MacBeth and Marxist Theory

Marxist ideology doesn’t simply indicate a belief system, but a manipulative set of ideas designed to benefit a ruling class; one which dictates a false/faulty understanding of social reality and

economic foundations. The Marxist viewpoint, as it relates to Shakespeare, according to Wiatt Ropp, in his easy entitled “Marxist Criticism: MacBeth as Ideology,” suggests that Shakespeare legitimizes established authority and supports its values and beliefs.

He supports this theory with the supposition that MacBeth’s ambition and violent behavior “subverts his world’s natural order, and it results in the ruin of himself and those around him.” If society’s natural condition is harmonious, as those in power tend to assert, MacBeth’s undermining of the political order (killing the king), the moral order (his lies and murder), religious order (seeking the witches consult) and male dominated order (by giving into Lady Macbeth’s wishes), it stands to reason that MacBeth is bad and, therefore, must be punished. How else are those in power able to perpetuate their power?

Noam Chomsky suggests that it is the “intellectuals” within a society that tell the rest of the citizenry how to think and what to do. (87) These intellectuals tend to drift towards the upper end of the social spectrum for their own rewards, and as a result tend to support the interests of that ruling class. Messages that support, for example, the president, the law and the system, then, are the inevitable end result of their undertakings.

According to George Orwell, “Shakespeare liked to stand well with the rich and powerful, and was capable of flattering them in the most servile way. He is also noticeably cautious…in his manner of uttering unpopular opinions. Almost never dos he put a subversive or skeptical remark into the mouth of a character likely to be identified with himself.” (61)

The implication here is that Shakespeare and MacBeth, exist to support the established authority and social order, that this authority is fair and good and that those who threaten it, as Macbeth has, deserve whatever ill-fortune befalls them. The end game this ideology exists to create is an attitude of resignation; one which encourages the notion that change is not only undesireable, but, more than likely, unmanageable.

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