The Books: “Ulysses” – the Scylla and Charybdis episode (James Joyce)

Daily Book Excerpt: Adult fiction:

ulysses67.bmpUlysses- by James Joyce.

So here’s where we are at so far:

1. (TELEMACHIA)
Episode 1: The Telemachus Episode
Episode 2: The Nestor Episode
Episode 3: The Proteus episode

2. (The Odyssey)
Episode 4: The Calypso Episode
Episode 5: The Lotus Eaters Episode
Episode 6: The Hades Episode
Episode 7: The Aeolus Episode
Episode 8: The Lestrygonians Episode

I’m scared to talk about this episode. I don’t feel learned enough. All I can say is: it is a FEAST for the mind. Not so much the soul … but the mind. It is a rigorous intellectual chapter – with theoretical arguments about aesthetics, Shakespeare, the Irish Literary Revival, poetry, and on and on. I can’t even begin to scratch the surface of what is going on here – I’ve read it once, and I still feel like I barely got it – although this chapter, above all chapters, is COVERED in my notes and underlines. It’s barely readable anymore.

Here are some of my notes in the margins, maybe they’ll interest you:

– John Eglinton, AE: experts, pundits
– rock: stable life in Stratford
– whirlpool: Plato, mysticism, London
– Shakespeare lost his 11 year old son Hamnet. Bloom’s son Rudy died at 11 days.
– Stephen is the spiritual son of Bloom and Shakespeare
– Stephen looking for an older woman – like Anne H. – to initiate him. “And my turn? When? Come!”
– Stephen not included in list of Irish literary hopefuls. Usurped by others.
– Entelechy (Aristotle) – “having the end within itself” – like Ellen Burstyn: “The entelechy of an acorn is a giant oak”
– Stephen tries to show them he’s an intellectual. He is obviously insecure. They are all easily distracted.

I think if a reader did not know any of Shakespeare’s plays – then this chapter would feel as though it were written in Sanskrit or something. You really do need to get the references to Hamlet, Richard III, King Lear … and at least be able to call up some image of what those plays were about. It seems like none of this would be at ALL clear without a rudimentary grasp of all of that.

It’s a long chapter, and it took me a while to get what was going on. I mean, I knew what was going on: Stephen Dedalus sits in the National Library with a bunch of his friends, and they argue about Shakespeare, and Stephen puts forth his theory of Hamlet, and also Shakespeare himself. That’s the “plot”. Leopold Bloom makes an appearance – he has come to the Library to look up the image of the two crossed keys, mentioned in the Aeolus Episode. This is the first time Bloom and Dedalus are in the same space. At first, Bloom is just referred to … he was seen looking at a statue in the lobby, and peeking to see if it had an anus. Poor Bloom. He’s a local clown (at least that’s how he is treated). And then, at the end of the chapter – as Dedalus leaves the library – he realizes someone is behind him, and it is Bloom. They still do not meet. But Stephen’s discourses on Shakespeare and Hamlet throughout the chapter – and that he feels that one of Shakespeare’s main themes is “fatherlessness” … clues us in to what is really going on here. Stephen’s real father is no father. Stephen has left the church – so that spiritual father is no more for him, either. He reflects upon his name – Dedalus (just like he does in Portrait of the Artist) … and he even uses the words “fabulous artificer” – like he does in Portrait. Dedalus and Icarus, father and son … should he take his father’s wings and fly? That means he risks burning up, falling to his death. The father stays behind. But it is the father who is the artist.

Anyway, I’m writing about all of this in a clunky way which does NOT do the genius of this chapter justice. This is our first glimpse of Stephen since early in the day (the three episodes that make up the Telemachia, the beginning of the book). Since then, we have been strictly in Bloom’s world, although there is some overlap (not coincidentally – with Stephen’s father Simon). It is now that Stephen truly ENTERS. He makes an impression – and that is his whole point. He sees his discourse on Shakespeare as a performance. He sits with 5 contemporaries – including Buck Mulligan (from the first chapter) – 5 men who are writers, critics, librarians – people with whom Stephen, as a budding artist, is in competition. But they don’t even consider him a worthy competitor – they do not consider him at all. For example, there’s going to be a gathering that night – of many of the new poets. Stephen is not even invited.

