James Joyce - Notes: Literary Figures [William Shakespeare]

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Textual History Literary Figures Joyce’s People Sundry Remarks


William Shakespeare in Joyce’s Writings - Some Hints at His Importance inUlysses

‘J’ai 35 ans. C’est l’âge que Shakespeare a eu quand il a conçu sa doloureuse passion pour “la dame noire”.’(Letter to Martha Fleischmann, Dec. 1918;Letters, II, p.432.)

‘I expound Shakespeare to docile Trieste: Hamlet, quoth I, who is most courteous to gentle and simple is rude only to Polonius. Perhaps an embittered idealist, he can see in the parents of his beloved only grotesque attempts on the part of nature to produce her image ... Marked you that?’

Giacomo Joyce (NY: Viking; London Faber 1968), p.10.

His unremitting intellect is the hornmad Iago ceaselessly willing that the moor in him shall suffer.

—Ulysses (“Scylla & Charybdis”, [U9, 194]).


   The hungry famished gull
         Flaps o’er the waters dull.

 That is how poets write, the similar sounds. But then Shakespeare has no rhymes. The flow of the language it is. The thoughts. Solemn.

         Hamlet, I am thy father’s spirit
         Doomed for a certain time to walk the earth.

—Ulysses (“Wandering Rocks”, [U10, 192].


 John Eglinton’s reaction toUlysses: ‘In the interview of the much enduring Stephen with the officials of the NL the present writer experiences a twinge of recollection of things actually said.’ (Quoted inStephen Gwynn,Irish Literature and Drama, London 1936, p.199.)

Bruce Stewart, ‘A Reflection on the theory of Shakespearean Creation in the “Scylla and Charybdis” episode ofUlysses

See below

Joyce, ‘Shakespeare Explained’ - review ofShakespeare Studied in Eight Plays by Hon. Albert Straford Canning, inDaily Express[Dublin] (12 Nov. 1903).

In a short prefatory note the writer of this book states that he has not written it for Shakespearian scholars, who are well provided with volumes of research and criticism, but has sought to render the eight plays more interesting and intelligible to the general reader. It is not easy to discover in the book any matter for praise. The book itself is very long - nearly 500 pages of small type - and expensive. The eight divisions of it are long drawn out accounts of some of the plays of Shakespeare - plays chosen, it would seem, at haphazard. There is nowhere an attempt at criticism, and the interpretations are meagre, obvious, and commonplace. The passages ‘quoted’ fill up perhaps a third of the book, and it must be confessed that the writer’s method of treating Shakespeare is (or seems to be) remarkably irreverent. Thus he ‘quotes’ the speech made by Marcellus [sic] in the first act of ‘Julius Caesar’, and he has contrived to condense the first 16 lines of the original with great success, omitting six of them without any sign of omission. Perhaps it is a jealous care for the literary digestion of the general public that impels Mr Canning to give them no more than ten-sixteenths of the great bard. Perhaps it is the same care which dictates sentences such as the following:- ‘His noble comrade fully rivals Achilles in wisdom as in valour. Both are supposed to utter their philosophic speeches during the siege of Troy, which they are conducting with the most energetic ardour. They evidently turn aside from their grand object for a brief space to utter words of profound wisdom ... ‘ It will be seen that the substance of this book is after the manner of ancient playbills.Here is no psychological complexity, no cross-purpose, no interweaving of motives such as might perplex the base multitude. Such a one is a ‘noble character’, such a one a ‘villain’; such a passage is ‘grand’, ‘eloquent’, or ‘poetic’. One page in the account of ‘Richard the Third’ is made up of single lines or couplets and such non-committal remarks as ‘York says then’, ‘Gloucester, apparently surprised, answers’, ‘and York replies’, ‘and Gloucester replies’, ‘and York retorts’. There is something very naif about this book, but (alas!) the general public will hardly pay sixteen shillings for such naivete. And the same [97] Philistine public will hardly read five hundred pages of ‘replies’, and ‘retorts’ illustrated with misquotations. And even the pages are wrongly numbered.

—Rep. in Kevin Barry, ed.,Critical and Political Writings, Oxford 2000, pp.97-98; our itals. [see whole-text download options inWorks -infra.

