A Marxist Study of Shakespeare’s Comedies by Elliot Krieger

By Elliot Krieger

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Once the lovers enter the forest, the supposed autonomy of love's judgments becomes reduced to pure mechanism; the play assigns the subjective judgments that the lovers think to be their own to an external source, the magic potion. Their own wills, that is, material~e as a specific external obstacle. By attributing the subjective judgments to an objectified, outside source, Shakespeare demonstrates a structural continuity between the forest and the court: without the fairy magic, the play would break down into worlds of objective and subjective oppression; the inclusion of an easily identifiable A Midsummer Night's Dream 39 objective motive for the protagonists' supposedly subjective choices demonstrates that any supposedly private, subjective action (the choice of true love, for example) has objective, social contents, which escape from the codified, objective laws of everyday society does not negate.

1 76), completely depends on both the wealth and the blood of Antonio, the Merchant of Venice. Likewise, the Belmont environment, which allows for and enshrines indulgence, cannot be conceived of apart from its material superfluity; the fantasy that one should hazard all for love, that material things do not matter because true wealth lies within-"so may the outward shows be least themselves" (73)-requires faith in a strict correspondence between one's inner worth and an outward material abundance, supplied from elsewhere.

L. Barber writes, "the whole play dramatizes the conflict between the mechanisms of wealth and the masterful, social use of it". 5 To this we might say, with Portia, "good sentences, and well pronounc'd", (1. ii. IO) but utterly meaningless outside of the class context in which the play develops them. The initial difference at least between Shylock's and Bassanio's "thrift" and degree of generosity should be obvious: Shylock's "well-won thrift" is his own, is earned (1. iii. 50), whereas Bassanio's is borrowed, and, in a sense, in the mind: "I have a mind presages me such thrift", (I.

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