John Gay – “The Beggar’s Opera” Act III scenes 6 and 7

Mrs Diana Trapes comes in and both men greet her cordially, saying that her breath indicates she drinks only the best gin. Mrs Trapes says she’s been always choosy about the quality of her liquor and sings a song about how when she was young she was quite amorous, and she believes that people should spend their time in kissing: when they are young, it’s kissing another’s lips, but when they get old, it’s the glass.

Then it’s business time. Mrs Trapes wants to buy as many black clothes as there are available, because all her customers are very fond of mourning. Peachum complains that Mrs Trapes drives a very hard bargain, and Mrs Trapes complains in return that the new laws are bad for her business: the Mint lost its status as an asylum for debtors and at the same time, imprisonment for small debts was abolished. Before that, when a lady took Mrs Trapes and didn’t pay, she knew where to find her, but now they can be anywhere and wear her clothes with impunity, like Mrs Coaxer until recently. Anyway, she’ll gladly take any black velvet scarves, because they sell well: her customers know that the price gentlemen pay them doesn’t depend on their youth or beauty, but how well they are dressed. Peachum interrupts, asking what about Mrs Coaxer. Mrs Trapes she finally managed to track her down and tear all the stolen clothes off her back, so she was left just in her chemise. But no worry, her lover was just passing down the street in a hackney coach and she called him. Mrs Trapes hopes the Captain is going to buy her new clothes, because he always liked to see his ladies well-dressed. Which Captain, asks Lockit breathlessly. But of course Macheath, says Mrs Trapes, he thinks I didn’t recognize him but I know him very well. The overjoyed Peachum tells Mrs Trapes that tomorrow she may have her pick of their wares at any price she wants and he is going to give her this night dress as her personal gift, but right now he and Lockit have to go and talk to Macheath on a matter of urgent business. They also promise her to settle Mrs Coaxer’s debts. Mrs Trapes she won’t inquire after their own affairs, but she is just going to take this one velvet scarf.

The next scene takes us back to Newgate, where Lucy sings a very angry song about how she is like a ship on a stormy ocean and then reveals she is going to kill Polly with rat poison. She thinks she may get away with it and attribute it to bad gin, of which many people die anyway. But if she is hanged for that, let it be so, because there is no other crime she would like to be hanged more for than poisoning that slut. At this moment Filch announces Polly.

Again, I can’t paste the URL of the precise moment, but this song of Lucy starts around 5:13 mark.



John Gay – “The Beggar’s Opera” Act III scenes 3 – 5

Filch comes in. He is very weak because he took up the duties of Newgate’s child-getter, who is on a sick leave and earns a bit of money by impregnating women prisoners, thus putting off their execution. But he feels he can’t do it much longer. Lockit asks him where Peachum is and Filch says at his place.  In the next scene we cut to a gambling den where Macheath hides with some of his friends. He commiserates with his friends who didn’t have much luck last night on the road and gives them some money, because he is not like courtiers who profess everything and do nothing. He sings a song about false and interested court friends. His friends, for their part, feel sorry for Macheath that he has to hide among gamesters, who are the vilest kind of people, but get more lenient treatment than thieves because many of them are upper class. Macheath tells them he is going to take part in a big game tonight and he is going to point out to them the men worth robbing, especially one who stole a lot of money from Macheath, so now there is a chance to settle that debt.

In the next scene we are in Peachum’s office. (I wonder how these scene changes were done in 18th-c. theatre.) He and Lockit pore over the accounts of their loot from the coronation of King George II, which was huge. Lockit notices an entry for a brocade trail and Peachum explains it got sold to Diana Trapes, a tailor, who is going to make many pairs of slippers and shoes for the girls who are going to become mistresses. Lockit keeps on reading through the books until Peachum tells him they really need a whole day to get through them. Lockit readily agrees and says they should have a drink or two instead. He tells Peachum he should watch Polly and Macheath surelly will come to her in a day or two. He sings a song comparing men to gudgeons (fish) and women to bait, or birds who come when their mate is caught and are imprisoned as well. Peachum asks him what’s the use of it if Lucy is going to let Macheath out, and Lockit says nobody should be held accountable for what one’s daughters or wives do. But the servant announces Mrs Diana Trapes, and Peachum after consulting Lockig asks him to bring her in.

John Gay – “The Beggar’s Opera” Act III scenes 1 and 2

Act III opens again in Newgate, with Lockit accusing Lucy of helping and abetting Macheath. Lucy swears she didn’t do it and tries to redirect her father’s suspicions to Polly and Peachum: they’ ve been here, they know Newgate very well, it could be them. Lockit, still suspicious, asks Lucy whether Macheath paid her to help him escape and swears that if she shares the money with him, he won’t be angry. Lucy says she’d rather pay herself to keep Macheath with her. Lockit says he hoped Lucy’s education behind the bar in the alehouse would have made here more careful, and Lucy says it was the cause of her ruin. She sings a sad song about how he taught her to kiss all the customers, but nothing more. Unfortunately there was this one customer whose kiss was so sweet she couldn’t forget it and she gave him her all.

