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John Gay, oil painting by William Aikman; in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.—Courtesy of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh
(born , June 30, 1685, Barnstaple, Devon, Eng.died Dec. 4, 1732, London) British poet and dramatist. From an ancient but impoverished Devonshire family, Gay was apprenticed to a silk mercer in London but was released early. He soon cofounded the journal The British Apollo. His poetry collections included Rural Sports (1713) and Trivia (1716). He is best known for the ballad operaThe Beggar's Opera (1728), which ran for 62 performances (the longest run to that date). The play, with music by John C. Pepusch (1667–1752), was a cynical tale of thieves and highwaymen intended to mirror the moral degradation of society; its success made it a landmark in music-theatre history. It was adapted by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill as The Threepenny Opera (1928). Gay was buried in Westminster Abbey.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Gay, John, visit Britannica.com.
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