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15. What keeps mankind alive? Answer the question with reference to the actions of characters in The Threepenny Opera.

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Introduction

15. What keeps mankind alive? Answer the question with reference to the actions of characters in The Threepenny Opera. In The Threepenny Opera, Bertolt Brecht, through the writing of the song "Second Threepenny Finale What Keeps Mankind Alive" in Scene Six, gives us the idea that "mankind is kept alive by bestial acts (page 55, line number 18). In my opinion, although the idea to associate human beings with beasts, or more specifically, human behaviour with "bestial acts" looks peculiar, some characters, in their pursuit of desires and wants, do reflect an inhuman nature, which makes them 'beast-like'. In the play, we can see the constant, uncontrollable longing of "food" (page 55 number 9) of some characters. In my opinion, what the lyricist refers as "food" here is not the physical substance for eating or drinking, but instead things that one mostly desires. Throughout the play, we can see from the example of Macheath how his sexual urges matter more than any other things in his life: although he knows clearly that "a woman's skirts are what he must resist" (page 40), he always fails to do so "as soon as night falls" (page 40). ...read more.

Middle

Finally, when Mr. Peachum refuses to give her the reward for turning Mac in, Jenny gets furious, blames the Peachums for "black[ing] [Mac's] boots" (page 58) and tells them how bad she feels for having "[sold] the last sportsman left in London" (page 58). In my view, Jenny is such a hypocrite and money-fanatic that the example about her is itself, the best manifestation of what is suggested in the song as "however much you twist, whatever lies you tell.... Morals follow on" (page 55, lines 8 ~ 9). As money represents one's living, it does not surprise readers greatly by telling them that government officers such as Tiger Brown and Constable Smith have committed bribery. In fact, what is really surprising to us is Brown's yielding to the Beggar's King, Peachum, on the matter about the pulling in of Mac. At first, Mac thinks that as Brown stands on his side, there is "nothing on record against [him] at Scotland Yard" (page 35). However, things turn out that Peachum tactfully threatens Brown with the disruption of the Coronation of the Queen by "remind[ing] [him] of a historical incident [which] [has] caused a great stir at that time" and the "cruel way Semiramis (the Queen) ...read more.

Conclusion

Finally, instead of helping the beggars, Peachum has actually made them his subordinates so that the beggars are under his control and have to follow his orders, including the participation of the plot to disrupt the Coronation. In conclusion, I agree with Brecht's reflection of mankind (in the theme of the play) "[being] kept alive by bestial acts". In my opinion, beasts are without doubt brutal, and can never learn to act like a human. In their life, what matters the most is the pursuit of food and the defence for survival. In order to achieve that, they make use of all kinds of different methods. Sometimes they may even kill their own species when it comes to a critical situation. As we come back to the play, we learn from its ending that despite the bestial acts of the characters, all of them survive in the plot and live a good and luxurious life (Mac is rewarded ten thousand pounds by the Queen). This supports the premise of the song that bestial acts keep mankind alive. ...read more.

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