The plot is not really much of a thing. The Peachum's and their daughter, Polly, own a changing house, a sort of fence in Enlightenment England where pickpockets, highwayman and all sorts of thieves go to turn the objects collected into money. One of their most successful thieves is Captain Macheath, a highwayman. He is also a libertine who has married Polly. He gets arrested while hanging out with a bunch of prostitutes. At Jail we meet Lockit and his pregnant daughter Lucy. She is pregnant by Macheath. Lucy lets Macheath escape. He is soon caught again and put to death. He is granted a last minute reprieve and acknowledges Polly as his wife. Play ends
Gay writes engaging and remorseless satire. It's full of lines like "The comfortable estate of widow-hood, is the only hope that keeps up a wife's spirits." The play is presented as a play within a play written by a beggar and a group of begging players. Macheath's reprieve actually comes from the actors. It is confusing because none of the characters are likable or terribly sympathetic. All thieves and ne'er-do-wells. Also being an "opera" there are many songs. They borrow their melodies to well known songs of the day. Gay has changed the words to suit the action of the play. It's odd because almost all the women are called slut, wench, hussy, jade harlot, ect., etc.. It was hard to hear so often. One hopes it is just part of the outrageousness of the play. If not it's very odd. I can't say as I liked the play which is full of early 18th century English in jokes. This is the play that had me looking at the foot-notes more than any other.