Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Hal Gladfelder on The Beggar’s Opera and Polly

The Beggar’s Opera, written in 1728 by John Gay, is the story of Peachum, a fence and thief-catcher, and his family. His daughter, Polly, has married the highwayman Macheath, and the diapproving Peachum sets out to try and kill Macheath and regain his use of Polly for his dubious business. With this work, Gay invented a new form, the ballad opera, and the daring mixture of caustic political satire, well-loved popular tunes, and a story of crime and betrayal set in the urban underworld of prostitutes and thieves was an overnight sensation.

A scene from The Beggar’s Opera painted by William Hogarth (public domain)
In this podcast, Hal Gladfelder discusses Gay’s career, the plot of The Beggar’s Opera and the sequel Polly, the reaction of Robert Walpole to his being satirized in the play, and the work’s enduring success.

Image credit: A scene from The Beggar’s Opera, by William Hogarth [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Recent Comments

There are currently no comments.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *