The Threepenny Opera

The Threepenny Opera Summary and Analysis of Scene 7

Scene Seven (Act Three)

Back at Peachum's house the beggar's are working frantically to prepare to disrupt the Queen's coronation ceremony. Peachum announces that over one thousand four hundred men are working for him at this moment; the men are scattered throughout London.

The whores, led by Jenny, arrive and demand to be paid for turning in Mac the Knife. Mrs. Peachum refuses to pay them, arguing that since Macheath has escaped she does not have to pay. Jenny, furious about not getting paid, tells them Macheath is a far better man than they are. She then foolishly tells the Peachums that Macheath showed up at her room and lay with her. Jenny lastly tells them that he is now sleeping over at Suky Tawdry's place (Suky is another whore, she is never present in the play). At hearing this news, Peachum immediately promises to pay the women. He sends Filch to have the police go arrest Macheath.

Mrs. Peachum sings the last stanza of the "Ballad of Sexual Obsession", indicating that even with the gallows hanging over him, Macheath still cannot escape from his desire to be with the whores. She brings the whores coffee and Peachum prepares to send his men to Buckingham Palace. At that moment Filch arrives and informs them that cops are already there. The beggars hide and Peachum confronts Brown.

Brown has come to arrest Peachum. He arrives with Smith and several other constables. After knocking off Peachum's hat, Brown starts to get annoyed with the friendly manner in which Peachum greets him. Brown orders his men to round up the beggars and tells Peachum that in order to prevent him from disrupting the coronation, he has decided to simply arrest all the beggars. Peachum points out the idiocy of this plan by telling Brown that there are far more beggars than there are cops. The "Song of the Insufficiency of Human Endeavour" is sung, a song about the fact that mankind can barely scratch out an existence in spite of his hard work.

Peachum informs Brown that the plan will never succeed due to the excess numbers of poor people. He asks Brown what it would look like if several hundred beggars are clubbed down in the streets. Brown realizes that he is being threatened but that he cannot stop Peachum. He agrees to arrest Macheath and sends Smith to Suky Tawdrys place. Peachum demands that Mac be hung by six o'clock that night and lastly sends his beggars to the jail instead of Buckingham Palace.

After Brown leaves, the scene changes and Jenny steps forward to deliver the "Solomon Song". This famous song claims that Solomon was wise and therefore realized that all his efforts were in vain. The next stanzas are the following: Cleopatra was lovely and whored herself to death, Caesar was courageous and got murdered, Brecht was curious and got driven overseas, and Macheath has sexual urges that are about to get him hung. The song thus rejects wiseness, beauty, courage, curiosity and sex and states in each stanza: "How fortunate the man with none!"


Brecht's desire to make fun of religion runs rampant throughout this play and many of his other works. In this scene there is an explicit comparison of Macheath to Christ: Mrs. Peachum says, "Exactly. No thirty pieces of silver for you." She implies that Jenny is Judas, the disciple who betrayed Christ and sold him to the soldiers. It is difficult to draw the parallel much further, other than to realize that like Christ, Macheath is in charge of a band of men who worship him. Brecht probably saw further parallels by having his associate with whores, but the differences are too large to make any explicit analogy.

The greatest moment of irony up to this point is when Jenny sells out Macheath a second time while defending his honor. This paradoxical betrayal is almost comical; Jenny is so desperate to defend Mac that she gives away his location. The question arises as to why Jenny would be so foolish as to not realize her mistake. It actually seems as if Jenny is trying to get rid of Macheath but want to make it appear to be an accident. This would fit in with the fact that he used to beat her up; recall that she refers to his brutality while having the police arrest him the first time.

One of the more interesting comments in the play is when Peachum tells Brown can he can say what he wants to the Queen, but that he has no power over the poorest man in London. The factuality of this statement rests in the fact that Peachum essentially commands an army of beggars. This "humble" job, as he would say, yields him enormous control over every district of the city. There is nothing that happens in London that Peachum does not find out about, as exemplified by his knowledge of who Filch is in the very first scene.