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Marxist Criticism Macbeth

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Hartley Vibert

on 28 April 2011

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Transcript of Marxist Criticism Macbeth

Wiatt Ropp's "Macbeth and Ideology" Political Theory of Marxism Based on Karl Marx's philosophy

He wrote "The Communist Manifesto" "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles."
- Karl Marx, "The Communist Manifesto" 1848 Poverty Power Controls Marxist Solutions to Social Inequalities Utopian Communism Socialism Critical Theory of Marxism A Marxist Criticism of, Identifies how the society in which literature is produced affects the content of the piece. Types of questions a Marxist critic may ask... A piece of art, according to Marxists, cannot be created exempt of influences existing within it's society.

An author will inevitably reveal his/her analysis of class relations in the work. What is the author's analysis of class relations?
In what ways does the work serve as propaganda for the status quo?
Does the work propose some form of utopian vision as a solution to the problems encountered in the work? Status Quo Historical Materialism - Cultural Values Eternally evident in literature What critics look for to explain the influences the author experienced. Wiatt Ropp's Essay Thesis: "Shakespeare is beloved of educators and politicians because he is useful in legitimizing established authority and its supporting values and beliefs."
- Wiatt Ropp, "Macbeth and Ideology" Shakespeare reinforces the status quo. The status quo during Shakespeare's time is that all living things are placed into a chain of being that is not to be disrupted, those who try to upset this "God-given harmonious order" (Ropp) receive punishment. Ropp believes the reason Shakespeare is studied so actively at various levels of academia is because his plays support and promote the ideologies of the oppressing class. In other words... Shakespeare uses Macbeth as an example of unruliness and disorder. Ropp states that the disorder, "is manifested in rebellious lords, evil spirits, political scheming and violence." Speaking with witches
Being ambitious
Acting upon ambition
Commiting regicide
Other acts of murder Ropp then believes that Shakespeare punishes Macbeth in order to explain that those who disrupt the established order should be punished. Macbeth's punishment consists of "cosmic upheaval, insanity and military defeat" (Ropp). Shakespeare's intention Considering Ropp's main points (Macbeth's disorder and susequent punishment), he presents a convincing argument that Shakespeare intended to send a message that being disruptive to the established, cosmically right and just world, results in negative consequences.

Shakespeare would have promoted the status quo in order to stay in good standing with powerful aristocrats. Ropp's Thesis Ropp wanted to prove that the reason Shakespeare is studied constantly is because he reinforces the status quo. Ropp presents enough evidence to prove Shakespeare's expression of support for the status quo, he also identifies Shakespeare's motivation to express himself that way. Why would Shakespeare support the status quo? Shakespeare would be concerened about staying in good standing with the ruling classes.

"He relied on the ruling classes for patronage, and he knew how to support the status quo... so as not to fall out of favour." (Ropp)

If Shakespeare's plays did not satisfy the rich, he would have had much more trouble producing them. Examples Supporting The Thesis Just after Macbeth kills Duncan, he sees the two servants outside the room,

"One cried, “God bless us!” and “Amen” the other,
As they had seen me with these hangman’s hands.
List'ning their fear I could not say “Amen,”
When they did say “God bless us!”" (2.2.27-30)

Macbeth explains that he could not bring himself to say the words Amen, this is significant because Macbeth is realizing his deed was unholy. The idea of going to Hell as a result of this is what scares Macbeth.

This quotation shows the way Macbeth recognizes he has disrupted the Chain of Being and that he will be punished. Speaking of the heir to Duncan, Macbeth says (aside),
“The Prince of Cumberland, that is a step
On which I must fall down, or else o’erleap,
For in my way it lies. Stars hide your fires,
Let not light see my black and deep desires.” (1.4.48-51)

Macbeth knows the Prince lies between him and the thrown, and he will have to do something about that.
Macbeth recognizes that his ambition is something he must hide, because in his society it is not acceptable. He is aware that he is not supposed to have such desires. Speaking of the Thane of Cawdor, Malcolm says,
“he confess’d his treasons,
Implore’d your highness’ pardon, and set forth
A deep repentance. Nothing in his life
Became him like the leaving it.” (1.4.6-8)

The Thane of Cawdor was killed for being a traitor to King Duncan and Scotland. Before execution the Thane grovels about the King, begging forgiveness. Malcolm says that it was at this point that the Thane showed the best of himself. This shows that a high regard for royalty was expected and respected.
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