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Ideological Cynicism: Post-Marxist Analysis of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

Mujtaba Al-Hilo, Basim Jubair Kadhim
Published 15 July 2020

Abstract

The suffering of the Jews in Shakespeare’s time was not ideological in the classical Marxian definition (they do not know it, so they are doing it) but people’s attitudes towards the Jews underwent Zizek’s upgraded understanding, that of ideological cynicism (they know it, yet they are doing it). This new historical reading of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice proposes that antiSemitism, as a prevailing ideology, is multi-layered, because they do not believe in the Jews as proper sources of harm and threat, but as a minority who are easy to be blamed because of the society’s deteriorating factors. This paper depends on the post-Marxist theories of Slavoj Zizek, who proposes his theories depending on his Hegelian, Marxian, Freudian, and Lacanian readings. This topic is important to be further investigated because the majority of researchers neglect this cynical conditions in the ideology of the text. They take the ideology of the text seriously without looking beyond the borders of the text or intention of the writer. However, historical sources lack sufficient information concerning the cynical attitude of the people of the time towards the dominant ideology. This is reflected in the text. This paper compensated this lack with what is found in Shakespeares text regarding this issue. This paper seeks to find justifications to anti-Semitism ideology in Shakespeares text, which was falsely attached to the play. KEYWORDS

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