Places: The Threepenny Opera

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1929 as Die Dreigroschenoper (English translation, 1949)

First produced: 1928, at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, Berlin

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Social satire

Time of work: 1837

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Soho

*Soho. Threepenny Opera, TheDistrict of central London in which all the action of the play is confined. However, locations within Soho change rapidly as the plot moves. Soho historically was infamous as an area devoted to crime, poverty, dissolution, and moral depravity. Interested in criticizing society at large, Brecht chose to set his commentary in a removed place and time, making a point about how little society changes and the universality of his themes.

Dark, dirty, and dingy, Soho is a metaphor for the hypocrisy that exists within all strata of society. Its sordid settings and characters reflect the world around them and add to the sense of depravity and disappointment with a world that allows such hypocrisy to exist. Within the context of the drama, the criminal element proves to be no worse than the middle or upper classes, the major differences being found in economics rather than morality or honor. The rich and powerful can perform illegal and immoral acts and escape detection, while the poor receive a separate justice. Brecht’s socialistic idealism is propagated by the play, and the setting enhances his message.

BibliographyBrecht, Bertolt. The Threepenny Opera. Translated by Ralph Manheim and John Willett. New York: Vintage Books, 1977. In addition to a new translation of the play, this volume contains an appendix with Brecht’s extensive notations on how the play should be produced, proposed lyric changes and additional stanzas for the songs, and a letter from Kurt Weill, the composer.Ewen, Frederic. Bertolt Brecht: His Life, His Art, and His Times. New York: The Citadel Press, 1967. Exhaustive examination of Brecht’s total oeuvre in chronological sequence. Also examines personages and theories that influenced Brecht’s work.Hayman, Ronald. Bertolt Brecht. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble, 1984. Contains an excellent analysis of major themes and sources for Brecht’s plays.Morley, Michael. Brecht: A Study. Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1977. Contains a complete discussion of The Threepenny Opera. Details how the play was written and analyzes its themes.Speirs, Ronald. Bertolt Brecht. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987. Contains an analysis of Brecht’s evolution as a playwright and charts the evolution of epic theater.
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