The early years of the 20th century in Ireland – the years of Yeats and Synge and Lady Gregory and others – were a time of great upheaval and growth in Irish literature. It was a “revival”. Perhaps Ireland, at least in its literature, was removing the yoke of English dominance. This is why folks like Yeats and Synge focused on the ‘west’ of Ireland (I go into that a bit in my post on ‘The Dead’). Yeats advised Synge, a young playwright, to go out to the Aran Islands, in the Atlantic – off the west coast of Ireland – to see the ‘real’ Irish. Not the city people, but the rough peasants who still spoke Irish, and who were (presumably) “untouched”. It was a romantic movement – like most such movements are. And many people in Ireland were uninterested in the West – they wanted to be modern, to join the damn world … and they did not buy the whole movement. The response to Synge’s play Playboy of the Western World shows that clearly. The audience rioted. It’s now known as “The Playboy Riots” (wrote about it here). Joyce didn’t go for all that stuff, and although Yeats had been an important patron of Joyce’s early on (very important) … it was “continental” folks and ex-pats – like Ezra Pound – who really became his champion, when it mattered. He thought the Irish Revival was hogwash. I don’t want to put words in his mouth – but the fact that he left Ireland, and never returned … and wrote his books in “exile” … shows his feelings about the possibility of creating great literature in Ireland. Now of course, Joyce did not go live on the continent – and write books about Paris, and Berlin, and Rome. He wrote about Ireland. It was his obsession. He could write of nothing else. But he was decidedly NOT part of the “Irish Revival” which, in 1904 – the year that Ulysses takes place – was in full swing.

All of this is discussed in the Scylla and Charybdis episode – who are the poets who matter, who is the “voice” of the Irish. John Eglinton (a real person in real life) is one of the people talking with Stephen and he says, in regards to Irish literature (this is early on in the episode):

– Our young Irish bards, John Eglinton censured, have yet to create a figure which the world will set beside Saxon Shakespeare’s Hamlet though I admire him, as old Ben did, on this side idolatry.

This is on the 2nd page of the episode. So Shakespeare makes his entrance early in the episode. (And in the first episode of the Telemachia, Buck Mulligan says something to Stephen like: “I know you’ve been working a lot on Shakespeare – you’ll have to tell me your theories on him someday.” So it is in this chapter that Dedalus takes up that challenge.)

And then there is a long conversation between the 5 men (Stephen doesn’t contribute) about the future of Irish poetry. Now, it is so obvious that Stephen – known to be a writer already – is not included in the list. He’s not even invited to the gathering that night. He is, just like Bloom, an outsider. An exile in his own country. It is not that his friends are mean to him. It is just that he is not considered a “playa”. For example, the conversation about Irish poets goes like this:

Our national epic has yet to be written, Dr Sigerson says. Moore is the man for it. A knight of the rueful countenance here in Dublin. With a saffron kilt? O’Neill Russell? O, yes, he must speak the grand old tongue. And his Dulcinea? James Stephens is doing some clever sketches. We are becoming important, it seems.

Stephen, who already considers himself an artist, is noticeably left out of all of this. Nobody turns to him and says, “You – Dedalus – are a contender to write ‘our national epic’.” So his impromptu lecture in this chapter is one way that he asserts himself, sets himself apart from the pack, and makes his voice heard. I’m not even sure he believes all that he says – it is a performance-art piece, basically. He has their attention – even though much of the commentary thrown back at him is either joking, mocking, or argumentative.

Oh, and to the Odyssey correlation: It’s probably the most famous episode of Homer’s epic, and “Scylla and Charybdis” has entered the layman’s lexicon. Between a rock and a hard place, etc. Scylla is a 6-headed monster (quick note: Stephen and his 5 friends in the Library … they make up the hydra??) and Charybdis is a whirlpool. Odysseus must pass between the two. Not an easy task. The connections are apparent, once you look at the chapter in light of Homer’s episode: Stephen is against the grain of the “whirlpool” of Irish literary thought. It is a vast sucking space, and all must participate in it – or be forever thought of as an outsider. A.E. (one of the guys in the library) is the main advocate of the other position – he IS the whirlpool. His real-life counterpart (and most of Joyce’s characters have real-life counterparts – the guy names names – he’s the Eminem of his day. ha) is George Russell – a poet who was into the mystical Irish thing, which translated into nationalism. That was the whole thing. Succumbing to the poetry of the west, and its untouched peasantry, their language, their ways … was the way to “be Irish”. Joyce thought that was bollocks, obviously. Why romanticize that which is backwards? Let’s look forwards: to the new. Let’s look beyond nationalism, for God’s sake. The irony, of course, is that Joyce is now so associated with Irish-ness that he’s on their currency. I wonder how he would feel about that. It’s not that he hated Ireland. Oh, no. It’s all he wrote about. It had broken his heart. It was his home. He thought much of the culture was backwards, rigid, and anti-human. He hated the dominance of the priests. But in a way … his pleas for the future, and for progress, predicts the Ireland of today. Anyway, back to the episode. A.E. is a Platonist, as well. Stephen resists the pull of that, and thinks Aristotle is the way to go. The sharp intellectual mind, the argumentative reasoning, the way he deals with his opponents.

