John Gay

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Related to John Gay: Alexander Pope, The Beggar's Opera

Gay, John,

1685–1732, English playwright and poet, b. Barnstaple, Devon. Educated at the local grammar school, he was apprenticed to a silk mercer for a brief time before commencing his literary career in London. The first of his writings to have any real merit were the mock pastoral, The Shepherd's Week (1714), and Trivia (1716), an amusing description of London life. He is remembered chiefly today for his ballad opera, The Beggar's Opera (1728), a lighthearted story of highwaymen and thieves, which satirizes both the corruption of contemporary genteel society and the then current fashion for Italian opera. Its sequel, Polly, written the following year, was suppressed by Sir Robert Walpole since it (like The Beggar's Opera) ridiculed his government. Gay was also the author of two books of verse called Fables (1727, 1738), which were very popular in his generation.


See his poetical works edited by G. C. Faber (1926, repr. 1969); study by P. A. Spacks (1965).

Gay, John


Born Sept. 1685, in Barnstaple; died Apr. 12, 1732, in London. English poet and playwright.

Gay’s Fables (two volumes, 1727-38) were successful. He also wrote the plays What D’Ye Call It (1715) and Three Hours After Marriage (1717, in collaboration with A. Pope and J. Arbuthnot) and the tragedy The Captives (1724). Gay’s fame is based on his comedy The Beggar’s Opera (1728) and its sequel Polly (1729). With these plays Gay created the genre of the so-called ballad opera, in which he combined parody with political and social satire. In the 20th century B. Brecht drew upon Gay’s work in The Threepenny Opera (1928).


The Poetical Works. London, 1926.


Istoriia angliiskoi literatury, vol. 1, issue 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1945.
Istoriia zapadno-evropeiskogo teatra, vol. 2. Moscow, 1957.
Armens, Sven M. John Gay, Social Critic. New York, 1954.
Spacks, P. M. John Gay. New York, 1965.


References in periodicals archive ?
John Gay was already an established poet and a successful playwright.
Grub Street dramatists capitalized on John Gay's success by writing their own versions, and the process of rewriting has continued to the present.
"If only from a political point of view," EWIC co-chairman John Gay told Human Events, "permanence for a big chunk of the people who have been here illegally has to be part of the [Bush] deal."
Dianne Dugaw assigns much of the appeal eighteenth-century John Gay's songs enjoyed (and continued to enjoy in oral tradition) to their political and social critique.
Nick Dear and Stephen Warbeck drag John Gay's famous Beggar's Opera of 1728 kicking and screaming into the 21st Century with the Millennium Dome as a backdrop.
When John Gay began a heroic parody on "ladies Fashion"
Beggar's Holiday of 1946 teamed Latouche with Duke Ellington for an updating of John Gay's Beggar's Opera and featured an interracial cast--a revolutionary concept at that time.
Polly, ovvero L'opera del milionario consists of a three-act play and a lengthy appendix (a translation of the entire work, Polly by John Gay [1685-1743], on which it was based).
The splendid image of Smithfield Market (designed in the 1860s by Horace Jones) is by John Gay, whose photographs illustrate the book.
In recent years, two important revaluations of Gay have appeared: the first, a collection of essays, edited by Peter Lewis and Nigel Wood, John Gay and the Scriblerians (1988) and the second, a fresh look at Gay the dramatist, John Gay and the London Theatre by Calhoun Winton (1993).
John Gay's reputation tumbled as literary criticism metamorphosed in the eighteenth century from a descriptive project to a determinant of taste and values.
The idea of the basic oppositions manifesting themselves at the surface level of the text in various ways is the leit-motif of the present paper, in which we will attempt to propose a simple, polar model of a text grammar on the basis of the graceful material of John Gay's little masterpieces.