Some Reading Notes on Joyce’s Shakespeare Papers

William H. Quillian, ‘Shakespeare in Trieste: Joyce's 1912 “Hamlet” Lectures’, in James Joyce Quarterly, 12:1/2 [Textual Studies Issue] (Fall 1974-Winter 1975), pp.7-63: ‘From Nov 1912 thought Feb. 1913, James Joyce [...] delivered twelve lectures on “Amleto di G. Shakespeare” [sic] at the Universita Populare. While these lectures have been lost, two groups of autograph notes remain: a notebook labelled “Quaderno di Calligrafia di Shakespeare”, and sixty unbound sheets. These notes have been preserved in the Joyce Collection of the Cornell University Library.’ Further speaks of Joyce's two lectures on Defoe and Blake in Spring 1912 [Universita Populare] and writes: ‘In the lectures he tried to define the parameters of English literature and formulate a working dialectice for his own art’ - comparing this with Stephen’s talk on Shakespeare in the National Library on Ireland on 16 June 1904.

Quillan quotes as epigraph the lines fromGiacomo Joyce: ‘I expound Shakespeare to docile Trieste: Hamlet, quoth I, who is most courteous to gentle and simple is rude only to Polonius. Perhaps an embittered idealist, he can see in the parents of his beloved only grotesque attempts on the part of nature to produce her image ... Marked you that?’ (p.10; ftn. cites Text by Joyce and Trustees of the Estate - implying that the work had not reached publication.)’ (p.7; available at JSTOR -online; accessed 12.03.2022.)


Dipanjan Maitra, ‘An Apostolic Succession? Joyce’s Shakespeare Notes and the Poetics of Omniscience', inJoyce Shakespeare - Shakespeare Joyce, ed. John McCourt, [Joyce Studies in Italy] (Roma: Anicia 2016), pp.75-96 - on Joyce’s Shakespeare lectures in Trieste: Joyce’s notes for a lecture series given in Trieste during the winter of 1912-13 are held in Cornell Univ. Library (USA). no copy of the lectures, given on 10 Mondays under the advertised title of “Amleto di [W]. Shakespeare”, [Hamlet]. over 5 Nov. 1912-11 Feb. 1913 [var. 4 Nov-10 Feb. 1913]) exists or has survived. The venue, formerly stated in RICORSO as Università Popolare/del Popolo], Trieste, is now known to have been the Società di Minerva on Via Carducci (Maitra, 2016, p.76; var Minerva Hall, p.82). The speaker was described inIl Piccolo della Sera as ‘a thinker, man of letters, and occasional journalist’. Joyce's notes for his lectures are held at Cornell University. The holding incorporates a 22 page notebook (“Quaderno di Calligrafia di Shakespeare”, 1912) with a list of important dates in Shakespeare's life, and 60 sheets of critical material and quotations for the lectures. Joyce also kept a notebook of Shakespeare’s dates (in V.A.4). The authors cited include contemporaries such as Marlow, Sidney, Philip Stubbes and R. Willis (copied from Dover Wilson’sLife in Shakespeare's England, 1911), &c. Orderly preparation to answer audience speakers at the lectures and accurate bibliographical details are a feature of them. Further: Joyce used Hamlet speech in language-classes (p.81; citing McCourt,Years of Bloom, Lilliput 2000).

Bibl. Maitra also cites The Early Commonplace Notebook or “The Notebook with accounts, quotations, book lists, &c.” - NLI catalogue ofJoyce Papers 2000 being MS 36, 639/2/A - available online; accessed 11.03.2022. (Maitra, p.75, n.) The contents of the school exercise book for mathematics with a laurel wreath on the cover are: 1 numbered pages; 10 unnumbered pages with text; blank page; small fragment remaining from removed page; 2 unnumbered pages with text; 38 blank pages [i.e. 82 pages + fragment]. (NLI.) A single sheet with notes onOthello is held in the NLI as MS 46, 720 [https://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000356987] [available online] - dated 1915-19. Another, with phrases fromCymbeline, is held in Buffalo as VI.B.4.147; JJA 29.329.

Maitra quotes approvingly Dirk Hulles’s remarks that the progression from theOthello to theCymbelinenotations could mark ‘the phase in Joyce’s note-taking [86] which him decontextualise words, omit references, and concentrate on sound over sense, homophony over meaning, and lexical oddities or peculiar language over plot and content’ (citing Van Hulle,Manuscript Genetics, Joyce’s No-How, Becket’s Nohow, Florida UP 2008, p.83; here pp.86-87.