The main thrust of the chapter, however, is Stephen’s theories on Shakespeare. Anyone trying to plumb the depths of Shakespeare would do well to read this chapter. It’s a goldmine. A.E. objects to any biographical questioning of Shakespeare – his private life should remain private – and only his plays should be considered. Stephen disagrees. Shakespeare had a son who died. His name was Hamnet. In the first production of Hamlet, Shakespeare, an actor as well, played the ghost of Hamlet’s father. And famous actor Richard Burbage played Hamlet, to Shakespeare’s ghost. So … in a twisted Freudian sense … Shakespeare played himself. The father speaking to his dead son … speaking of his wife’s faithlessness (Stephen takes this idea and runs with it). If Shakespeare was Hamlet’s father (and Stephen believes he was – with the Hamnet/Hamlet connection) … then Gertrude, and her treachery, must be Anne Hathaway. It’s a leap – but no worse than other leaps made by other scholars (and it is definitely borne out in the plot of Hamlet. It makes sense.) The fatherlessness of Hamlet is the main drive of the play. He must have revenge. Stephen looks into this, considering the question of Anne – Shakespeare’s mysterious wife – to whom Shakespeare famously left his “second-best bed” in his will. Why his “second-best bed”? Books have been written about it. Scholars have spent their entire lives trying to figure that out. Was it some kind of dis? An insult from beyond the grave? Especially since it was a “bed” – where sex and marriage take place. Stephen thinks it was a “dis” – as many other scholars do (although Emily Byrd Starr, in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “Emily series” takes a more optimistic view: Perhaps that was the bed that Anne liked best). Stephen thinks Anne, an older woman, had betrayed Shakespeare … or cheated on him … in their long separations, while Shakespeare was in London and she back in Stratford. This is not idle sallacious thinking: many others have trod that path. This idea of woman’s treachery loops us back to Leopold Bloom, and his fear that his wife Molly is being unfaithful. In fact, someone snickers, “Cuckold! Cuckold!” in this chapter – which Bloom, hiding behind a column eavesdropping, might take personally. We don’t know if he takes it personally, but given the fact that he thinks all of Dublin is laughing at him behind his back – it’s not a stretch. Shakespeare is a mystery, very little is known of his life … we are left with bare bones … and so we project onto him, we read into things, we are tormented by what we do NOT know … even though, my God, do we even need to know? After all, look at the plays – not to mention the sonnets! That is the point of one of Stephen’s adversaries: who CARES about Anne Hathaway? Knowing the truth about Shakespeare’s life does nothing towards analysis. Stephen, at least in his performance in the episode, disagrees. Stephen’s theories are borne up in the texts of the plays (of course, opposing theories are as well – that’s what’s so brilliant about Shakespeare. Ultimately, he resists being nailed down.)

Stephen sets up his thesis in typical Jesuit manner (described by St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits). Loyola thought that novices to the faith should be required to “picture” the actual physical reality of the famous spiritual scenes – what the Virgin Mary was wearing, etc. He makes you enter that world … there is no other way to look at it. All else is just fantasy, ego, theory. Faith must be grounded in what is real. Stephen uses this form of lecture in his discourse on Shakespeare. It is one of the most living-breathing analyses of the man that I have ever read (and I’m not alone. Stephen Greenblatt, in his marvelous book Will in the World says, of this chapter: “Women he won to him,” says Stephen Dedalus, James Joyce’s alter ego in Ulysses, in one of the greatest meditations on Shakespeare’s marriage, “tender people, a whore of Babylon, ladies of justice, bully tapsters’ wives. Fox and geese. And in New Place a slack dishonoured body that once was comely, once as sweet, as fresh as cinnamon, now her leaves falling, all, bare, frightened of the narrow grave and unforgiven.”) Holy shite, is all I have to say. And this goes on for pages on end.

It will make you want to pick up Hamlet immediately, and read it with “Scylla and Charybdis” in mind.

Someone in the crowd mentions a mistake Shakespeare made in one of his plays.

Stephen responds with one of the most famous lines in the entirety of Ulysses:

A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.

I am not saying I am a genius … but I will say that often in my life, when I have been “stuck”, especially artistically … I have thought of that line. To be a perfectionist is detrimental to the pursuit of art, in many ways. To be so afraid to make a mistake can paralyze one. If I can see my “mistakes” as not mistakes at all … but possible “portals of discovery” … God, what freedom there is in that!

