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Marxism in Hamlet

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Cecilia Uong

on 13 December 2012

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Transcript of Marxism in Hamlet

Do Now “For Marxism, getting and keeping economic power is the motive behind all social and political activities, including education, philosophy, religion, government, the arts, science, technology, media, and so on” (Tyson 53). Marxism in Hamlet A Marxist Criticism What do you think of
when you think of
Marxism? Think of 2-3
ideas.

Let's look at a definition. A Simple Definition A system of economic, social, and political philosophy based on ideas that view social change in terms of economic factors. A central tenet is that the means of production is the economic base that influences or determines the political life. Under Marxism, outdated class structures were supposed to be overthrown with force (revolution) instead of being replaced through patient modification. It held that as capitalism has succeeded feudalism, it too will be removed by a dictatorship of the workers (proletariat) called socialism, followed quickly and inevitably by a classless society which governs itself without governing class or structure. Developed in the 19th century jointly by two lifelong German friends living in London- Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels- it forms the foundation of communism. You Might Be Feeling Like This But don't worry, it's easier than you think! Misconceptions of Marxism All Marxists are communists.
Marxism only applies to Russian literature.
Shakespeare was a communist. A Definition of Marxism Marxism is a theory that focuses on the differences in socioeconomic classes that divide people during the time period in which literature was written, more commonly known as a social institution.
Based upon the theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
“If a theory does not foreground the economic realities of human culture, then it misunderstands human culture” (Tyson 53) Questions a Marxist Would Ask When
Considering Literature Whom does it benefit if the work is accepted/successful/believed?
What is the social class of the author?
Which class does the work claim to represent?
What values does it represent or subvert?
How do characters from different classes interact or conflict? A Brief History on Karl Marx Who was Karl Marx? Karl Marx was born in 1818 in Germany to a wealthy, comfortable middle-class family
Throughout his university education, he gained an interest in social and political philosophy and radical thought
After moving to politically-charged Paris, he met Freidrich Engels, with whom he co-wrote The Communist Manifesto. Who Was Karl Marx? The Communist Manifesto (written 1848), Marx and Engels asserted that all human history had been based on class struggles, but that these would ultimately disappear with the victory of the common working man, or proletariat, over the bourgeoisie, the capitalist upper-classes who own the means of production. Marxism Applied to Movies Toy Story 3 The Titanic Jack Dawson = proletariat
Rose Dewitt = Bourgeoisie
They both attempt to defy class lines
The film points out the very real existence of distinct and warring classes
Notes that reconciliation between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is possible but unrealistic Andy- represents the bourgeoisie, unhealthy obsession with objects
Going to college – joining elite percentile of world’s population
Literally affixes labels to the feet of those (the toys) who he exploits
Materialistic culture
Younger sister who laments his departure to college only because it affects her ownership of materials Fight Club Narrator is an unmotivated worker going through daily routine of line
A cynical view of the world in which people are at the mercy of big corporations and have no individual power
We are taught to consume from an early age to keep the wheels of capitalism moving
Tyler Durden is presented as emancipated: free from normal social conventions- advocates anarchy How Does Marxism Apply to Life? Human Behavior, the
Commodity, and the Family Human Behavior, the
Commodity, and the Family Human Behavior, the
Commodity, and the Family Marx believed that the rise of capitalism would have a negative effect on society.
Due to capitalism object loses personal value while gaining monetary value.
"For Marxism, a commodity's value lies not in what it can do (use value) but in the money or other commodities for which is can be traded (exchange value) or in the social status it confers on its owner (sign-exchange value)” (Tyson 62). Society determines the value of any commodity. When we analyze a text using marxism, the society does not need a capitalistic economy, but the same terms and definitions can still apply!
"Commodification is the act of relating to objects or persons in terms of their exchange value or sign-exchange value."
This is a prime example of money influences people's perspectives on the value of things around them.
Society revolves around money in respect to having the cool, expensive clothes and other things to show off (exchange-value). "I commodify human beings when I structure my relations with them to promote my own advancement financially or socially" (62).
Example in Hamlet: Polonius assigns Ophelia value as an object (or pawn) and treats her like his property in order to prosper socially. By: Michelle Gelberger Don't confuse Marxism with psychoanalysis:
