18th century theater developed alongside the expanding role of the lower and middle classes. George Lillo’s working-class tragedy The London Merchant and John Gay’s comedic satire The Beggar’s Opera exemplify how both drama and comedy can bring awareness and legitimacy to the struggles of working-class people. The London Merchant uses cultural references and religious language to elevate the struggles of its titular merchant’s apprentice whereas The Beggar’s Opera uses language of honor and nobility to draw parallels between the criminal underground and high society, both in service of using the medium of theater to acknowledge the middle and lower classes’ power.



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