William Hogarth
A Scene from ‘The Beggar’s Opera’ VI 1731

Artwork details

William Hogarth 1697–1764
A Scene from ‘The Beggar’s Opera’ VI
Date 1731
Medium Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions Support: 572 x 762 mm
frame: 820 x 900 x 90 mm
Acquisition Purchased 1909
On display at Tate Britain
Room: 1730

Display caption

This is among the first paintings ever made of an English stage performance. It depicts a climactic scene from John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, first performed at the Lincoln’s Inn Theatre in 1728. Here the opera’s central character, a highwayman named Macheath, stands chained, under sentence of death, between his two lovers, the jailer’s daughter, Lucy Lockit, and, to the right, the lawyer’s daughter, Polly Peachum. They in turn plead for his life. At either side of the stage Hogarth has included members of the audience, notably at the far right the Duke of Bolton, real-life lover of the actress, Lavinia Fenton, who played the part of Polly Peachum.

September 2004