Also quotes Joyce’s remarks in the notes toExiles: ‘As a contribution to the study of jealousy Shakespeare’sOthello is incomplete.’ (Exiles, 148; Maitra 81.); cites ‘beast of two backs’, green-eyed monster’ which occur in Aeolus and Circe. Writes of Joyce’s later use of sources that ‘[t]his very process of deracinating the text and altering, appropriating it into Joyce’s own literary texts, was oftenmechanical.’ - citing a term used by Stuart Gilbert to describe his scouring of capital towns’ [sic] in the Encyclopedia (Gilbert,Reflections on James Joyce[... &c.],TexasUP1993, p.27; here p.87.)

Cites Jacques Derrida, ‘Two Words for Joyce’, in Attridge & Ferrer, eds., Post-structuralist Joyce: Essays from French (Cambridge UP 1984): ‘a little son, a little grandson of Western culture in its circular, encyclopedic, Ulyssean totality [...]’ (Derrida, p.149; here p.82.)

Cites Susan Brown: ‘[...] jotting down words and [82] phrases which the author has set off typographically: usually itlics, quotation marks, headings, bullets or lists, upper case, and/or bold font’ (Brown, ‘The Mystery of the Fuga per Canonem Solved’, inGenetic Joyce Studies, Spring 2007). Further, on Joyce’s habit of getting others to read and raid works for him, ‘In a word, Joyce the polymath was Joyce the fraud.’ [available online online; here pp.82-83.)\

Note: Brendan Kavanagh gives an account of Brown's interpretation of the fugal aspect of the chapter as being modelled on the eight-part divisions given in Richard Vaughan William’s entry on the fugue genre in Grove'sDictionary of Music and Musicians(2nd Edn.). The list eight-line which she ascribes to that origin is to be found in the ‘partial draft’ of “Sirens” in the 2002 Joyce Papers at the National Library of Ireland. (See Kavanagh (’Shakepearean Sounding andUlysses’s Immunological-Musicological Interface’, inShakeakespearean Joyce/Joycean Shakespeare, ed. McCourt, 2016, pp.220-21n.- available online.)

Maitra speaks of a ‘sustained flow of Shakespeare notes from Joyce’s [76] Paris days to at least 1929. (pp.76-77) and writes of how their ‘changing styles’ (p.77) from scholarly at the outset to creative - that is, the selection of textual material for use in works without attempting to reference them, even with the use of inverted commas to denote quotations, as one might for academic purposes. In the period 1911-12, coinciding with his Trieste lectures on English writers: ‘These years mark a period often devoted to non-fiction, translation and note-gathering [...] where the concerns of the scholar or the journalist-reviewer became predominant. (Maitra, p.81; (citing McCourt,The Years of Bloom, p.178; R. W. Owen, James Joyce and the Beginning of ‘Ulysses’, 1983, p.5.) And later: ‘The scholarship of the journalist or the expounder was perhaps being gradually replaced by the interests of the writer aiming toutilize the Western canon without mastering it, but culling it for his own writing [...] a utilitarian approach that simply attempts to copy verses [fromOthello] that might be usable in the future’ - e.g., ‘seamy side without’ fromOth. IV, ii, 145-48; Maitra, p.83.)

Joyce’s letter to the Triestino police: ‘The undersigned, an English teacher, resident in via Donato Bramante, 4 Trieste, herewith informs the Honourable Police Hq. that he intends to present a cycle of public lectures on the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare. The lectures will be in the English language and will consist of a verbal commentary and a critical and etymological elucidation of the aforesaid work [...]‘Towards Ulysses: Some Unpublished Joyce Documents from Trieste’, inJournal of Modern Literature, 27:4 2004, pp.1-16; p.14.)

’This sharply contrasts with the dominant image of Joycean writing as vast, hypermnesic encyclopedic projects verging towards [sic] omniscience.’ (Maitra, p.88.) Maitra concludes by reflecting on the history of readership in 17th century in conjunction with scholarly views of Shakespeare’s methods of assimilation which have been described by Sidney Lee in terms that Joyce probably knew:

Sidney Lee: ‘Shakespeare’s mind may best be likened to a highly sensitive photographic plate, which need only be exposed for the hundredth part of a second to anything in life or literature, in order to receive up its surface the firm outline of a picture which could be developed and reproducted at will.’ (Lee,Great Englishmen of the Sixteenth Century, NY: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1904, p.291; Maitra, op. cit., p.90.)

A copy of Lee’s work named here is listed in Joyce’s Trieste Library (ed. Connolly) while several other texts by Lee are cited in the bibliography of Maitra’s article.)

