The Threepenny Opera

This study guide will help you analyze the play The Threepenny Opera (1928) by Bertolt Brecht. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective

Presentation of the text

Title: The Threepenny Opera (1928)
Author: Bertolt Brecht
Genre: Play

Bertolt Brecht (1898 – 1956) was a German playwright and poet. His most famous work, The Threepenny Opera premiered in 1928 at Berlin's Theater am Schiffbauerdamm and is one of the most successful plays of the 20th century. The material was based on John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, which had been written 200 years earlier. Other famous plays of his include Life of Galileo, Mother Courage and Her Children, and The Caucasian Chalk Circle. He is also the creator of the concept of epic theatre, which invites the audience to critically reflect on the social issues presented in the play.


Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide: 

Other characteristics of the classical drama 

An additional dramatic element is the short duration of the narration. The story begins on Tuesday evening and ends on Friday morning, so it takes up a period of just two and a half days. The scenes take place in chronological order and are interlinked in terms of content so that the next situation necessarily arises from the previous one. 

Most scenes also end with a cliffhanger. Thus, the very first scene ends with the Peachums’ concern for their daughter Polly, whose bed has remained untouched overnight. Here, the fear is that Polly is staying with the notorious criminal Mackie the Knife. Another example is provided by the third scene, at the end of which the question arises whether the Peachums will succeed in betraying Macheath. 

The division of the play into acts also corresponds to the classical dramatic structure. This division into three parts can also be noticed through the division into a prologue, three acts, and an epilogue. Here, there would also be a link to the title, which also contains the number three.

Lastly, The Threepenny Opera ...

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The Threepenny Opera

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