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I had a fair Tug at charming Gold Watch. Pox take the Tailors for making the Fobs so deep and narrow! These are the Schools that have bred so many brave Men. I thought, Boy, by this time, thou hadst lost Fear as well as Shame. Poor Lad! But, hark you, my Lad. I shall lead a sad Life with Miss Polly, if ever she comes to know that I told you. Besides, I would not willingly forfeit my own Honour by betraying any body. Yonder comes my Husband and Polly. Come, Filch, you shall go with me into my own Room, and tell me the whole Story. P OLLY. I know as well as any of the fine Ladies how to make the most of myself and of my Man too.
A Woman knows how to be mercenary, though she hath never been in a Court or at an Assembly. We have it in our Natures, Papa. A Girl who cannot grant some Things, and refuse what is most material, will make but a poor hand of her Beauty, and soon be thrown upon the Common. You know, Polly, I am not against your toying and trifling with a Customer in the way of Business, or to get out a Secret, or so. Now you know my Mind. Have you Money enough to carry on the daily Quarrels of Man and Wife about who shall squander most?
There are not many Husbands and Wives, who can bear the Charges of plaguing one another in a handsome way. If you must be married, could you introduce no body into our Family but a Highwayman? Besides what he hath already, I know he is in a fair way of getting, or of dying; and both these ways, let me tell you, are most excellent Chances for a Wife.
Yes, that you might, you pouting Slut! What is the Wench dumb? Are you really bound Wife to him, or are you only upon liking?
How the Mother is to be pitied who hath handsome Daughters! They have as much Pleasure in cheating a Father and Mother, as in cheating at Cards. Then all the Hopes of our Family are gone for ever and ever! But, I love him. Love him! I thought the Girl had been better bred. Oh Husband, Husband! How the poor Woman takes it to heart! Ah, Hussy, now this is the only Comfort your Mother has left! Give her another Glass, Sir! This, you see, fetches her. The Girl shows such a Readiness, and so much Concern, that I could almost find it in my Heart to forgive her.
Not with a Highwayman. A Word with you, Wife. Yes, indeed, the Sex is frail. But the first time a Woman is frail, she should be somewhat nice methinks, for then or never is the time to make her Fortune. After that, she hath nothing to do but to guard herself from being found out, and she may do what she pleases.
Henry IV, Part I
Make yourself a little easy; I have a Thought shall soon set all Matters again to rights. Why so melancholy, Polly? Well, Polly; as far as one Woman can forgive another, I forgive thee. A mighty likely Speech in troth, for a Wench who is just married! Polly, I grant you, hath done a rash thing. A rich Rogue now-a-days is fit Company for any Gentleman; and the World, my Dear, hath not such a contempt for Roguery as you imagine. I tell you, Wife, I can make this Match turn to our Advantage.
There is not a Fellow that is cleverer in his way, and saves more Goods out of the Fire than Ned. But now, Polly, to your Affair; for Matters must be left as they are. You are married, then, it seems? Like other Women, Sir, upon the Industry of my Husband. And had not you the common Views of a Gentlewoman in your Marriage, Polly? But I love him, Sir; how then could I have Thoughts of parting with him? Parting with him! Why, this is the whole Scheme and Intention of all Marriage Articles.
If you have any Views of this sort, Polly, I shall think the Match not so very unreasonable. How I dread to hear your Advice!
Yet I must beg you to explain yourself. What, murder the Man I love! The Blood runs cold at my Heart with the very Thought of it! Fie, Polly!
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What hath Murder to do in the Affair? Since the thing sooner or later must happen, I dare say, the Captain himself would like that we should get the Reward for his Death sooner than a Stranger. So there is no Malice in the Case. But your Duty to your Parents, Hussy, obliges you to hang him.
What would many a Wife give for such an Opportunity! What is a Jointure, what is Widow-hood to me? I know my heart. I cannot survive him. What, is the Fool in Love in earnest then? I hate thee for being particular: Why, Wench, thou art a Shame to thy very Sex. But hear me, Mother. Those cursed Play-Books she reads have been her Ruin. One Word more, Hussy, and I shall knock your Brains out, if you have any.
