John Gay: The Beggar's Opera and Polly - an audio guide

The Beggar's Opera cover

"Gamesters and Highwaymen are generally very good to their Whores, but they are very Devils to their Wives."

With The Beggar's Opera (1728), John Gay created one of the most enduringly popular works in English theatre history, and invented a new dramatic form, the ballad opera. Gay's 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.

Raucous, lyrical, witty, ironic, and tragic by turns, The Beggar's Opera and Polly - published together here for the first time - offer a scathing and ebullient portrait of a society in which statesmen and outlaws, colonialists and pirates, are impossible to tell apart.

To listen to Hal Gladfelder, editor of the Oxford World’s Classics edition, introduce The Beggar’s Opera and Polly, click on the links below.

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The complete audio guide can be downloaded here. [21:50]