As usual, I haven’t even scratched the surface of all of the connections here. The chapter, as far as I’m concerned, is a mini-masterpiece. It can stand alone, while many of the other chapters cannot.

Joyce saw Ulysses as the story of two men, yes – Bloom and Dedalus. And, through them, it was also the story of two races: Jewish and Irish.

But he also saw the movement of the book as a journey through the human body. Each episode has its parallel in human physiology. It’s not all that difficult to figure out: Joyce leaves tons of clues. (SPOILER ALERT: If you are planning on reading Ulysses, and you would prefer to figure the structure and physiological symbols out on your own – like I did – then skip this next paragraph. But if you want a mini-guide through the dark forest, and are okay with knowing some of the secrets, feel free to read on – It won’t ruin the fun, there are still clues I haven’t found … it’s a deep complex book, and there is always more to discover about it … So, it’s up to you:) The Calypso Episode is the kidneys. All you need to do is look at the breakfast Bloom eats, and it’s right there in front of you. The first paragraph ends with the line: “Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.” Mmkay. Sentences like that are why Virginia Woolf was grossed out by him. HOWEVER. If you get past the grossness: the function of the kidneys, of course, is to reprocess stuff … which eventually becomes urine. I’m not a doctor, but I know that that’s basically what they do. So the “urine” reference there is quite deliberate. On a deeper analogical level, the “reprocessing” that has to occur in order to keep the body balanced … is reflected in much of the action of Joyce’s episode. Bloom has a long day ahead of him. And he is clogged up with worry about his wife. A good breakfast must be had. And a nice bowel movement as well. Ready to meet the day. The Lotus Eaters episode is obviously the genitals – the last image of the chapter has Bloom submerged in a bath, staring down at his limp penis: “the limp father of thousands”. It is here that we get to understand Bloom’s sexual anxiety about his wife. In The Hades episode – we move to the heart. The carriages move through Dublin to the graveyard — crossing over 4 rivers (which have their counterparts in The Odyssey as well) – but it’s also the 4 atriums/ventricles of the heart. The carriages – with all the men inside… travel through “the heart” of Dublin. And etc. You see what’s going on. And Hades is the chapter about death. The heart stops when you die. So the heart is the main indicator of life itself. The Aeolus episode – with its connection in The Odyssey to the bag of winds … is the lungs. Wheezing, pumping (like the printing presses in the newspaper office) … the lungs, with their power of breath, allow us to speak. Therefore everyone in that episode is a big ol’ windbag. The Lestrygonians episode is obvious (well, all of them are – if you know what you’re looking for – it’s actually kind of fun to find all the bread crumbs he leaves for us, the reader, through the forest). It’s a chapter full of swallowing. Everyone is eating, sucking, swallowing, chewing … so we have moved into the esophagus in Lestrygonians. Bloom is disgusted by all that he sees – the chewing, swallowing, gulping, of the Dublin masses. And then there’s a line (but all the chapters are full of tricky little puns like these – the connections go to the core): “Saint Patrick converted him to Christianity. Couldn’t swallow it all however.” The clues are all there. It’s fun to find them. And if you THINK it’s a pun, it probably is. And if you think it’s NOT a pun, then it means you haven’t worked it out yet. I had a great Shakespeare acting teacher, who said the same thing to the class, about Shakespeare’s bawdiness: “If you think a line isn’t bawdy – it’s because you haven’t worked it out yet.” So now we come to Scylla and Charybdis: with its long intellectual discussion. It is, obviously, the brain (which is why it is so potentially ridiculous that poor Bloom was seen peeking at the anus of a statue – as Stephen intellectually whips his opponents) Stephen is the brainiac. Bloom is earth-bound completely. How will these two connect? It seems they would be in total opposition. Bloom is concerned by earthly things. He would never enter into a discussion on Shakespeare and the Irish literary revival. He is too worried about his wife cheating on him.

But the “fatherlessness” that Stephen harps on – when it comes to Shakespeare and Hamnet/Hamlet … is the deepest theme of the entire book.

Wow. I’m going to stop writing now.

Here’s an excerpt. Buck Mulligan is a late arrival to the group. He sees Bloom lurking the Library. The conversation about Shakespeare is already in full swing. So he has to get caught up. But as is obvious, he really doesn’t take much seriously. There is a question, too, about his sexuality – which is rather intriguing. Again, papers have been written on such things. So I won’t cover that here.

Naturally, because it’s a discussion of Shakespeare’s plays – parts of the episode are written like a script.