Editorial remarks: The article cited here may read in the full-text edition ofShakespearean Joyce / Joycean Shakespeare, ed. John McCourt (Roma: Anicia 2016) - downloadable at Academia - online; accessed 12.03.2022. The table of contents is recorded in RICORSO Library > Authors > Joyce > Criticism > Annual List > Collections - as attached.

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Benjamin Boysen, ‘Hamlet... Shakespeare. Brandes... Joyce’, inShakespearean Joyce/Joycean Shakespeare, ed. John McCourt (Roma: Anicia 2016), pp.179-92.


See full screen-shot record in RICORSO Library > Criticism > Major Writers - asinfra.

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InWill of the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare(2004), the celebrated critic Stephen Greenblatt writes: ‘In his rented rooms in London, he contrived to have a private life - that too, perhaps, is the meaning of Aubrey’s report that he was not a “company keeper”’ - a reference to John Aubrey’s piece on Shakepeare inBrief Lives(1669-96). adding that he refused invitations to be ‘debauched’ in Elizabethan London. Greenblatt continues: ‘Not the regular denizen of taverns, not the familiar companion of his cronies, he found intimacy and lust and love with people whose names he managed to keep to himself.’ Here Greenblatt quotes Stephen in “Scylla & Charybdis” on Shakespeare’s relationship with Ann Hathaway:

‘“Women he won to him”, says Stephen Daedalus, James Joyce’s alter ego inUlysses, in one of the greatest meditations on Shakespeare’s marriage, “tender people, a whore of Babylon, ladies of justices, 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, frighted of the narrow grave and unforgiven. /  Sometime around 1610, Shakespeare, a wealthy man with many investments, retired from London and returned to Stratford [...]”’

(Greenblatt, ‘Wooing, Marrying, and Repenting’ [Will in the World, Ch. 4], q.p.; Kindle edition - loc. 2130; copied 25.04.2017.).

The chief tudies of Shakespeare known to Joyce ...
  • Georg Brandes,William Shakespeare: A Critical Study (Eng. trans. 1898)
  • Sidney Lee,A Life of William Shakespeare (1898)
  • Frank Harris,The Man Shakespeare and His Tragic Life Story (1909)

Early critical monographs on Joyce and Shakespeare ...
  William Peery, "the Hamlet of Stephen Dedalus",University of Texas Studies in English, 31 (1952), pp.108-19 [seeextract].
  William H. Quillian, ‘Shakespeare in Trieste: Joyce's 1912 “Hamlet” Lectures’, inJames Joyce Quarterly, 12:1/2 [Textual Studies Issue] (Fall 1974-Winter 1975), pp.7-63 [seeextract].
Major studies of Joyce and Shakespeare
  Vincent J. ChengShakespeare and Joyce: A Study of “Finnegans Wake” (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1984), 271pp.
  William M. Schutte,Joyce and Shakespeare: A Study in the Meaning of Ulysses (Yale UP 1957; rep. 1982), xiv, 197pp.
Recent collections on Joyce and Shakespeare ...
  Laura Pelaschiar, ed.,Joyce / Shakespeare (NY: Syracuse UP 2015), 304pp.
  John McCourt, ed.,Joyce Shakespeare - Shakespeare Joyce (Roma: Anicia 2016), 287pp.

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  View transcription - asattached.

Cymbeline inUlysses

The Library Scene (“Scylla and Charybdis” inUlysses [Chap 9] ends with a quotation from Shakespeare’sCymbeline heralding the peace between Britons and Romans with which the play ends - of which the first three lines only are quoted. Thus,Cymbeline, 5 v:

                       Laud we the gods
And let out crooked smokes climb to their nostrils
From our bless’d altars.*
Publish this peace
To all our subjects. Set we forward: let
A Roman and a British ensign wave
Friendly together: so through Lud’s town march:
And in the temple of great Jupiter
Our peace we’ll ratify; seal it with feasts.
Set on there! Never was a war did cease,
Ere bloody hands were wash’d, with such a peace. (ll.561-70.)

*Joyce’s quotation is italicised;Ulysses, Bodley Head 1965, p.280; Gabler 1984, U 9.1218-23.

