Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one. Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay
'No sorrow, no salutary terror, no abhorrence, no seriousness; nothing but ribaldry, debauchery, levity, drunkenness and flaunting vice in fifty other shapes. I deemed it impossible that I could ever have felt any large assemblage of my fellow-creatures to be so odious.'
Charles Dickens: A letter to the London Daily News on attending a public hanging in Newgate Gaol
Macheath, the notorious highwayman, welcomes visitors to Peachum's Tavern, haunt of the rakes, rogues and vagabonds of 18th century Newgate and setting of 'The Beggars' Opera'. All is not as it seems, however; in the best operatic tradition, the highwayman's mask actually conceals the features of the innkeeper's daughter, Polly.