Friday, August 2, 2019

Society and History of Class Struggles :: Shakespeare History Essays

Society and History of Class Struggles At first glance, sixteenth century Shakespearian drama and the nineteenth century dialectic philosophy expressed by Marx and Engels share no probable relationship to one another. Upon closer examination, however, developments in contemporary Shakespearian England illustrate that the social and economic centralization that generate the necessary characteristics of a proto-modern nation state were emerging in sixteenth century England. The unprecedented urbanized demographic shift created by the Enclosure Acts, which enabled the systematic destruction of the feudalistic relationship between the peasantry and the nobility; the emergence of a state sponsored market economy; the destruction of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and the resulting ascendancy of English navel power; and the galvanizing image of English nationalism contained in the figure of Queen Elizabeth I all provided a compelling backdrop for the existence of modern class based antagonisms within Shakespearian dramatic theme s. In Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice, a modernistic class-conscious theme develops around how several of the play’s characters manipulate sources of wealth in order to achieve social equality. The rise of international markets, readily available sources of credit, and the overall "commodification of English society" (Lecture, 9/3/03) had created a new commercial dynamic in Shakespeare’s era that gave form to a financial meritocracy never before possible in English history. Consequently, in Shakespeare’s play, the tension that results from the challenges presented to the status quo by the commercialization of society manifests itself through the exchange of gifts and debts between three principle relationships. In the characters of Antonio, Portia, and Shylock, Shakespeare illustrates that as a result of the commodification of society even the motivations for expressing generosity are now subject to a cost/benefit analysis. Variously stifled by the traditional limitations placed upon on them by their social positions, Shakespeare’s central characters in The Merchant of Venice seek to address their frustrations through an economic advantage, which in the end analysis, works to emphasize a connection between Shakespeare and the basis of modern class antagonisms. The relationship between Antonio and Bassanio exemplifies the business nature of friendship portrayed throughout The Merchant of Venice.

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