"Marxism focuses on the material/historical forces...that shape the physiological experience and behavior of individuals and groups, not the actually individual psyche” (64). Marxism in Hamlet Carnival Carnival is generally associated with the lower class, with rowdy people wearing masks.
There is a ton of eating, drinking, and sex, all of which depict the lower class negatively.
These “often lead to street violence and civil commotion.” (351)
But are these times strictly limited to the lower class? Apparently not, as exemplified in Hamlet. Masks Wearing masks was customary during Carnival as well as various disguises.
These may serve to equalize everyone, giving them all the right to act against what is normally socially acceptable.
In this way, anyone of any social ranking and class can participate in Carnival. Hamlet's Mask Hamlet’s mask is his madness. Whether he is pretending or not, no one truly knows his intentions of seeking revenge on Claudius.
Furthermore, Hamlet uses his mask to make it acceptable for him to pursue Ophelia(?) Claudius's Mask Claudius’s mask is his good intentions and outside forces.
He pretends to be genuinely concerned about Hamlet’s wellbeing but really just wants him out of the way.
He also uses the attack by Fortinbras to distract the others from his real goals. Social Aspects
of Carnival Overall, the carnival is a way for social classes to mix. This is shown in The Battle of Carnival and Lent, where the chaotic environment shows the feeling of the carnival.
Carnival encompasses various events such as “fairs, theatrical performances, public executions, and even spontaneous ‘social dramas.’” (352) The Final Act The final scene in Hamlet is when there is a duel of sorts between Hamlet and Laertes, kind of like a Carnival.
Carnivals are expected to end chaotically rather than in an organized manner. This is reflect by the fact that the entire generation of ruling family is killed or dies in the final scene and is replaced by Fortinbras. Gertrude and Claudius Their marriage is a huge scandal, as Claudius was King Hamlet’s brother. This part is similar to the lower class aspect of the carnival. Claudius uses his brother’s tragic death as a mask to justify his marriage of his brother’s widow.
Lord of Misrule: Bristol compares Claudius to the Lord of Misrule (a peasant put in charge of overseeing wild partying and drunkenness) Grave Diggers/Graveyard Scene Although wealth is associated with happiness, it is made clear in this scene that sometimes the poor are more jovial and clever.
The gravediggers are able to outsmart Hamlet. Although they speak to him in a very polite fashion, calling him sir, they are witty and confuse Hamlet when he asks whose grave they are digging.
The gravediggers also discuss the importance of their jobs. They have been around forever, and will always be needed.
This contradicts the widely accepted idea that upper class citizens are more intelligent and successful, and the lower class citizens are lazy and hapless. In this scenario, the gravediggers are able to show both their ability to outsmart Hamlet and their importance to society. Death During this scene, Hamlet expresses his rather morbid view of death, saying “convocation of politic worms are e'en at him. Your worm is your only emperor for diet: we fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots: your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service, two dishes, but to one table”.
Basically, Hamlet is saying that death is the final and permanent equalizer.
Literally, maggots will eat us until we all look the same (like the skeletons that the gravediggers pull out)
Figuratively, our social class lines disappear and we all mix together after death Role of Religion Ideology: a belief system
Undesirable ideologies promote repressive political agendas and, in order to ensure their acceptance among the citizenry, pass themselves off as natural ways of seeing the world instead of acknowledging themselves as ideologies
Marxism works to make us constantly aware of all the ways in which we are products of material/historical circumstances and of the repressive ideologies that serve to blind is to this fact in order to keep us subservient to the ruling power system
Wealthy receive power; poorer social classes receive small portions of funds
Belief of competition: "getting ahead" of other people The American Dream The American Dream: achieving a goal (financial success) by taking initiative and hard work
False Consciousness: a false ideal
Marxism looks at the American Dream as a false ideal because of the possible failure of achieving it
Religion, which Marx called the "opiate of the masses" is an ideology that helps to keep the faithful poor satisfied with their lot in life
Rugged individualism: cornerstone of the American Dream; an ideology that romanticizes the individual who strikes out alone in pursuit of a goal not easily achieved
Commercialism is the idea that "I'm only as good as what I buy" Ideology in Hamlet Many characters in Hamlet are concerned with their whereabouts in the afterlife
Looking through a Marxist lens, this could be viewed as class struggle, because many of their actions show their social desires Possible examples of Marxism seen within “The Royal Family” Marxism in the Royal Family Claudius’ possible motive for murdering his nephew and marrying the Queen is to reach the top of the social pyramid.
Hamlet is angry that Claudius took his rightful place as King. Hamlet expresses the want that is experienced by all the classes of moving up the social ladder.
Gertrude might have married Claudius to make sure her position as Queen is kept intact. Where Do You See Examples of Carnival?
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