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One of James' best-known and most acclaimed longer tales follows an un-named narrator as he goes to almost any lengths to obtain a dead poet's papers and letters from his widow. James lovingly creates a Venice where the unexpected seems an everyday occurrence and the unrelenting tension mounts until the final page.
When first published in 1899 the work received a mixed critical reception; praise for its outstanding writing style and condemnation for it's frank presentation of the limits of a woman's role and its sexual openness. At the time the book only had one printing. After it's rediscovery in 1969 the book has been praised for its treatment of issues facing women and its wonderful style.
While The Beggar's Opera lampoons famous figures of the day it also deals with social inequity by contrasting the low-class thieves and whores with their aristocratic and bourgeois "betters". The Beggar's Opera influenced later British stage comedies and comic opera, for example Gilbert and Sullivan, and is the ancestor of the modern musical. In 1920 The Beggar's Opera began a amazing run of 1,463 performances.
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