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Published: 09 May 2013

256 Pages


ISBN: 9780199642229

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The Beggar's Opera and Polly

John Gay
Edited by Hal Gladfelder

Oxford World's Classics

  • The only edition to combine The Beggar's Opera with its sequel, Polly, allowing us to see the full scope of Gay's theatrical and moral vision.
  • One of the most enduringly popular works in English theatre history, The Beggar's Opera is set in an underworld of thieves and prostitutes and its continuation, Polly, transplants the characters to the West Indies into the new world of British colonialism, extending the play's satirical attack on society.
  • Inclusion of Polly compels us to rethink our views of the celebrated Captain Macheath and Polly Peachum, undermining Macheath's heroic glamour and Polly's simplicity.
  • Introduction considers Gay's use of criminal and rogue literature, the political context of the plays, Gay's attitude to slavery and piracy, his treatment of gender, and the plays' formal theatrical innovations.
  • Text closest of any current edition to the plays as seen through the press by Gay himself, retaining expressive features that convey the rhythms and pace of their first performances.
  • Appendix on the sources of the tunes Gay used for the 69 airs of The Beggar's Opera and the 71 of Polly, highlighting many cases where the songs' original words, familiar to contemporary audiences, give a bawdy or ironic double meaning to Gay's lyrics.
  • Explanatory Notes explain criminal and underworld slang and the topical allusions that gave Gay's satire its edge.

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