Quote 5

“We bourgeois artisans, who work with honest jimmies on the cash boxes of small shopkeepers, are being swallowed up by large concerns backed by banks.”

This quote comes from Act III, scene III. It is Macheath’s—and Brecht’s—swan song. Thinking that he has only moments left to live, Macheath tells the audience how capitalism—large conglomerates, banks, wealthy individuals—is destroying the bourgeois, or middle class, of artisans and poor workers. It is a statement, in part, that corresponds with the desire to quit his life of crime in order to adopt a career as a banker. As he did for churches and universities, Brecht had great contempt for banks. This discussion of Macheath’s now-abandoned plan to pursue a career in banking illustrates that the real criminals are banks, big businesses, institutions, and so on—not petty thieves. Moments after he utters these lines, however, the very corrupt Brown rides in on a high horse with the announcement that not only has the queen pardoned Macheath, she has given him a lifetime pension of ten thousand pounds a year. Now Macheath will not contribute to society as a banker or thief but as a nobleman.