Tyburn

After looking at this map, it is interesting to apply the listed facts to the fictional settings in the readings from weeks one, two and three.

In Gay’s A Beggar’s Opera, Tyburn behaves as a center of chaotic life and sported death, wheras in William Hogarth’s prints, the execution site takes on a much more grim tone. For Macheath, always the performer, Tyburn is just another stage, and in Hogarth’s eyes, the location serves as a meeting place of social vivacity. It is interesting to see how in both, everyone is acutely aware of the imminent prescense of death yet lives even more animatedly when faced with it. People would gather and make the trek down Oxford Street to the Tree to sell goods, buy drinks, and participate in the spectacle of it all. How did this fascination with public execution come about? Perhaps the overt publication of the hangings is a violent resistence to the solemnity of the event, as in a sort of overcompensation. The people of London bring with them business and society even to the steps–or stage rather–of death. Another reading would be that the walk to Tyburn represents the degradation of human behavior to arrive at moral death. Macheath lies, steals, and cheats until he is caught by Peachum and then arrives eventually at Tyburn, and the public’s exchanges at the execution hub is far from civil. But what does that mean for those who make the return journey bakc into the city? Perhaps the commentary is that people carry death and ill morality back into the city after witnessing a low of humanity at Tyburn, almost as though they infect the city once returning to it and the process repeats over and over again.

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