The Beggar's Opera

similarity between threepenny and beggar's opera

isn't threepenny opera by brecht based on gay's beggar's opera? what are some of the similarities and differences?

Asked by
Last updated by jill d #170087
Answers 1
Add Yours

The link for the following excerpts are linked at the bottom of the page;

"Brecht adapted The Threepenny Opera from John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera after that play underwent a successful 1920 revival at London’s Lyric Theater. Brecht’s secretary, Elizabeth Hauptmann, had read about the revival and ordered a copy of the play to translate into German. She handed Brecht one scene at a time while he was engaged in other projects. After reading the translation, Brecht called Kurt Weill, a young composer with whom he had been collaborating with on another opera, Mahogonny. Producer Ernst Josef Aufricht—in need of new work to draw attention to his central Berlin Theater am Schiffbauerdamm—commissioned the play. With a scant three months until the opening, Brecht, Weill, and their friends and families retreated to the French Riviera to finish the script. The plot instantly appealed to Brecht, who altered its trappings considerably—setting the piece in Victorian England, for example, and changing Macheath’s trade from highwayman to gangster/thief. Despite many pre-production snags (including the hasty addition of a prologue scene at the insistence of the actor playing Macheath), the play opened to a packed house in September 1928."

"The most obvious link between Gay’s and Brecht’s works is that both plays condemn the hypocrisy of the upper class. The Beggar’s Opera ridiculed the aristocracy and the over-the-top nature of Italian opera, but its purpose was to entertain. Brecht, in contrast, was immersed in Marxist thought after he became a Marxist in 1929. (Communism evolved from Marxism.) He saw capitalist society as hypocritical and corrupt and suggested that since drama had been defeated by capitalism, art should be an agent of social change. Although set in Victorian England, the tone of The Threepenny Opera reflects the climate of Germany at the time Brecht wrote it—a few years before Hitler’s ascendancy. His Marxist view motivated him to angle The Threepenny Opera to inspire social change. Indeed, his text reflects Marxist thought by criticizing the superstructure of bourgeois ideology—specifically family, science, charity, and religion."


SparkNotes Editors. (2007). SparkNote on The Threepenny Opera. Retrieved December 3, 2011, from