And I love the jujitsu move of Dedalus at the very end of his lengthy discourse.

It’s classic Joyce.


EXCERPT FROM Ulysses- by James Joyce – the Scylla and Charybdis episode

– Gentle Will is being roughly handled, gentle Mr Best said gently.

– Which Will? gagged sweetly Buck Mulligan. We are getting mixed.

– The will to live, John Eglinton philosophised, for poor Ann, Will’s widow, is the will to die.

Requiescat! Stephen prayed.

What of all the will to do?
It has vanished long ago…

– She lies laid out in stark stiffness in that secondbest bed, the mobled queen, even though you prove that a bed in those days was as rare as a motor car is now and that its carvings were the wonder of seven parishes. In old age she takes up with gospellers (one stayed at New Place and drank a quart of sack the town paid for but in which bed he slept it skills not to ask) and heard she had a soul. She read or had read to her his chapbooks preferring them to the Merry Wives and, loosing her nightly waters on the jordan, she thought over Hooks and Eyes for Believers’ Breeches and The most Spiritual Snuffbox to Make the Most Devout Souls Sneeze. Venus had twisted her lips in prayer. Agenbite of inwit: remorse of conscience. It is an age of exhausted whoredom groping for its god.

– History shows that to be true, inquit Eglintonus Chronolologos. The ages succeed one another. But we have it on high authority that a man’s worst enemies shall be those of his own house and family. I feel that Russell is right. What do we care for his wife and father? I should say that only family poets have family lives. Falstaff was not a family man. I feel that the fat knight is his supreme creation.

Lean, he lay back. Shy, deny thy kindred, the unco guid. Shy supping with the godless, he sneaks the cup. A sire in Ultonian Antrim bade it him. Visits him here on quarter days. Mr Magee, sir, there’s a gentleman to see you. Me? Says he’s your father, sir. Give me my Wordsworth. Enter Magee Mor Matthew, a rugged rough rugheaded kern, in strossers with a buttoned codpiece, his nether stocks bemired with clauber of ten forests, a wand of wilding in his hand.

Your own? He knows your old fellow. The widower.

Hurrying to her squalid deathlair from gay Paris on the quayside I touched his hand. The voice, new warmth, speaking. Dr Bob Kenny is attending her. The eyes that wish me well. But do not know me.

– A father, Stephen said, battling against hopelessness, is a necessary evil. He wrote the play in the months that followed his father’s death. If you hold that he, a greying man with two marriageable daughters, with thirtyfive years of life, nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita, with fifty of experience, is the beardless undergraduate from Wittenberg then you must hold that his seventyyear old mother is the lustful queen. No. The corpse of John Shakespeare does not walk the night. From hour to hour it rots and rots. He rests, disarmed of fatherhood, having devised that mystical estate upon his son. Boccaccio’s Calandrino was the first and last man who felt himself with child. Fatherhood, in the sense of conscious begetting, is unknown to man. It is a mystical estate, an apostolic succession, from only begetter to only begotten. On that mystery and not on the madonna which the cunning Italian intellect flung to the mob of Europe the church is founded and founded irremovably because founded, like the world, macro- and microcosm, upon the void. Upon incertitude, upon unlikelihood. Amor matris, subjective and objective genitive, may be the only true thing in life. Paternity may be a legal fiction. Who is the father of any son that any son should love him or he any son?

What the hell are you driving at?

I know. Shut up. Blast you! I have reasons.

Amplius. Adhuc. Iterum. Postea.

Are you condemned to do this?

– They are sundered by a bodily shame so steadfast that the criminal annals of the world, stained with all other incests and bestialities, hardly record its breach. Sons with mothers, sires with daughters, lesbic sisters, loves that dare not speak their name, nephews with grandmothers, jailbirds with keyholes, queens with prize bulls. The sun unborn mars beauty: born, he brings pain, divides affection, increases care. He is a male: his growth is his father’s decline, his youth his father’s envy, his friend his father’s enemy.

In rue Monsieur-le-Prince I thought it.

– What links them in nature? An instant of blind rut. Am I father? If I were?

Shrunken uncertain hand.

– Sabellius, the African, subtlest heresiarch of all the beasts of the field, held that the Father was Himself His Own Son. The bulldog of Aquin, with whom no word shall be impossible, refutes him. Well: if the father who has not a son be not a father can the son who has not a father be a son? When Rutlandbaconsouthamptonshakespeare or another poet of the same name in the comedy of errors wrote Hamlet he was not the father of his own son merely but, being no more a son, he was and felt himself the father of all his race, the father of his own grandfather, the father of his unborn grandson who, by the same token, never was born for nature, as Mr Magee understands her, abhors perfection.

