Cultural Materialism In Hamlet

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Cultural Materialism approaches tragedies as symptoms of social unrest taking place in a very particular historical moment. It focuses on the inconsistences of the text which generates cultural meaning. This is how the apparent coherence of that order is threatened from the inside by inner contradictions. The tragedy Hamlet represents the great contradictions of the decaying system of his (and Shakespeare’s) time: Providentialism. Firstly, according to Providentialism and the great chain of being, there is a hierarchy related on the understanding of the world. In the state’s sphere, the king is the figure of God on Earth; he is elected by God. However, Claudius is not an elected king, but an “imposed” one (he kills his brother in order to crown himself). Moreover, in some moments (IV, iii, 3-4 and IV, vii, 18-21), Claudius questions the idea that the king is not elected by God but by the crown, since Hamlet is supported by the people. Thus, the play presents an illegitimate crown. Secondly, the king’s life must be preserved in order to preserve the life of the body politics. As Barker claims, “The figure of the king guarantees, as locus and source of power and as master-signifier, a network of subsidiary relations which constitute the real practice…show more content…
In consonance with Providentialism, there is no space for women, who are defined by male characters. However, this is problematized in both Gertrude’s and Ophelia’s definition. In the first one, as Rebecca Smith defends, “The traditional depiction of Gertrude is a false one, because what her words and actually create is a soft, obedient, dependent, unimaginative woman […]” (1992: 80). In the second one, she is treated as a possession by her father and brother. However, she uses madness in order to try to define herself. Here, this system claims that there was no space left for the enunciation of women and if they tried it, they only reached
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