Olivia Seckington on John Gay's The Beggar's Opera

Published by admin_main on Mon 15 Nov, 2010

13. In Scenes 11-15 (the play's climax), how does Macheath hold up against the fate that now confronts him once he has been recaptured? How does he sum up his career and the events that have brought him to this point? What are his thoughts about women and wives in particular?

Macheath's attitude to his immediate execution is pretty much how anyone's would be. In scene 11, he seems to start out overwhelmed and almost feeling sorry for himself about it. When Lucy & Polly go to him in the beginning of that scene, he tells them it is going to be over soon, and I wont be doing wrong to either one of them. He then gets a little torn, in Air 53, between the two women, knowing that if he loves or comforts one, it is going to destroy the other. By the end of scene 11, in Air 57 (Bonny Dundee) Macheath starts to accept his fate, he says, "The charge is prepared; the lawyers are met; The Judges all ranged (a terrible show!). I go, undismayed, for death is a debt, A debt on demand. So take what I owe." Even as the scenes go on, he drinks a little bit, the alcohol that he calls his 'courage' gets him even more prepared, but then he runs out and you can see his fear kind of returning. As far as his wives are women are concerned, he thinks his death will be better for them. He says again in Air 57, "Here ends all dispute the rest of our lives, For this way at once I please all my wives." He even tells Polly & Lucy that after he is killed if they want to marry again that they should go find husbands in the West Indies. So even though he's not really a one-woman type of guy, he still seems to treat his women with as much respect that can give them. It is kind of comical at the end of scene 15, where he is giving his last words with his two 'wives" and the Jailer comes in and tells him that four more women with children have come and he says "What


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