In the scene quoted, the Soothsayer (viz.,druid) tells Cymbeline that now his sons have been returned from captivity by Belasarius, ‘peace and plenty’ will come to Britain. Cymbeline then declares, ‘My peace we will begin’ and tells Caius that, though the British have won the victory, they will submit to the Roman authority and resume payment of ‘our wonted tribute’ to which we were dissuaded by our wicked queen’ (ll.543-48). The Soothsay then again foretells glory when the imperial Caesar bestows his favour on ‘radiant Cymbeline’. It only remains for Cymbeline to make the speak given here.

The immediate context that puts the speech in Stephen’s minds - for we assume that it resides there at the moment - is the ‘two plumes of smoke’ rising from the housetops at the Kildare Street Club. Whether its ‘landed’ membership of the gentlemen’s club or the conclusion of the the indoors dispute which Stephen has held with the Irish intellectuals at the National Library in the foregoing pages supplies the hidden allusion of the reference is a moot point, but it certainly raises the question of Anglo-Irish political relations which would soon be resolved by means of war and treaty in the 1919-1922 conflict known as the War of Independence.

We know that the chapter was written in Oct. 1918-Feb. 1919, thus begun and endedbeforethat conflict and, indeed, largelybeforethe removal of the Sinn Féin deputies to Dublin after their wholesale success in the 1918 General Election. (The First Dáil Eireann was held in the Mansion House on 21 January 1919.) Irish and English are no exact equivalent of Roman and Briton - albeit the Briton’s in question are a Celtic people of the same phylos as King Arthur rather than the Saxon peoples who are held to have conquered both Britain and Ireland in the ages after the end of Roman rule in Britain. Thus there is no obvious political analogy yet the very context of national invasions, hostilities and treaties suggests that Joyce is aware that Stephen is in some sense fighting a war analogous with the Ango-Irish conflict.

[BS; 23.02.2022]

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‘A Reflection on the theory of Shakespearean Creation in the “Scylla and Charybdis” Chapter ofUlysses

Bruce Stewart

[A lecture prepared for a Conference in the Centenary Year of the Publication ofUlysses (co-ordin. Maria Rita Drumond Viana)

Commentators onUlysses have long noticed an immense amount of quotations and allusions to the life and works of Shakespeare in the novel with a massive concentration on the ninth chapter ‘Scylla and Charybdis’ which is centrally concerned with Stephen Dedalus’s theory about the biographical origins of the substance and spirit of Shakespeare’s successive plays. Here the argument concerns the passage from tragic mood to the late comedies in which a spirit of reconciliation has long been discerned by the critics. Stephen’s Shakespeare has seduced by Anne Hathaway ‘in a cornfield’ [U244] thus rendering him a jealous lover ever after as well as conditioning the homosexual tendency for some of theSonnets.According to Stephen, ‘[b]elief in himself has been untimely killed’ [U252] with that conquest by an older woman and his (seemingly) forced marriage to her at that early date. Moreover, Stephen chooses to accept the rumour that Shakespeare was cuckolded by his wife when he moved in London and she remained in Stratford-upon-Avon in possession of the family home. Finally, the notorious fact that he left to her his ‘second-best’ bed in his will is taken as a mark of his resentment - leaving most of his property to a grand-daughter called Susannah instead. In Stephen’s reading of these facts, based largely on that of George Brandes who wrote a study of Shakespeare (English trans. 1898) and was also Ibsen’s biography - the young women Marina and Perdida and Miranda in the late plays are that grand-daughter in whom he finds emotional recompense.

‘After God, Shakespeare created most’ - so wrote Joyce wrote in “Scylla and Charybdis”. In that chapter Stephen Dedalus alludes to 32 out Shakespeare ’s 35 plays with numerous other snippets from the Sonnets and the longer poems, often ingeniously spun into his own sentences and sometimes altered by means of punning variations. There are more allusions to Shakespeare than to the Bible (which comes in second). As early as 1931, a certain William Peery at Texas University identified 321 Shakespearean allusions in the novelofwhich 107 were toPrince Hamlet- unsurprisingly since Hamlet provides a leading correspondence for Stephen, so names in the schema's list for Chapter 1 (”Telemachus”). William Schutte, Thornton Weldon, Don Gifford and - most recently - Sam Slote have raised the number of detectable Joycean allusions to Shakespeare up to the high hundreds. Nor is it merely a matter of literary exhibitionism. Writing on Shakespeare, Stanley Greenblatt has called Stephen’s theory ‘one of the greatest meditations on Shakespeare’s marriage.’ (Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, 2012).


