'Let Us Take the Road': The Beggar's Opera and its Criminal Law Context
Internationale Forschungen zur Allgemeinen und Vergleichenden Literaturwissenschaft, Forthcoming
21 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2005
The Beggar's Opera is a work studied for its political satire, its importance as a progenitor of musical forms from the singspiel to the Broadway musical, and even its possible interpretation as a metaphor for the "Christian myth." But this seemingly simple, if cynical, tale of love and betrayal in the criminal underworld of 1728 London has not previously been studied for the insights it can offer into the relationship between law and society in early Hanoverian England. This paper uses the play's plot as a point of departure to study some aspects of crime and punishment. Using contemporary sources to supplement, and correct, the play's portrayal of crimes, criminals, and the criminal justice system of the time, the paper concludes that the play offers a valuable view of criminal life in Eighteenth Century London.
Keywords: Legal history, criminal law, law and humanities
JEL Classification: K14, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation