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Hamlet Marxist Lens

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Edward Lan

on 23 October 2012

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Transcript of Hamlet Marxist Lens

Who came first, Shakespeare or Marx? Marxist Lens Marxist Critical Theory is based on the studies and doctrines of Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), but was not widely used until the 1920s, following the October Revolution in Russia. The objective of this lens is to identify social, political, and economic statements made in a text. These statements often shed light on the author’s social, political and economic views, as well as display the work as a product of its era. Analysis of a work through this lens avoids aesthetic matters of the writing, focusing mainly on class separation and conflicts, which display the social and political elements that come along with them. Social barriers
Bourgeoisie values
Class oppression
Social inequality
Economic power leading to political power While reading pay attention to: What were the views of the Elizabethan era on economics, politics, and social norms? How do they compare to those of Marxism?
Did Shakespeare write in a way that reflected Marxist beliefs? What is his attitude toward Marxism?
Hamlet, while a member of the royal family, is the sympathetic protagonist of the play. How does he fit in to the Marxist theory?
There are several characters in the play who are considered "common". How are they portrayed? How do the other characters interact with them?
How do social, political, and economic factors shape the lives of the characters?
Does Claudius fit the Marxist theory's perception of a dominant elite? Do any of the other members of royalty?
Are there any characters who could be considered revolutionaries or otherwise have views correlating with those of Marxism? What are the questions that a reader should keep in mind while reading this lens? Hamlet interacts with other characters throughout the play in a fashion that divulges past Marxism, such as his interactions with his mentor Horatio who firmly believes that he represents a slave to Hamlet as evidence in the line “The same, my lord, and your poor servant ever,” with Hamlet responding “Sir, my good friend- I'll change that name with you,” (Act I, Scene II) meaning Hamlet wishes and wants to view Horatio as a friend. This form of friendship coincides later when Hamlet speaks with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who even though they are beneath his level of royalty, he still treats equally as a friend. The way Hamlet interacts with his mother Gertrude also hints at the idea that Hamlet doesn’t follow social class structure, as he belittles his mother for her deeds, which would be unheard of in the case of both familial structure and social structure as her position as Queen ranks above his Prince. Hamlet Character Analysis Addison Jerlow, Rachel Meserve, Sarah Crawford, Troy Skipper, Emily Berent, Zane Alcorn, Edward Lan Polonius interacts with characters, namely Hamlet, in a way of the separate class systems. He specifically stops the romance between Hamlet and Ophelia because Polonius strictly believes that even though Hamlet loves Ophelia, it can’t work because Hamlet is higher ranking than Ophelia. Though in this way, he acts as someone above Hamlet by making said decision which then represents Polonius thinking that a system of elders to be the dominant system more than that of actual class rank. Polonius also edges away from the idea of class system in the way he speaks with Claudius. Both plot to stop Hamlet and both seem to cooperate in the fashion of equals, even though Claudius being king puts him above Polonius.  Polonius Character Analysis Rosencrantz and Guildenstern pg. 81 SCENE ANALYSIS: ACT 2 SCENE 2 Summary: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are called in to see King Claudius and Queen Gertrude where they are told to spy on Hamlet and to find out what ails him.

A show of power of the noble’s social class in controlling their subjects
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s social class is below the King and Queen and as such they are bound to obey King Claudius and Queen Gertrude Summary: Hamlet enters and Polonius chats with him. Hamlet confuses Polonius, playing games with Polonius and acting insanely.

Hamlet is exerting his own power of class against Polonius
Hamlet calls Polonius a fishmonger
Hamlet runs Polonius around in circles, making him suspect that Hamlet is mad Polonius and Hamlet pg. 93 SCENE ANALYSIS: ACT 2 SCENE 2 Summary: Laertes confronts King Claudius about the murder of his father’s death, seeking revenge for his unjust death.

Laertes oversteps his social class when he demands from King Claudius the truth about his father.
Laertes calls King Claudius a “Vile King” line 128
King: “There’s such divinity doth both hedge a king / That treason can but peep to what it would,/ Acts little of his will.” Laertes and King Claudius pg. 213 SCENE ANALYSIS: ACT 4 SCENE 5 Summary: The Gravediggers are Digging up Ophelia’s grave and while doing so begin to discuss law and the afterlife.

The gravediggers argue over the political standpoint of Ophelia’s death and how she is to be buried
They question what the “Law” is
They represent the lowest class and they ponder what it must be like for the social classes above them Gravediggers pg. 239 SCENE ANALYSIS: ACT 5 SCENE 1 The attempt to change one's social class inevitably leads to death. HAMLET AS SEEN THROUGH A MARXIST LENS Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. "The Communist Manifesto." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Oct. 2012. Web. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Communist_Manifesto>.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Print.
Socialist Appeal- USA. "The Fundamentals of Marxism." Marxist.com. In Defense of Marxism, 02 July 2012. Web. <http://www.marxist.com/history-and-theory/>.
Woods, Alan. "Why We Are Marxists." Why We Are Marxists. In Defense of Marxism, 13 Dec. 2010. Web. <http://www.marxist.com/why-we-are-marxists.htm>. BIBLIOGRAPHY
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