In addition, however, Joyce chose to make Stephen Dedalus a type of Hamlet undergoing usurpation in his own kingdom - or, more materially, at the Martello Tower of which he holds the contract and the key and which Buck Mulligan takes from him in the course of Bloomsday afternoon. This is, in fact, a fiction since in real life it was Mulligan who rented to Tower from British Administration (Navy) and Joyce was just a guest. If Stephen is Telemachus in the Homeric parallel he is also the Prince of Denmark - considerably augmentioin the symbolic scope of his character and the opportunities for literary allusions. If nothing else, the Library Episode is a mine of such allusions stitched into it with awesome ingenuity and persistence so that virtually no sentence is free from some echo of one or other of Shakespeare’s plays. Finally, Stephen - and probably Joyce too - are bent in the chapter (and elsewhere in the novel) on devising a theory of the literary imagination according to which the process of creation is always biographical in origin, even if the author doesn’t know what he is writing in its full thematic sense: ’He goes back, weary of the creation he has piled up to hide him from himself, an old dog licking an old sore. But, because loss is his gain, he passes on towards eternity in undiminished personality, untaught by the wisdom he has written or by the laws he has revealed.’

All of this suggests a great familiarity with the Bard’s works and equally with the biographical literature surrounding them. A knowledge of Shakespeare was, of course, a mark of education given Shakespeare’s status as the quintessential English writer and Joyce certainly showed himself a master of his writings, not alone the plays but the poetry as well. In bographical point of fact, Joyce had equipt himself with his Shakespearean lore when preparing for a series of lectures given in Trieste under the title of “Amleto di G. Shakespeare” [sic] at the Universitá Populare in Trieste during the winter of 1912-13. Of those lectures nothing seems to have survived while theOccasional Critical and Political Writings(ed. Kevin Barry, OUP 2000) merely includes a review of a pedagogic work by A. S. Canning which Joyce regarded as both inferior in quality and ‘remarkably irreverent’ (op cit., pp.97-98; p.97) - with good reason. In the absence of better evidence, we may assume some similarity in the argument of the author’s lectures to that assigned to Stephen in “Scylla and Charybdis” much as he reproduced swathes of his essays on ’Drama and Life’ and ’James Clarence Mangan’ inStephen Heroand echoed them more thinly inA Portrait of the Artist.

“Scylla and Charybdis”, printed in April-May 1919, takes Stephen Dedalus to the National Library where, much as Buck Mulligan has foretold in the Tower, he ‘proves by algebra that Hamlet’s grandson is Shakespeare’s grandfather and that he himself is the ghost of his own father’ [U21; Bodley Edn.]. In reality, he tries to demonstrate that the playwright’s narratives were spun from his own experience and that his odyssey as a writer was always seems to reflect the chapters of his emotional life. To this he added a more Nietszchean concept of self-fulfilment according to which the writer became a consummate artist by the same process with which he became himself. As Stephen puts it in the form of a rhetorical question:

‘What went forth to the ends of the world to traverse not itself [...] which it itself was ineluctably preconditioned to become.’

The same process of existential and artistic self-realisation presumably applies to Stephen. while no alert reader can miss the allusion to Leopold Bloom incommercial traveller in a touch which clearly indicates that Stephen will need to acknowedge Bloom as a component of his own mature personality - which is one way of reading the psychological narrative ofUlysses.

[Bruce Stewart,James Joyce[NDNB - VIP Ser.] (OUP 2004) [Here revised]. See extended extract as ‘The Literary Development of James Joyce - from “Portrait” toFinnegans Wake’ -supra.]

Frank Budgen records in his memoir of Joyce (James Joyce & The Making of “Ulysses”,1934) that Nora told him her husband had said to her that he had “beaten all of them except that fellow Shakespeare”. If he had not beaten him he certainly paid an immense homage to him in the chapter whose text contains of so many allusion to Shakespeare that only the biblical allusions exceed them in the novel. Many of these are traceable to the main critical authors - Lee, Harris and Brandes - but references to more out-of-the-way commentators such as contemporary Irish students of Shakespeare are not lacking either. It is to Brandes, for instance, that he owes the observation that, in the playHamlet, the counterpart of the playwright is not the Prince but the murdered King (his namesake) and that Shakespeare actually took the role of the king in the first production of the play. It is thus the old king who embodies Shakespeare’s personal feelings of betrayal and turns towards his son for vengeance. Hence Prince Hamlet in the play is really Hamnet Shakespeare, the playwright’s only son who died of diphteria in 1596. (In this scheme, Anne Hathaway is both Gertrude and the stay-at-home Penelope - as the chapter variously argues.)

