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Marxist Criticism in Hamlet

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on 10 December 2014

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Transcript of Marxist Criticism in Hamlet

Marxism: Introduction
Marxist Criticism on Capitalism

Act I, Scene II
Horatio to Hamlet: "The same, my lord, and your good servant ever"
Hamlet to Horatio: "I'll change that name with you"

Hamlet wishes to treat Horatio as his equal, even though Horatio is much lower than Hamlet's socioeconomic class. Shakespeare may be anticipating and recognizing ideas concerning class distinctions and attitudes.

Act V, Scene I
The gravediggers are not considered individuals of high socioeconomic status, but they are given a prominent voice within the narrative.
They are a source of wisdom for Hamlet, a high-ranking and privileged character in the play.
Goes against classism.

Marxist Criticism in Hamlet

Aimee Bruening
Jamie Chen
Jasmyn Harlan

theory of literature based on the economic, social, and political principles of the 19th century economist Karl Marx (1818-1883)
Key Ideas

economic power is the motive behind all social and political activities

all social phenomena are cultural productions and that culture cannot be separated from the socioeconomic system that produced it

history as a struggle among classes

differences among individuals of the socioeconomic classes provides more explanation

Marxist criticism is an “economic” approach to interpreting literary texts

analysis of human events and productions focuses on relationships among socioeconomic classes
The Classism Ideology
the prejudice or favoritism against someone based on their social class
Marx saw capitalism as the cruelest system evolved for the exploitation of the working majority

concern for the damaging effects of capitalism on human values

value becomes impersonal and translated into materialistic, monetary value
equates one's value as a human being with the social class one belongs to
Arthur Miller's
Death of a Salesman

the play condemns capitalistic exploitation

Willy suffers under the hands of his employer, showing capitalistic ideology
Mary Shelley's
believed to support classist values
portrays those born in the upper class as morally and intellectually superior (Alphose Frankenstein, Elizabeth Lavenza)
portrays those in the lower classes as rude and insensitive
Act III, Scene III
"That cannot be; since I am still possessed
Of those effects for which I did the murder-
My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen."

One can argue that Claudius killed his brother King Hamlet in order to gain political, social, and economic power.
He is viewed as a figure who is corrupted by his desire for these powers.
This reflects the Marxist concept that economic power is the motive behind all social and political activities and the damaging effects on human values.
Based upon Shakespeare's decisions on the portrayal of the characters and their actions, he is intentionally representing Marxist criticism in Hamlet, as well as undermining oppressive socioeconomic ideologies such as classism.
Representations in
Hamlet’s actions demonstrate a way by which an oppressive ideological regime can be countered and overcome
Claudius' characterization as the main antagonist
Hamlet’s own separation from and realization of the corruption and faults of the political structure he is a part of
Even though Marxist ideas were formed over 300 years later, Shakespeare's choices were intentional and represent Marxist criticism in terms of showing
countering classism and pointing out the corruption of the ruling class.
Full transcript