The Beggars Opera [with Biographical Introduction] (Nick Hern Books Drama Classics)

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However, Ayckbourn generally refuses to adhere to comic convention when ending his plays. In a pattern that Ayckbourn established in his first great success, Relatively Speaking, and that is also evident in A Chorus of Disapproval, the ending of the play is ambiguous and open to interpretation. As the song finishes, a crossfade introduces the next scene, located in a cafe.

Hannah and Guy are talking over coffee and cake. It is immediately apparent that Hannah wants more from the affair than Guy is prepared to give her and that she is deeply distressed by his affair with Fay. When Fay threatens Guy, emotions run full circle and the scene ends on a more serious tone.

The device of the play-within-the-play is an ancient one, much favored by Renaissance playwrights. Ben Jonson , a contemporary of Shakespeare, was also fond of the device. With the rise of realism and naturalism as the dominant acting and writing styles in the nineteenth century, the device fell out of use. They have returned the device to center-stage. Other Stoppard plays also rest upon the device, most notably The Real Thing , as does his cinematic hit, Shakespeare in Love The play-within-the-play conceit enables Ayckbourn to deepen and enrich his themes. Parallels between the stage and real life mean that events and characters assume a wider meaning.

Nonetheless, Ayckbourn limits the extent to which parallels between art and experience can be seen. Life does not always mimic art, for in life there is no god-like author to tie up loose ends and to erase blots on the copy book. What remains is the human capacity to endure, just as art also endures.


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Britain never really recovered economically from the Second World War. Although the s and s were marked by full employment, wages remained low and billions of pounds were squandered in a futile effort to retain hold of rebellious British colonies like Malaysia and Burma. The economic situation splintered further in the s. Crunched by a global recession and the OPEC oil crisis, inflation soared and the British economy staggered to a halt.

Unemployment rose dramatically.

When Margaret Thatcher took the office of prime minister in , she vowed to subdue the unions—which she accused of crippling industrial growth—to minimize taxation, and to woo business interests back to Britain. The s began with a bang and ended with a whimper: the economy boomed then went spectacularly bust.

While many people profited from urban expansion—which affected small businesses and the real estate market—some went under. But the BLM land scam represents a version of these age-old traits that is particular to the s. Each schemer has a different ploy: Dafydd wants to avoid paying too much for land, Ian and Fay want to buy the land at a low price and sell it at a higher price, while Jarvis and Rebecca, the owners of the land, deliberately create false information in order to sell the land in a climate of false expectations.

Nonetheless, the only true profiteer in this scheme is the corporation, BLM, which decides to down-size operations, lay off employees, and thus increase its profitability. In , Europe took its final steps towards becoming an integrated economic system, while the Dow Jones Index the primary indicator of the U. Stock Market passed the 10, mark. A Republican cease-fire in was followed by a Loyalist cease-fire that year.

A SHORT BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE

The cease-fires have since been broken and then resumed; likewise, the Easter Peace Agreement promised much but has, as yet, delivered little. Hopes remain high for a peace settlement in Northern Ireland. He founded his own theater company, The Renaissance Theatre Company, in , and has also directed and starred in several films, such as Henry V , for which he earned Oscar nominations for best director and best actor. Enlightenment philosophers and pamphleteers criticized the limited application of the doctrine of human rights , as developed in the American and French Revolutions, arguing that it should not be limited to men but should also include women.


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Although feminists remained active after they won the right to vote, it was not until the s that the movement returned to world-wide prominence. Fay is a product of the sexual liberation and experimentation of the s and s. Confident and attractive, she casually plans to swap sexual partners and uses her sexuality as leverage in the BLM land scam. Fay is no feminist: she neither seeks equality nor urges reform.

Rather, she is an individualist who makes use of her sexuality for her own profit. Unlike Fay, Hannah has held to the traditional ideal of marriage. She is a mother, a housewife, and a wife. But Hannah is not happy, and her affair with Guy is the catalyst that enables her to break free from a stagnant situation. For the first time she can articulate all that is wrong with her marriage—as well as all that she values in Dafydd—and to imagine the possibility of life outside the home. Should she remain with her children and husband, and if so, at what cost?

Or will she remain to work through her problems with Dafydd? The audience does not need to know whether or not Hannah leaves Dafydd, for what is most important is that she has undergone a radical change in perception. Ayckbourn has always been popular with audiences, and critics have also come to value his work. His review highlighted the darker elements of the play, particularly the passive nature of Guy Jones.

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Everyone defines Guy according to their own fantasy: as a lover, a crafty businessman, a Scot, or anything else that springs to mind. Wardle argued the case for Chekhov, but Billington, in a essay, thought more of the influence of another Russian dramatist, Nikolai Gogol. In that, a humble St. Petersburg clerk arrives in a small provincial town, is mistaken for the Inspector General and is enthusiastically feted to prevent him exposing the bribery and corruption that is rampant in local government.

The device allows Ayckbourn to explore the lives of provincial townspeople and to emphasize the importance of art in everyday life. Billington argued that as well as foregrounding the importance of art, the device of the play-within-a-play allowed Ayckbourn to comment upon contemporary society. Ifeka is a Ph.

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In this essay she argues that A. Alan Ayckbourn has always enjoyed popularity among audiences, but for too long his critical reputation suffered under the lingering suggestion that a writer of light farce had little, if anything, to say about contemporary society. This view has been modified in recent years, although it is still rare to find criticism of Ayckbourn that takes him seriously as a social critic.

The key to understanding his integration of social criticism and comedy is the close parallel Ayckbourn creates between both plays and thus between Britain in the early- eighteenth century and the late- twentieth. Eighteenth-century Britain was a place of tremendous change and turmoil. Following the first great national revolution in Europe, the English Civil War , the Protector Cromwell closed the theaters and for fourteen years the stages were silent. The Restoration era of Charles II brought many changes to British politics and also transformed the stage: Charles reopened the theaters, supported them with royal patronage, and allowed women to appear on stage.

By the early decades of the eighteenth century, the theater was the most popular form of public entertainment. In a culture that lacked television or cinema and in which literacy was the exception, not the norm, the theater offered everyone, rich and poor, spectacular visual effects and gripping stories.

Meanwhile, the explosion in print culture drew more and more would-be writers to London, who churned out sensational biographies of criminals and libertines, as well as penny-poetry, popular ballads, reviews, and essays. The time was ripe for a writer who could soak up the juices of popular culture and entertain his audience with a new combination of satire, pathos, and humor; John Gay proved to be just such a man.

At a time when most productions endured for less than a dozen performances, it lasted for an unprecedented sixty-two nights in its first season. His backers and patrons had doubted whether the unusual mixture of popular ballads and operatic arias, a love story with tales from the criminal underworld, political satire, and pomp, would appeal to audiences, but they were proved wrong.

The play was not only an overnight sensation, it became the most often performed play of the century. The choice of the play-within-a-play immediately begs the audience to consider carefully the parallels between themes, plot, and characters, and as well as those between early.

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These parallels are not always immediately apparent. Such an interpretation certainly makes for a juicer role and a more complex play. The plots of each play also seem antithetical.

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