Eglintoneyes, quick with pleasure, looked up shybrightly. Gladly glancing, a merry puritan, through the twisted eglantine.

Flatter. Rarely. But Flatter.

– Himself his own father, Sonmulligan told himself. Wait. I am big with child. I have an unborn child in my brain. Pallas Athena! A play! The play’s the thing! Let me parturiate!

He clasped his paunchbrow with both birthaiding hands.

– As for his family, Stephen said, his mother’s name lives in the forest of Arden. Her death brought from him the scene with Volumnia in Coriolanus. His boyson’s death is the deathscene of young Arthur in King John. Hamlet, the black prince, is Hamnet Shakespeare. Who the girls in The Tempest, in Pericles, in Winter’s Tale are we know. Who Cleopatra, fleshpot of Egypt, and Cressid and Venus are we may guess. But there is another member of his family who is recorded.

– The plot thickens, John Eglinton said.

The quaker librarian, quaking, tiptoed in, quake, his mask, quake, with haste, quake, quack.

Door closed. Cell. Day.

They list. Three. They.

I you he they.

Come, mess.

STEPHEN

He had three brothers, Gilbert, Edmund, Richard. Gilbert in his old age told some cavaliers he got a pass for nowt from Maister Gatherer one time mass he did and he seen his brud Maister Wull the playwriter up in Lunnon in a wrastling play wud a man on’s back. The playhouse sausage filled Gilbert’s soul. He is nowhere: but an Edmund and a Richard are recorded in the works of sweet William.

MAGEEGLINJOHN

Names! What’s in a name?

BEST

That is my name, Richard, don’t you know. I hope you are going to say a good word for Richard, don’t you know, for my sake.

(Laughter.)

BUCK MULLIGAN

(Piano, diminuendo.)

Then outspoke medical Dick
To his comrade medical Davy…

STEPHEN

In his trinity of black Wills, the villain shakebags, Iago, Richard Crookback, Edmund in King Lear, two bear the wicked uncles’ names. Nay, that last play was written or being written while his brother Edmund lay dying in Southwark.

BEST

I hope Edmund is going to catch it. I don’t want Richard, my name.

(Laughter.)

QUAKERLYSTER

(A tempo.) But he that filches from me my good name…

STEPHEN

(Stringendo.) He has hidden his own name, a fair name, William, in the plays, a super here, a clown there, as a painter of old Italy set his face in a dark corner of his canvas. He has revealed it in the sonnets where there is Will in overplus. Like John O’Gaunt his name is dear to him, as dear as the coat of arms he toadied for, on a bend sable a spear or steeled argent, honorificabilitudinitatibus, dearer than his glory of greatest shakescene in the country. What’s in a name? That is what we ask ourselves in childhood when we write the name that we are told is ours. A star, a daystar, a firedrake rose at his birth. It shone by day in the heavens alone, brighter than Venus in the night, and by night it shone over delta in Cassiopeia, the recumbent constellation which is the signature of his initial among the stars. His eyes watched it, lowlying on the horizon, eastward of the bear, as he walked by the slumberous summer fields at midnight, returning from Shottery and from her arms.

Both satisfied. I too.

Don’t tell them he was nine years old when it was quenched.

And from her arms.

Wait to be wooed and won. Ay, meacock. Who will woo you?

Read the skies. Autontimerumenos. Bonus Stephanoumenos. Where’s your configuration? Stephen, Stephen, cut the bread even. S. D.: sua donna. Già: di lui. Gelindo risolve di non amar. S. D.

– What is that, Mr Dedalus? the quaker librarian asked. Was it a celestial phenomenon?

– A star by night, Stephen said, a pillar of the cloud by day.

What more’s to speak?

Stephen looked on his hat, his stick, his boots.

Stephanos, my crown. My sword. His boots are spoiling the shape of my feet. Buy a pair. Holes in my socks. Handkerchief too.

– You make good use of the name, John Eglinton allowed. Your own name is strange enough. I suppose it explains your fantastical humour.

Me, Magee and Mulligan.

Fabulous artificer, the hawklike man. You flew. Whereto? Newhaven-Dieppe, steerage passenger. Paris and back. Lapwing. Icarus. Pater, ait. Seabedabbled, fallen, weltering. Lapwing you are. Lapwing he.

Mr Best’s eagerquietly lifted his book to say:

– That’s very interesting because that brother motive, don’t you know, we find also in the old Irish myths. Just what you say. The three brothers Shakespeare. In Grimm too, don’t you know, the fairytales. The third brother that marries the sleeping beauty and wins the best prize.