The Beggar's Opera Quotes and Analysis
Away, Hussy. Hang your Husband, and be dutiful. The Thing, Husband, must and shall be done.
- Prepare for Success.
- I Live, You Move On.
- Masquerade in the Ministry?
- Will's Quotes o' the Day;
- The Beggar's Opera, by John Gay.
If she will not know her Duty, we know ours. I wish you could have made Polly undertake it. Then, indeed, we must comply with the Customs of the World, and make Gratitude give way to Interest. The whole Circle are in Tears! What then will become of Polly! That too will distract me. And are you as fond as ever, my Dear? Suspect my Honour, my Courage, suspect any thing but my Love.
Is there any Power, any Force that could tear me from thee? Yes, I would go with thee. But oh! I must be torn from thee. We must part. We must, we must. They now, even now are in Search after thee. Suspect my honour, my courage, suspect any thing but my love. These lines belong to Macheath's elaborately embellished oath of fidelity to Polly. She has only just released him from his hiding place in her chamber, thus reuniting them after a long day apart. This is our very first glimpse of Macheath, and it is very telling that he asserts the opposite of what will eventually be revealed about his character, namely, that he has little honor, little courage and little interest in fidelity.
Gay again mocks the fashionable melodrama of the age, introducing a perfect male hero mostly for the joy of reversing these expectations beginning in the next Act. His excessive, romantic phrasing is meant to be recognizable from melodrama, so that Gay can suggest that such profusion often hides naked self-interest. We retrench the superfluities of mankind. The world is avaritious, and I hate avarice. A covetous fellow, like a jack-daw, steals what he was never made to enjoy, for the sake of hiding it. These are the robbers of mankind, for money was made for the free-hearted and generous, and where is the injury of taking from another, what he hath no heart to make use of?
Matt's rousing speech seems to reflect a socialistic approach to justice and the rights of man, encompassing the spirit of an alehouse Robin Hood. On the one hand, we must agree with the sentiment: the distribution of wealth is grossly unfair, the aristocracy and gentry hoarding all they can for the very sake of hoarding. On the other hand, the methods of these highwaymen — befriending an unsuspecting youth at a gaming table, for example, only to jump him and steal his earnings on his way home — are anything but noble, since they involve betrayal of trust and abuse of friendship.
This speech is a recapitulation of the theme of hypocrisy that runs through the play. Even the most powerful sentiments fall before the actual vices of mankind. What signifies a promise to a woman? Does not man in marriage itself promise a hundred things that he never means to perform? Do all we can, women will believe us; for they look upon a promise as an excuse for following their own inclinations.
The truth or falsity of a promise has no bearing upon what a woman perceives to be true, for what she wishes is that she hears. In this way, she is gullible, small-minded and capricious. Of course, one should not think John Gay particularly harsh on women. Instead, what Macheath says about women seems equally true of everyone in the world of the opera. People pursue their self-interest, and rationalize it however they must. In a plot teeming with double-crosses, no character lives up to his word.
Conversely, words fail to describe the truth of their own matter. In reality, form and content are mutually dependent categories. In other words, people gladly say what they need in order to get what they want, and then later convince themselves that they mean those words. Nothing is true except self-interest, and so Macheath is happy to call whatever he needs marriage, so long as it serves his desires. Lockit pronounces this splendid sentiment in a conciliatory exchange he shares with Peachum after a small fight.
The statement's conciseness is glorious in its economy and wit. Experience of the human heart tells us, however, that if such a formulation is made, we may suspect that resentment holds the greater share of that heart. Lockit's inability to significantly delineate forgiveness and resentment reflects Gay's pessimistic view of human nature, as well as his ability to explore that view with humor.
These lines come from the final rhyming couplet of the opera's final air. Sung by the ensemble of highwaymen and disreputable ladies, the couplet points self-reflexively at its own epigrammatic form.
Related We Were Never Beggars (One-Act Plays)
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