The Beggar's Opera
The Criticism Found in John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera of the Lower and Upper Classes College
First performed in 1728, The Beggar’s Opera is exceptional for its focus on the lower classes. The playwright, John Gay, used this focus for a particular social and political reason: to criticize the lower and upper classes in order to elevate the middle. Being disenchanted by the courts when the South Sea Bubble crashes in 1720 due to a combination of corruption and economics, Gay begins to distrust the actions and the effects of the court class. His way of criticizing them is to equalize the courts to the lower class, who he sees as being endowed with low morals. This opinion was most likely shaped by the real-life criminal celebrities at the time, Jonathan Wild and Jack Sheppard. In The Beggar’s Opera, Gay criticizes the lower and upper classes through the ironic equivalency between criminals and the court. By criticizing the the lowermost and uppermost classes in this way, Gay elevates the status of his audience, the middle class.
Gay introduces the lower class right away in this play as the main characters. A beggar starts the play, instead of a lord or lady, saying, “If poverty be a title to poetry, I am sure nobody can dispute mine” (Gay 41). We are then soon introduced to Peachum, who can be compared to aforementioned...
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