Once he has touched on the question of paternity, Joyce makes Stephen persist with it beyond the point where he confidentally knows what he is doing: ‘What the hell are you driving at?’, he says to himself - and ‘I know. Shut up. Blast you! I have reasons.’ [U267] In this part of the chapter, Stephen argues that paternity as a “mystical estate” [U267] based purely on belief that a given son is the son of a given father - a view less plausible since the discovery of DNA. What he is ‘driving at’ is his own procreation by Simon and Mary Dedalus - the counterparts inUlyssesfor the writer’s one parents John Stanislaus and Mary Jane (“May”) Joyce. In ’Proteus’ he imagines the man with my voice and my eyes and a ghostwoman with ashes on her breath’ when they ’clasped and sundered’ - ’doing the coupler’s will’ in truly Shakespearean terms. We also hear Stephen thinking ‘He willed me and now may not will me away or ever’ - referring to God not Joyce Snr. - and asking, ‘Is that then the divine substance wherein Father and Son are consubstantial?’ It is clear that Stephen is dissatisfied with his ascendant lineage and, more specifically, unhappy with the father that life has given him. (Joyce’s own attitude towards his father is more complex as a letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver at his death pronouncing him the source of all that talent that Joyce possesed tells a different story.) In the ’Scylla & Charybdis’ Stephen says: ‘Amor matris, subjective and objective genitive, may be the only true thing in life. Paternity may be a legal fiction.’

Clearly those reflections on paternity are part-Oedipal and part theological since it invokes the idea of the Incarnation of Christ as a version of paternity in which the resident had had no influence when God ‘willed’ Stephen/Joyce to exist. But in other parts of the chapter Stephen reflects a very solid sense of what human procreation is all about - and in this respect he places his reliance on the Aristotelian notion ofentelechy considered as a term for the process of growth and development to full maturity (i.e., Selfhood) of any ‘besouled thing’. Artistotle took the matter even further, as Joyce’s Paris Notebook clearly suggests, when he transcribed the sentence fromDe Anima, ‘The most natural act for living beings which are complete is to produce other beings like themselves and thereby to participate as far as they may in the eternal and divine.’ (De Anima, 415b; quoted in Fran O ’Rourke, Joyce ’s Quotations from Aristotle: “Allwisest Stagyrite” [Joyce Studies, phampl. 21] (National Library of Ireland 2004.)

This, in a nutshell is the materialist view of transcendence as distinct from the spiritualist one and much of Stephen’s mental energy is expended in the Library episode on inward ridiculing the way in which the spiritualists seem to “creepycrawl after Blake’s buttocks into eternity” [U238] while, correspondingly reminding himself to “[h]old to the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past.” [U238] (InA Portraitthere is a similar idea: “The past is consumed in the present and the present is living only because it brings forth the future.” AP255.) Believing in Irish fairies was on qualification for membership of the Irish Literary Society at that date while prior membership of the Dublin Theosophical Society was another. And, although Stephen shows an considerable familiarity with the literature of Theosophy in this chapter, he is an arch-opponent of the theory of ‘formless spiritual essences’ [U165] for which George (“Æ”) Russell is the spokesman in the novel. In fact, the contrast between Aristotle’s Realism and Plato’s Ideal form the two mythic rocks or monsters denominated by the title of the chapter, to be met with in Homer’sOdyssey - and which, in fact, he choices in preference to “Wandering Rocks”.

In the course of this chapter Joyce paid off a huge number of literary grudges - many of them in the form of damning satire and sometimes even parody making the whole a kind of Star Chamber trial of Irish literary culture as he met with it during the period between his return from Paris in 1903 and his departure with Nora Barnacle in November 1904. It is clear from the text that he believes himself to have been spurned by the clique of Anglo-Irish literati such as George Moore who pointedly does not (and did not) invite him to his regular literarysoirée planned for that evening (Thursday 16th) and which was to be attended by all the others present including the egregious English sympathiser Haines but also by his more intimate enemy Oliver St John Gogarty (Buck Mulligan in the novel).