(I can’t link to the exact point in the clip, but the song starts at about 2:55 mark). She then confesses she did help Macheath and now she suspects Polly is actually his wife. Now Macheath will go back to Polly, she will first wheedle him out of his money and then Peachum will hang him. She sings another very sad song about how her love is all madness and folly and how jealous she is. Lockit tells her angrily to go away. Left alone, he reveals in a monologue that he intends to outwit Peachum by getting him drunk and making him reveal where Macheath is hiding. He says that the man is the only social animal of prey, because lions, wolves, and vultures, don’t live in herds or droves, thus revealing his ignorance of David Attenborough’s oeuvre. But continuing this shaky simile, he says Peachum is his friend and thus he has the right to be the first to cheat him. He sings a song about how gamesters conspire together to trick a dupe, but when the scheme fails, they will betray one another, like hungry pikes eating one another. He calls Lucy and asks her whether anybody from Peachum’s gang is around. Lucy says Filch is drinking with Black Molly. Lockit tells her to call him.

John Gay – “The Beggar’s Opera” Act II scenes 14 and 15

Fortunately for Macheath, Peachum appears on stage and drags Polly away, even though she screams, asks Macheath to throw his fetters around her and sings a song about how no power on earth can undo the true love’s knot.

Left alone, Macheath tells Lucy that he is so compassionate he couldn’t treat Polly harshly but she can see, if they were truly married, Polly’s father wouldn’t inform on him. He assures Lucy he’d rather die that be unfaithful to her and Lucy says she’d rather see him dead that in another woman’s arms. Macheath tells her she has to help him to escape and Lucy says her father has been drinking with the prisoners and is probably asleep right now, so she can steal his keys. She wants to run away with Macheath but he says it’s too dangerous for both of them to hide. He promises to send for her when things get a bit cooler. Lucy agrees to it, although she still has doubts, saying “But that Polly runs in my head strangely”. Macheath hurries her on and Lucy still takes a moment to sing a song about how she is like a fox, dying of fear while her mate is being chased by hounds. Those girls surely like animal similes. And thus ends Act II.

John Gay – “The Beggar’s Opera” Act II scenes 12 and 13

Lucy tells Macheath that the chaplain was nowhere to be found today. She is in despair because her father won’t relent. Macheath suggests maybe a small sum like twenty guineas would move him. He sings a song about how money makes both clerks and ladies look with more favour at the suitor. Lucy promises to do for him everything that money or love can do. Then Polly bursts in, exclaiming about her suffering and crucially, calling Macheath her “husband”. She sings a song about a swallow whose mate is trapped in a house and who pines for him, ignoring other suitors. Lucy is very angry with Macheath for deceiving her and Polly is very angry with him for ignoring her. Macheath sings a song about how he would be very happy with either of them if only the other one would keep away. Polly again claims she as the wife should be preferred and Lucy wishes he were dead. They sing a lively duet about how discombobulated they are. Macheath tells Lucy it’s all Polly’s ruse and asks Polly to stop persecuting him. Polly, as women too often are prone to do, lays the whole blame on Lucy and sings a song about how she should stop seducing her man. Lucy threatens to call a turnkey and throw Polly out of prison, while Polly with the pretence of politeness, calling Lucy “madam” in every third word, tells her to stop being so forward and that Polly’s duty is to stay with her husband. They sing another duet calling each other names:

John Gay – “The Beggar’s Opera” Act II scenes 10 and 11

Peachum and Lockit enter. They address each other familiarly as “brothers” and talk about their joint venture, i.e. handing over various criminals to the authorities for money. Peachum observes that “like great statesmen, we encourage those who betray their friends” and Lockit warns him in a song that he should be more careful talking like that, because every time he mentions a vice or bribe, all courtiers are going to think he’s talking about them. Then Peachum mentions that Lockit was unfair to inform on Ned Cline, because he promised him to keep him free a bit longer, and that he is overdue in his payments to Mrs Coaxer. Lockit interprets it as Peachum putting in doubt his honour. It comes to fisticuffs, but soon Peachum recollects that both know enough to sentence the other one to death, so it’s M.A.D.  and they apologize. Peachum leaves to meet a customer and Lucy appears. Lockit tells her she’s like a spaniel dog, fawning on the man who kicks her, but Lucy says she can’t help it. Lockit tells her soon she is going to be a happy widow and Lucy sings a very sad song about how unhappy she is about it.

Lockit answers her with a song in which he tells her that in a few days she is going to realize that with hanging her husband, he also got rid of her problems.

John Gay – “The Beggar’s Opera” Act II scene 9


The pregnant Lucy Lockit accosts Macheath. She says she can now look with pleasure at his being tortured and sings a slightly sadistic song about a housewife who with a pleasant thrill of revenge takes the rat out of the trap and throws it to the dog or cat.

Macheath tries to soothe her, saying he’s her husband in all but a name and he is ready to marry her formally as soon as they can find a chaplain. Lucy still doesn’t believe him and sings a song about how when a thief steals a shilling, he is ashamed of it and tries to hide it, but when a man seduces a woman, he boasts about it.  She knows about Polly’s marriage to Macheath, but he denies everything. I was only flirting with her, it didn’t mean anything, so don’t get upset, he says, it’s not good for you in your condition. The best proof of my truthfulness is that I’m ready to marry you and I know the penalty for bigamy. Lucy reasonably points out that he only risks being hanged, and thus getting rid of them both. Macheath insists, saying Polly is so vain that she takes every compliment as the sign of being her lover and that’s why she spread these rumours about me being married to her. He sings a song about how the first time a girl sits in front of the looking-glass she discovers self-love and that feeling lasts even when everybody but her can see she is getting old (which is quite strange, taking into account how most women are crippled by low self-esteem regarding their bodies. Were 18th c. women really that different or does Macheath/Gay just know zilch about women?) Lucy sees Lockit approaching and says her father maybe will help them find a chaplain.