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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: January ::
Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0084  Friday, 14 January 2000.

[1]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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        Date:   Friday, 14 Jan 2000 10:25:26 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0073 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth

[2]     From:   Judith Matthews Craig <
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        Date:   Thursday, 13 Jan 2000 20:10:20 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0069 Re: Religion and More (was H5)

[3]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Thursday, 13 Jan 2000 22:39:33 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0069 Re: Religion and More (was H5)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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Date:           Friday, 14 Jan 2000 10:25:26 +1000
Subject: 11.0073 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0073 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth

Judith Matthews Craig writes:

>I don't know, Ter, I just thought I did not like this thought and never
>studied Marx thereafter . . . succinctly put, I studied another book
>that seemed more relevant to gentle Will than t'other.

I don't want to jump on this too hard, since Judy may have been engaging
in rhetorical exaggeration that I am too dense to properly appreciate.

Nevertheless, I do hope that she (and others) might return to Marx at
some point and re-study the thoughts that she did not like.  Not liking
a thought does often cause people to stop paying attention to the
thinker of that thought.  This is, however, a dangerous path.  If for no
other reason, we need to be as well-versed in those texts that we find
repugnant than we are in those texts with which we agree...perhaps even
more so, since we will be less capable of intelligently pointing out
faulty thinking if we have "never studied [fill in name] thereafter."
The most apropos example might be Mein Kampf, a text replete with
thoughts which most people don't like.  The book is still read and
studied, though, so that we can better understand what led to German
National Socialism and to the Holocaust.  We don't need to "like"
Hitler's thoughts, but we do need to understand them so that we can be
more alert to such patterns of thought in the future.

Returning to Marx, we need not "like" all of his ideas, but we had
better understand them...if for no other reason than because
Marxist-inspired critical models remain highly influential in literary
studies.  We may not want to live in a Marxist society, but we can use
Marx's analytical methods to produce remarkably interesting criticism
(see Dollimore, Belsey, Sinfield, and the rest of the cultural
materialists).

Yours in the (thoroughly capitalist) tropics,
Karen Peterson-Kranz
University of Guam

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judith Matthews Craig <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 13 Jan 2000 20:10:20 -0600
Subject: 11.0069 Re: Religion and More (was H5)
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0069 Re: Religion and More (was H5)

John Briggs writes:

>We now realise that he was wrong and Marx was right:
>those with the "work ethic" (who lived in cities and worked >in
>industries) chose their own religion (Protestantism, where >they had the
>choice).  The Dutch Revolt, for example, began in the >great wool towns
>of the Southern Netherlands which were recaptured by >the Spanish and the
>Protestants had to flee to Holland and Zealand in the >North.  I don't
>know if any of this is relevant to the point at issue, but I >thought I
>would say it anyway!

I think Sean's rejoinder is apropos here: religion that has its
foundation in materialism is not religion.  (I don't put it as elegantly
as he does):

>Actually, Marx's famous dictum explains religion away->which is to say,
>fails to explain it.  Or rather, it explains religion in the >strictly
>materialist terms with which Marx liked to explain >everything.  This is
>fundamentally to remove religion, in its ordinary, anti->materialist
>sense, from the picture altogether

Thanks, Sean!

Cheers,
Judy C

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Thursday, 13 Jan 2000 22:39:33 -0500
Subject: 11.0069 Re: Religion and More (was H5)
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0069 Re: Religion and More (was H5)

Judith Matthews Craig writes:

>How does Shakespeare's attitude toward Cloten in Cymbeline fit with this
>adulation of noblemen?  Cloten's own compatriots laugh at him behind his
>back, and Imogen detests him as compared with Posthumus: <snip>

Ridiculing caricatures of noblemen is merely an effective way of
valorizing real ones.

>I think Shakespeare's attitude toward the nobility was as cynical as
>anyone's, but I don't know why you consistently accuse him of buggering
>up the money ladder.

No one, I think, questions that, in his pursuit of art, Shakespeare did
not neglect his business interests.  It is you who insist that what
amounts to buggering today was buggering then, when capitalism was
young.

>And what about Elizabeth's consistent use of the
>Psalms in her writings: <snip>
>Surely this woman who "rode through all the Squadrons of her army as
>Armed Pallas" (208) did not crassly manipulate a cynical people into
>battle against a superior force out of a love for money or degrading
>love of "disport."

Why do you assume that her use of biblical terms is any less expedient
or propagandistic than her description in terms of pagan Athena? (By the
way, to what Psalm does that speech refer?)

Preparing for orals, I'm reading Marlowe's Jew of Malta.  Here's a
passage that strikes me as relevant:

Barabas:  Thus trowls our fortune in by land and sea,
And thus are we on every side enrich'd.
These are the blessings promis'd to the Jews,
And herein was old Abram's happiness.
What more may Heaven do for earthly man
Than thus to pour out plenty in their laps
Ripping the bowels of the earth for them,
Making the sea their servant, and the winds
To drive their substance with successful blasts?
Who hateth me but fo my happiness?
Or who is honour'd now but for his wealth?
Rather had I, a Jew, be hated thus,
Than pitied in a Christian poverty;
For I can see no fruits in all their faith,
But malice, falsehood, and excessive pride,
Which methinks fits not their profession.  (I.i.101-117)

You might say that this is evidence that the pursuit of wealth was
despised by Marlowe and his audience as fit only for evil Jews, but as
satire, it is in fact evidence that Marlowe saw his own time as one in
which no one was honored "but for his wealth."  I was surprised to
discover that Marlowe's Jew is not the superficial stereotype given
depth later by Shakespeare, but is every bit as complex as Shylock, and
his critique of Christian hypocrisy could only have been effective if it
bore some truth.

The question he raises is whether or not wealth is a measure of God's
favor.  His reference to mining (I presume) as "ripping the bowels of
the earth" seems to indicate that he is not ultimately sympathetic to
the practice, but since mining was one of the earliest of capitalist
industries in Britain, his critique can not be directed only at Maltese
Jews.

Much as you do, Barabas opposes the valorization of capitalist wealth to
that of Christian poverty, but doesn't this point to a contemporary
moral crisis for which the Jew stands as the symbolic Vice?

When he asks: "What more may Heaven do for earthly man/Than thus to pour
out plenty in their laps?" doesn't it seem likely that he is voicing a
current opinion which he, as a character, is designed to explode?

As Sean says:

>In other words, riches could be seen as a sign of divine favour, but
>poverty could also be seen as an indicator of suffering for one's faith,
>or just of the simplicity and authenticity of one's faith, like the
>Lollards which John Foxe considered to be martyrs.

>I suppose that the question of the relation between grace and money
>becomes one of whether exterior signs are true reflections of interior
>virtues.

Which brings us back to Portia's three caskets in that other Jew play.

> isn't it curious that the same issue of the relation between the
>signifier and the signified remains vexed in our own time?

Shakespeare did not apparently aspire to be one of Wyclif's poor
priests.  He may have been conflicted about it. I always thought there
was a lot of SHaKespeare in SHylocK, but the Elizabethan literati seem
to have been on the whole rather ambitious men, and money was the means
available.

Clifford
 

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