Analysis

A few of the play’s conflicts begin to unfold in these scenes. Polly does not really know the man she is marrying. The man she fell in love was proper and well-off in society, implying his position in public by taking Polly and her mother to the Octopus Hotel and wearing white kid gloves. The fact that Polly is appalled by the crimes around her shows that Macheath has lied to her about his true character. Macheath’s dishonesty with Polly shows that he is as untrustworthy in matters of love as he is in matters of business. However, Polly’s willingness to accept his criminality because she loves him shows just how strongly she feels about him. Another conflict is Macheath’s knowledge that Peachum may be after him. He anticipates the consequences of marrying Polly because he thinks Peachum will not approve of her marriage to a criminal. Also, the friendship between Macheath and Brown implies a conflict, and a complicity, between the law and crime.

This scene presents Macheath as a full-fledged character. Macheath has only been portrayed through song and through the Peachums’ terror at his name. Here in the stable, he embodies a lower-class crook with upwardly mobile aspirations. When his thieves bring him wedding presents to furnish the stable, Macheath’s anger is directed at the lack of style the men have shown in choosing the goods. Because Macheath often portrays himself as an upper-class citizen, he desires a classy wedding, just like the kind he imagines the upper classes have. In ranting at his men, though, Macheath also demonstrates that he does not actually know anything about being upper class. When he asks them to sing a “delightful” song, the chuckle from Matthew indicates that he and other thieves are not used to Macheath using such fancy words. Later, Macheath’s incorrect usage of the word penurious shows how hard he is trying to be a classier guy. Likewise, Macheath demands better table manners from the thieves he employs. Macheath’s appreciation of furniture and rugs purposefully mimics the way that consumer classes talk about objects. He also only “shops” at the finest carpet stores, and he appreciates, or tries to appreciate, the differences between certain types of furniture. Like most consumers, he does not care where his goods come from; he only cares about the quality. Macheath’s concern for better table manners and fine things demonstrates that crooks and those who do not commit crime are not always so different from one another.

Polly’s interaction with Macheath’s criminals ultimately displays the criminals as the good guys in The Threepenny Opera. At first Polly is shocked and upset by the stealing and murders that the crooks committed in order to celebrate her wedding. She represents a poor girl who does not realize what she has gotten herself into. However, a bond of sympathy is created between Polly and the criminals when she sees what they went through to make sure she had a nice wedding breakfast. She continues to warm up to them when they give her wedding gifts. As she becomes accustomed to the situation and as the humor mounts, she sees that the thieves are decent people after all. She eventually even takes responsibility for the party being a success by singing the boisterous and funny “Pirate Jenny.” The song, with its tale of vengeance at the hands of a sweetly demure girl, shows that Polly has a tougher side as well, which will emerge more fully as the play progresses. In this scene, Polly’s function is to be complicit in enjoying a life of crime.

The ending of the scene is an important example of the alienation effect. Here, the expectation is that Macheath and Polly will have a tender moment alone together. The first part of the verse they sing is a sweet description of their inability to ignore the circumstances of their love. But the last two lines state that the consequences of their love do not matter, a sentiment that pulls them out of their situation and calls into question whether their love is real. These are not lines that the characters would logically speak at that moment because they contradict the vows of love that they have sworn to each other. These lines instead function as a commentary on the action. As such, the verses of the song force the question of whether the love between Macheath and Polly is real. This question of the mutual love between Macheath and Polly creates alienation in the audience. The actual lines of the song challenge the audience’s expectation of how Macheath and Polly feel toward each other.