A New Multimedia Edition of The Beggar's Opera

By John Gay, Ed. William David Mayo

This project is an attempt to render John Gay's The Beggar's Opera as an online, multimedia edition. In this edition, an attempt has been made to take advantage of HTML's ability to collect disparate media and present them together. In this project, the primary media are sound, video, picture, and text, with text as the primary element.

Project Goals

This is a 4th year senior project, produced to satisfy the graduation requirements of William David Mayo, a student at New College of Florida. The primary goal of the project is to produce a viable hypertext edition of The Beggar's Opera, with contextual and multimedia material, aimed at pre-graduate students in Literature, and potentially useful to pre-graduate students in humanities, music, or history. The project is meant to be open-source and copyright free to the greatest extent possible, so as to be adaptable and maintainable by later editors and contributors, and to provide the most possible benefit to the academic community as a whole.

This project is meant to be used as a teaching edition, and aims to give the undergraduate reader a basic overview of the play's environ's and historical background. The concept underlying this project is that the main strength inherent in hypertext is its ability to provide context materials to a text seamlessly bound into the text, and its ability to direct the reader outward into other repositories of such material.

Project Components

The primary components of this work are as follows:

  1. The text of the play itself, adapted from the Renascence Editions edition produced by R. S. Bear, University of Oregon. Her notes have been used, with permission, and credited where they appear.
  2. The score to the airs in the play, scanned in from a facsimile of the 1729 third edition of the play.
  3. Video clips from the 1983 BBC Television version of The Beggar's Opera
  4. Audio clips of the airs from a 1968 performance of the play published by Seraphim Records, orchestrated by Sir Malcolm Sargent.

  5. Several period contextual pieces, including parts of The Newgate Calendar (courtesy of Jack Lynch) and The History of the Life of the Late Mr. Jonathan Wild the Great, courtesy of Project Gutenberg.
  6. Various pictures and visual reference diagrams, period and otherwise.
A complete list of sources may be found here.

Technology and Technique of the Project

The textual elements and framework created for this site has been hand-coded in XHTML 1.0 transitional, using CSS for styling, and, for certain sections, PHP server-side scripting. The primary concern here was cross-platform and cross-browser readability; thus, the technology was kept purposely simple and free of client-side scripting. Wherever possible, styling has been moved to a seperate stylesheet, to facilitate editing. This site has been tested in Windows 2000, Windows XP, Knoppix (Debian) Linux, Mac OSX, and a Nokia cellular phone browser, and has displayed acceptably in all instances.

There are three elements in the project rendered in PHP: the notes, the bibliography, and the pages presenting the score. The first two are presented as PHP because the PHP scripting does not render the notes unreadable when directly accessed on disk, and provides a signifigantly more elegant interface for accessing individual notes. The score is presented in PHP because a single PHP page is much easier and faster to create and maintain than forty-eight seperate XHTML pages.

The coding of the project was begun using Max's HTML Beauty++ 2004, a freeware editor for Microsoft Windows. Midway through the project I switched to using a hard-drive based install of Knoppix on my primary computer; the bulk of the project was coded in the Quanta+ web development environment.

The video segments were recorded from the DVD with DV software and hardware produced by Avid, and encoded with DivX, a freely available blend of MPEG4 video and MPEG3(mp3) audio. This codec was chosen due to its popularity, cross-platform availability, and familiarity to the editor.

The audio segments were recorded and edited from LP using Audacity, a free sound editor. They were recorded from turntable directly into the line-in on the Media Center's sound card, and editing primarily consisted of cutting out the speech portions of the play and reducing the noise produced by the recording medium.

Picture scanning and basic picture editing were accomplished using Irfanview, a free picture viewer available for 32-bit Windows operating systems. More complex editing was done with The GIMP.

Scanning, video-editing, and music recording were all done primarily in the Media Center of the Jane Bancroft Cook Library, located at New College of Florida, using their materials and equipment.

Here is the play itself.

Here are the notes to the play.

Here is the score to the play.

Here are addtional media.

Here are the introductory materials for the play.

Here is the bibliography for this edition.