Page/Stage

Productions

There have been countless productions of The Beggar’s Opera since 1728.  This section brings together materials from some of the most important ones—such as a 1770 production in Williamsburg, Virginia, attended by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and the Lyric Hammersmith production starting in 1920.  It also includes productions associated with this website, among them a staging at Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg in 2017.

Lincoln’s Inn Fields 1728

Williamsburg 1770

Lyric Hammersmith 1920

Beggar’s Opera at Bruton Parish

Editions

The popularity of The Beggar’s Opera on the stage has sparked a tide of editions.  These editions often include visual materials of interest in their own right, such as the illustrations Robert Cruikshank provided for an edition in 1827, or those by Claud Lovat Fraser for the 1920 Lyric Hammersmith revival.
This section will provide examples of the play’s rich publishing history.

Objects

Excluding the Bible, The Beggar’s Opera was perhaps the first text that inspired its own non-textual merchandise, including playing cards and fans.  Some representative objects will be collected here.

Playbills

As The Beggar’s Opera spread throughout the English-speaking world and beyond, often the only record of its performances that have survived are the playbills.  This section gives a sample of these documents, which often provide important insights into these performances—the cast, the other works that were often played that evening, scenery, and other elements.

Reactions

The Beggar’s Opera was controversial from the start, eliciting both celebratory ballads on Polly Peachum as well as attacks on the character of the actress, not to mention sermons denouncing the play for encouraging sin and criminality as well as amplifications of the satirical messages supposedly to be found within it.  This page gathers a representative sample of this part of the play’s afterlife.