Best of Best brothers. Good, better, best.

The quaker librarian springhalted near.

– I should like to know, he said, which brother you… I understand you to suggest there was misconduct with one of the brothers… But perhaps I am anticipating?

He caught himself in the act: looked at all: refrained.

An attendant from the doorway called:

– Mr Lyster! Father Dineen wants…

– O! Father Dineen! Directly.

Swiftly rectly creaking rectly rectly he was rectly gone.

John Eglinton touched the foil.

– Come, he said. Let us hear what you have to say of Richard and Edmund. You kept them for the last, didn’t you?

– In asking you to remember those two noble kinsmen nuncle Richie and nuncle Edmund, Stephen answered, I feel I am asking too much perhaps. A brother is as easily forgotten as an umbrella.

Lapwing.

Where is your brother? Apothecaries’ hall. My whetstone. Him, then Cranly, Mulligan: now these. Speech, speech. But act. Act speech. They mock to try you. Act. Be acted on.

Lapwing.

I am tired of my voice, the voice of Esau. My kingdom for a drink.

On.

– You will say those names were already in the chronicles from which he took the stuff of his plays. Why did he take them rather than others? Richard, a whoreson crookback, misbegotten, makes love to a widowed Ann (what’s in a name?), woos and wins her, a whoreson merry widow. Richard the conqueror, third brother, came after William the conquered. The other four acts of that play hang limply from that first. Of all his kings Richard is the only king unshielded by Shakespeare’s reverence, the angel of the world. Why is the underplot of King Lear in which Edmund figures lifted out of Sidney’s Arcadia and spatchcocked on to a Celtic legend older than history?

– That was Will’s way, John Eglinton defended. We should not now combine a Norse saga with an excerpt from a novel by George Meredith. Que voulez-vous? Moore would say. He puts Bohemia on the seacoast and makes Ulysses quote Aristotle.

– Why? Stephen answered himself. Because the theme of the false or the usurping or the adulterous brother or all three in one is to Shakespeare, what the poor is not, always with him. The note of banishment, banishment from the heart, banishment from home, sounds uninterruptedly from The Two Gentlemen of Verona onward till Prospero breaks his staff, buries it certain fathoms in the earth and drowns his book. It doubles itself in the middle of his life, reflects itself in another, repeats itself, protasis, epitasis, catastasis, catastrophe. It repeats itself again when he is near the grave, when his married daughter Susan, chip of the old block, is accused of adultery. But it was the original sin that darkened his understanding, weakened his will and left in him a strong inclination to evil. The words are those of my lords bishops of Maynooth: an original sin and, like original sin, committed by another in whose sin he too has sinned. It is between the lines of his last written words, it is petrified on his tombstone under which her four bones are not to be laid. Age has not withered it. Beauty and peace have not done it away. It is in infinite variety everywhere in the world he has created, in Much Ado about Nothing, twice in As you like It, in The Tempest, in Hamlet, in Measure for Measure, and in all the other plays which I have not read.

He laughed to free his mind from his mind’s bondage. Judge Eglinton summed up.

– The truth is midway, he affirmed. He is the ghost and the prince. He is all in all.

РHe is, Stephen said. The boy of act one is the mature man of act five. All in all. In Cymbeline, in Othello he is bawd and cuckold. He acts and is acted on. Lover of an ideal or a perversion, like Jos̩ he kills the real Carmen. His unremitting intellect is the hornmad Iago ceaselessly willing that the moor in him shall suffer.

– Cuckoo! Cuckoo! Cuck Mulligan clucked lewdly. O word of fear!

Dark dome received, reverbed.

РAnd what a character is Iago! undaunted John Eglinton exclaimed. When all is said Dumas fils (or is it Dumas p̬re?) is right. After God Shakespeare has created most.

– Man delights him not nor woman neither, Stephen said. He returns after a life of absence to that spot of earth where he was born, where he has always been, man and boy, a silent witness and there, his journey of life ended, he plants his mulberrytree in the earth. Then dies. The motion is ended. Gravediggers bury Hamlet pére and Hamlet fils. A king and a prince at last in death, with incidental music. And, what though murdered and betrayed, bewept by all frail tender hearts for, Dane or Dubliner, sorrow for the dead is the only husband from whom they refuse to be divorced. If you like the epilogue look long on it: prosperous Prospero, the good man rewarded, Lizzie, grandpa’s lump of love, and nuncle Richie, the bad man taken off by poetic justice to the place where the bad niggers go. Strong curtain. He found in the world without as actual what was in his world within as possible. Maeterlinck says: If Socrates leave his house today he will find the sage seated on his doorstep. If Judas go forth tonight it is to Judas his steps will tend. Every life is many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves. The playwright who wrote the folio of this world and wrote it badly (He gave us light first and the sun two days later), the lord of things as they are whom the most Roman of catholics call dio boia, hangman god, is doubtless all in all in all of us, ostler and butcher, and would be bawd and cuckold too but that in the economy of heaven, foretold by Hamlet, there are no more marriages, glorified man, an androgynous angel, being a wife unto himself.

