John Gay paved the way for a new theatre genre with the creation of Beggar’s opera that still exist today.
The beggar’s opera is a three act ballad opera, a new form created by John Gay, an eighteenth century poet and dramatist. He has got the idea of the beggars’ opera from Jonathan Swift. Ballad Opera is a satire genre performed by actors, not by singers, in which dialogue alternates with song. The opera contains 69 songs. The opera begins with the introduction by a beggar. Hence the name ‘Beggar’s opera’.
The later eighteenth century Britain was a place of corruption and turmoil .The authorities also turned a blind eye towards the corruptions. The era was termed as a century of ‘transition’ and of many ‘contradictions and complexities’. There were rigid ‘class distinction’ and the ‘low life was considered as a fit subject for comedy’. According to M Dorothy George “the dominating impression of life in eighteenth century London is one of uncertainty and insecurity” .She points out that Beggar’s Opera was an accurate picture of the manners of the time. The period of Charles 11 brought about changes to the politics and also livens up the dead theaters. The writers who could enjoy the audience with satire and pathos made their chance with the circumstances. The depiction of the current society with the criminal characters was supported whole heartedly and the play broke all the time record of theatre performance. Through the beggar characters and suitable plots, John gay had drawn the existing society of corrupted politics and degenerated, valueless life of the people, with ease and filled with satire. The typical eighteenth century English life was depicted with supreme care, even in the theme, characterization and dialogue.
The writer skillfully pictured the chance of the values that prevailed in the current society. The England at the time of Sir Robert Walpole ( the first prime minister of