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Scene Breakdown


Before the start of the piece, the Beggar and the Player introduce the opera. The Beggar explains that the piece is truly an opera; though in contrast to a normal opera, it has no recitative and it is not "unnatural." The Player concludes their witty dialogue with "Play away the overture!"

The opera opens with Peachum, the thief-catcher, looking through his accounting books. He and his wife, Mrs. Peachum, are horrified when Polly, their daughter, announces that she has secretly married the highwayman, Macheath. Peachum and Mrs. Peachum see no redemption in the marriage, until Mr. Peachum decides that if Macheath is killed, the Peachums could collect Polly's inheritance; the couple plots the pursuit of Macheath. This alarms Polly who warns Macheath at once of her parents' plan. Macheath retreats to a tavern where several solicitous women are lurking. The women befriend him as they talk of their lives of crime, but two of the women turn him over to Peachum.

Scene from the Beggar's Opera

Macheath is brought to Newgate prison, where the warden is Lockit. (For more information, visit the ECE student project on Newgate Prison.) Lockit's daughter Lucy is madly in love with Macheath, who had previously made a proposal of marriage to her. Macheath swears his affection, but Polly arrives and reveals Macheath as her husband in front of Lucy. Macheath tries to cover Polly's claim by insisting that Polly is mad. Lucy is not completely satisfied, but she still devotes herself to his escape. Lockit finds out about the promised marriage to his daughter and realizes that he may be entitled to Macheath's money, upon Macheath's execution. Lockit meets Peachum to discuss this matter; Mrs. Trapes conveniently interrupts their meeting and announces Macheath's hiding place. Peachum and Lockit join forces together to capture Macheath.

Meanwhile, Polly seeks Lucy in hopes of saving Macheath. Lucy has planned to poison Polly, but Polly avoids the tainted cup. The two find out that Macheath has been captured and plead with their fathers to save him. Macheath is at the gallows and ready to die; he offers his last words to Polly and Lucy. The Beggar returns and announces that a moral ending would include the hanging of Macheath. However, since the audience came to see a happy ending, Macheath is released and whispers to Polly that she is his true wife.64

Scene Breakdown

(Peachum's House)

Scene I: Peachum
Air 1. An old Woman Clothed in Gray, &c.

Scene II: Peachum and Filch
Air 2. The bonny grey-eye'd Morn, &c.

Scene III: Peachum (monologue)

Scene IV: Peachum and Mrs. Peachum
Air 3. Cold and Raw, &c.
Air 4. Why is your faithful Slave disdain'd? &c.

Scene V: Mrs. Peachum
Air 5. Of all the simple Things we do, &c.

Scene VI: Mrs. Peachum and Filch

Scene VI: Peachum and Polly
Air 6. What shall I do to show how much I love her, &c.

Scene VIII: Peachum, Polly, and Mrs. Peachum
Air 7. Oh London is a fine Town
Air 8. Grim King of the Ghosts, &c.
Air 9. O Jenny, O Jenny, where hast thou been?
Air 10. Thomas, I cannot, &c.

Scene IX: Peachum and Mrs. Peachum
Air 11. A Soldier and a Sailor

Scene X: Mrs. Peachum, Peachum, and Polly
Air 12. Now ponder well, ye Parents dear
Air 13. Le printemps rappelled aux armes

Scene XI: Mrs. Peachum, Peachum

Scene XII: Polly (monologue)

Scene XIII: Polly and Macheath
Air 14. Pretty Parrot say
Air 15. Pray, Fair One, be kind
Air 16. Over the Hills and far away
Air 17. Gin thou wert mine awn thing
Air 18. O the Broom, &c.

(A Tavern near Newgate)

Scene I: Jemmy Twitcher, Crook-Fingered Jack, Wat Dreary, Robin of Bagshot, Nimming Ned, Henry Paddington, Matt of the Mint, Ben Budge, and the rest of the Gang
Air 1. Fill every Glass, &c.