Eureka! Buck Mulligan cried. Eureka!

Suddenly happied he jumped up and reached in a stride John Eglinton’s desk.

– May I? he said. The Lord has spoken to Malachi.

He began to scribble on a slip of paper.

Take some slips from the counter going out.

– Those who are married, Mr Best, douce herald, said, all save one, shall live. The rest shall keep as they are.

He laughed, unmarried, at Eglinton Johannes, of arts a bachelor.

Unwed, unfancied, ware of wiles, they fingerponder nightly each his variorum edition of The Taming of the Shrew.

– You are a delusion, said roundly John Eglinton to Stephen. You have brought us all this way to show us a French triangle. Do you believe your own theory?

– No, Stephen said promptly.

This entry was posted in Books, James Joyce and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Books: “Ulysses” – the Scylla and Charybdis episode (James Joyce)

  1. The Books: “Ulysses” – the Scylla and Charybdis episode (James Joyce)

    Next book in my Daily Book Excerpt – on my adult fiction shelves: Ulysses – by James Joyce. So here’s where we are at so far: 1. (TELEMACHIA) Episode 1: The Telemachus Episode Episode 2: The Nestor Episode Episode 3:…

  2. The Books: “Ulysses” – the Wandering Rocks episode (James Joyce)

    Next book in my Daily Book Excerpt – on my adult fiction shelves: Ulysses – by James Joyce. So here’s where we are at so far: 1. (TELEMACHIA) Episode 1: The Telemachus Episode Episode 2: The Nestor Episode Episode 3:…

  3. The Books: “Ulysses” – the Sirens episode (James Joyce)

    Next book in my Daily Book Excerpt – on my adult fiction shelves: Ulysses – by James Joyce. So here’s where we are at so far: 1. (TELEMACHIA) Episode 1: The Telemachus Episode Episode 2: The Nestor Episode Episode 3:…

  4. The Books: “Ulysses” – the Cyclops episode (James Joyce)

    Next book in my Daily Book Excerpt – on my adult fiction shelves: Ulysses – by James Joyce. So here’s where we are at so far: 1. (TELEMACHIA) Episode 1: The Telemachus Episode Episode 2: The Nestor Episode Episode 3:…

  5. The Books: “Ulysses” – the Nausicaa episode (James Joyce)

    Next book in my Daily Book Excerpt – on my adult fiction shelves: Ulysses – by James Joyce. So here’s where we are at so far: 1. (TELEMACHIA) Episode 1: The Telemachus Episode Episode 2: The Nestor Episode Episode 3:…

  6. The Books: “Ulysses” – the Oxen of the Sun episode (James Joyce)

    Next book in my Daily Book Excerpt – on my adult fiction shelves: Ulysses – by James Joyce. So here’s where we are at so far: 1. (TELEMACHIA) Episode 1: The Telemachus Episode Episode 2: The Nestor Episode Episode 3:…

  7. The Books: “Ulysses” – the Eumaeus episode (James Joyce)

    Next book in my Daily Book Excerpt – on my adult fiction shelves: Ulysses – by James Joyce. So here’s where we are at so far: 1. (TELEMACHIA) Episode 1: The Telemachus Episode Episode 2: The Nestor Episode Episode 3:…

  8. The Books: “Ulysses” – the Ithaca episode (James Joyce)

    Next book in my Daily Book Excerpt – on my adult fiction shelves: Ulysses – by James Joyce. So here’s where we are at so far: 1. (TELEMACHIA) Episode 1: The Telemachus Episode Episode 2: The Nestor Episode Episode 3:…

  9. The Books: “Ulysses” – the Penelope episode (James Joyce)

    Next book in my Daily Book Excerpt – on my adult fiction shelves: Ulysses – by James Joyce. So here’s where we are at so far: 1. (TELEMACHIA) Episode 1: The Telemachus Episode Episode 2: The Nestor Episode Episode 3:…

  10. Pingback: Bloomsday 2010 | The Sheila Variations

Add Comment Register



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>