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Gays Inversion of Ethics The Beggars Opera by John Gay is an excellent example of the satire prevalent in the Tory writers namely Gay Pope and Swift of the time Receiving the brunt of this mock-heroic play is First Minister Walpole and the upper class Whigs in general It is key to include a discussion of ethics when considering this play in historical context for Gay uses the whores and thieves of Newgate to represent the ruling class The meaning of virtue and vice become more clear when Peachum defined by self-interest while straddling both sides of the law is contrasted and compared with the heroic Macheath who also is motivated by self-interest at times Narrowing Gays focus on ethics in the language register of finance makes the contrast between self-interest and the law more clear By portraying Peachum Macheath Polly and the rest of the characters as he does Gay makes a statement pertaining to England as a whole Gay points to the commonality of a twisted ethical system a mong criminals and aristocrats alike Further reading of the text lends credence to the above assertion especially pertaining to the morality of the characters Macheath and Peachum Gays focus on Londons twisted morals and its capitalist nature is evidenced through a close reading of the text and relates to the fundamental conflict between virtue and vice Furthermore Gays contrast in the meanings of virtue and vice is presented in the consistent language of finance within The Beggars Opera Words from the financial register like business and money appear throughout the pages of the play and play into Gays interpretation of Londons ethics or lack thereof For instance the word business appears more than a dozen times in the play and money is present nearly twenty times Not to mention the abundance of other words from the financial register such as account credit rich wealth paid treasure etc A close reading of this play presents
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