Scene II: Gang and Macheath
Air 2. March in Rinaldo, with Drums and Trumpet

Scene III: Macheath and Drawer
Air 3.Would you have a Young Virgin, &c.

Scene IV: Macheath, Mrs. Coaxer, Dolly Trull, Mrs. Vixen, Betty Doxy, Jenny Diver, Mrs. Slammekin, Suky Tawdry, and Molly Brazen
Air 4. Cotillon
Air 5. All in a misty morning, &c.
Air 6. When once I lay with another Man's wife, &c.

Scene V: Peachum and Constables
Air 7. When I first laid Siege to my Chloris, &c.

Scene VI: The women

Scene VII. (Newgate) Lockit, Turnkeys, Macheath, Constables

Scene VIII: Macheath (monologue, air)
Air 8. Courtiers, Courtiers think it no harm, &c.

Scene IX: Macheath and Lucy
Air 9. A lovely Lass to a Friar came, &c.
Air 10. 'Twas when the Sea was roaring
Air 11. The Sun had loos'd his weary teams, &c.

Scene X: Peachum and Lockit
Air 12. How happy are we, &c.

Scene XI: Lockit and Lucy
Air 13. Of a noble Race was Shenkin
Air 14. Youíll think e'er many Days ensue

Scene XII: Lucy and Macheath
Air 15. London Ladies

Scene XIII: Lucy, Macheath and Polly
Air 16. All in the Downs, &c.
Air 17. Have you heard of a frolicsome Ditty, &c.
Air 18. Irish Trot
Air 19. Cease your Funning
Air 20. Good-morrow, Gossip Joan

Scene XIV: Lucy, Macheath, Polly and Peachum
Air 21. Irish Howl

Scene XV: Lucy and Macheath
Air 22. The Lass of Patie's Mill, &c.


Scene I: Lockit and Lucy
Air 1. If Love's a sweet Passion, &c.
Air 2. South Sea Ballad

Scene II: Lockit (monologue and air)
Air 3. Packington's Pond

Scene III: Lockit and Filch

Scene IV: (A gaming-house) Macheath, Ben Budge, Matt of the Mint
Air 4. Lillibullero

Scene V: (Peachum's lock) Peachum and Lockit
Air 5. Down in the North Country, &c.

Scene VI: Peachum, Lockit, Mrs. Trapes
Air 6. A Shepherd Kept Sheep, &c.

Scene VII: (Newgate) Lucy (monologue and air)
Air 7. One evening, having lost my way, &c.

Scene VIII: Lucy and Polly
Air 8. Now Roger, I'll tell thee, because thou art my son
Air 9. O Bessy Bell
Air 10. Would Fate to me Belinda give
Air 11. Come sweet Lass, &c.

Scene IX: Polly

Scene X: Lucy and Polly

Scene XI: Lockit, Macheath, Peachum, Lucy, and Polly
Air 12. The last time I went o'er the moor
Air 13. Tom Tinker's my true love
Air 14. I am a poor shepherd undone
Air 15. Ianth the lovely, &c.
Air 16. Bonny Dundee

Scene XII: Lucy, Polly and Filch

Scene XIII: Macheath
Air 17. Happy Groves
Air 18. Of all the Girls that are so smart
Air 19. Britons
Air 20. Chevy Chase
Air 21. To old Sir Sirmon the King
Air 22. Joy to the great Caesar
Air 23. There was an old woman
Air 24. Did you ever hear of a gallant Sailor
Air 25. Why are mine eyes still flowing
Air 26. Green Sleeves

Scene XIV: Macheath, Ben Budge, Matt of the Mint

Scene XV: Lucy, Macheath and Polly (Enter women and children)
Air 27. All you that must take a leap, &c.

Scene XVI: enter Beggar and Player

Scene XVII: Ensemble
Air 28. Lumps of Pudding (A Dance)