full title The Threepenny Opera

author Bertolt Brecht

type of work Play

genre Drama

language German

time and place written Berlin, 1928

date of first performance August 31, 1928

tone Dark humor

setting (time) Mid-nineteenth century

setting (place) England

protagonist Macheath

major conflict The middle class members of society are more crooked than the low-class crooks and criminals.

rising action Polly Peachum angers her father when she marries Macheath, the biggest crook in England. The marriage negatively impacts the biggest foundation for panhandlers in the country, and Peachum vows to get revenge.

climax Betrayed by his close friend, Tiger Brown, Macheath is caught for the first time, although he eventually escapes.

falling action Betrayed by his former lover Jenny, Macheath is caught for the second time and sentenced to be hanged.

themes The arbitrariness of values; the conflict between self-interest and love; the competitiveness of the capitalist system; the brutality of humans

motifs The alienation of the audience; irony; the thin line between criminals and honest people

symbols Kid gloves; the moon; sex

foreshadowing Repeated assertions about the friendship between Macheath and Brown; mention of Lucy at Macheath’s wedding; Jenny’s reading of Macheath’s palm