The ballad opera did not however stand the test of time, and only Gay's work survives. However, at the time they were big enough to drive Handle from the stage. The reason for this phenomenon might have been the unique outlook presented in Gay's work. The author is critical of society and its ills without actually voicing such criticism. This may be the main reason for the opera's popularity at the time.

And it may be the very same reason that brought about the opera's popularity in the American colonies. Beginning in 1750, The Beggar's Opera became almost as popular in the American colonies. While the genre it started did not last, adaptations, a film version, and frequent revivals have seen to it that the work was before the public ever since its birth.

While it is not adherent to any conventional elements, the opera provides the audience with a look at reality through laughter.

Gay's familiar themes and barbs are thus well fitted into existing music to provide a fresh perspective on things. Gay, as his name suggests was also then a promoter of joy and laughter in the face of whatever harsh realities are faced. Laughter almost invariably improves things. This may also be a reason for his work's popularity. It was not inflammatory; rather it invites its audience to look, listen and laugh. No more responsibility except observing is required.

The Beggar's Opera thus presents reality in dramatic metaphor. It takes an ironic and even occasionally friendly approach to a society with which much is amiss. Gay follows his artistic aim: to delight and instruct. Life should not be taken too seriously. He makes fun of the ills of society by making his audience enjoy and even love characters of a low status in life, such as Macheath. He offers a fresh view without suggesting much by way of remedy. His aim appears to be to offer his audience a realistic view of what society that would nonetheless not be depressing. There is not moralistic preaching in the work. Perhaps Macheath's words echo this sentiment best:

Let's be gay

While we may,

Beauty's a flower despised in decay" (p. 52)

While the above words were said about the pursuits of romantic love, they can be applied to life as well. Gay appears to foster a sort of "carpe diem" mentality in his audience. Thus the work remains an artistic effort of note today. Even today it can be used to show an audience the hypocrisy engaged in every day in human interaction.

Bibliography

Lewis, P.E. John Gay: The Beggar's… [END OF PREVIEW]

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