In setting the chapter in the National Library Joyce chose a formal venue for the contest between his own younger self and the Revivalists but also elevated the whole to the plane of cultural history rather than personal difference. The Library was also a good place to have Bloom intervene in his capacity as an advertising agent seeking suitable graphics in the newspaper stacks and thereby to stage Mulligan’s anti-semitic vision of him as a lubricious ‘sheeny’ [Jew] when he is caught inspecting the ‘mesial grove’ of Venus Aphrodite - about which Bloom has already expressed silent curiousity in the stream of conscious that occupies virtually all of the preceeding “Lestrygonians” chapter. By virtue of the Homeric title, Chapter 9 ofUlysses is all about obstacles and contradicitons. Each of these can be equated with the Rock or the Whirlpool spoken of in Homer’sOdysseyas Scylla and Charybdis. In the simplest reading of the classical parallel embodied by the chapter, Stephen steers his way between the Scylla of Idealism and the Charybdis of Materialism - though practically (and even existentially) it is a question of his holding on to his intellectual freedom, while Bloom is comparably engaged in defending his self-esteem, lurking out of view when he glimpses Blazes Boylan’s straw-hat bobbing in the street as enters the Museum.

It is two o’clock in Joyce’s schema for the novel when Stephen begins his discourse on the pyschological origins of Shakespeare’s genius - the very hour when actors in the plays at Shakespeare and Burbage’s Globe Theatre would take the stage in Elizabethan London. (He knew that from Sidney Lee’s researches.) For a moment, all such events are aligned: Othello and Desdemona, Leopold and Molly, Stephen and his auditors in the literary agonistics of the Irish Literary Revival. Joyce himself had drawn a line in the sand with his pamphlet called “The Day of the Rabblement ” berating the Literary Theatre for capitulating to the public taste for Peasant Drama. But, in teality, the relationships between enemies was more complex than that. In a poem addressed to Nora Barnacle - the model for Molly - he spoke of her as “near darkness ’ and ‘beloved enemy of my will”. In reality, Joyce throve on such differences and even cultivated them - once in the fairly extreme measure of thrusting Nora into an affair with a Triestino acquaintance. As we have seen, the day of Ulysses is the day of his first walking-out with Nora which culminated in a moment of sexual relief for Joyce which, apparently, cemented their union forever.

Notable figures of the Irish literary world who are the object of verbal sallies in the chapter include the characters actually present: Lyster, Best, Russell, and John Eglinton. Those not present but pervasively invoked from Irish literary memory include Oscar Wilde, W. B. Yeats and Douglas Hyde. Others from Shakespeare ’s life are singly or repeatedly including Ben Johnson, Dick Burbage, Anne Hathaway and William Herbert (3rd Earl of Pembroke), and the anonymous Dark Lady of theSonnets. Brandes, Lee, and Harris, are all mentioned by name; Aristotle, Plato, and even Xanthippe (Socrates’ wife) get a look in too - and, of course, a roll-call of characters in Shakespeare ’s plays. This is a large cast and what pre-eminently materialises is the prodigious scale of Stephen’s intellectual ability together and the genuine respect which the other participants in the debate pay to him on that account. Yet this does not make Stephen the author ofUlysses. Not quite: precisely the form of egoism that he asserts - whether we call it Negative Capability or not - is what prevents him from imagining Bloom as the hero. Many years ago Hugh Kenner wrote that ‘neither Stephen Dedalus or any possible extension of his character would be capable of writingUlysses’ (Dublin’s Joyce, 1955.) He is, in other words, a dead end. It is certain that Joyce’s has handed over the role of the fiction hero to Bloom - ye Stephen is not dead and surely it is the improbable (and perhaps impossible) synthesis of Bloom and Stephen that defines complete manhood in the novel.

If Joyce had intended to portray Stephen as a ‘lapwing’ [U270] - a drowned over-reacher ‘[s]eabedabbled, fallen [and] weltering’ [U270] like Icarus, his portrait of Stephen in this chapter has the contrary effect in spite of these very words crossing his mind in its pages. Here is represented as a young writer - a self-professed poet (as he also says) pondering the question whether his auditors or he himself will be remembered for their works. The answer is well-known today and readers of the chapter can be in no serious doubt that Stephen will be transformed by his experience in the novel and will emerge shorn of his puerile egoism and capable of a more generous form of humanism in which ordinary human virtues will appear as the best in an ordinary ‘well-rounded’ character like Leopold Bloom. This is the necessary correct to Hugh Kenner"s brilliant observation about the limitations of Dedalian character at the moment of the novel. And if we hold to the idea that Stephen is in some fundamental sense Joyce, no one deny is ability tyo write the epic of the Irish nation the absence of which Dr. Sigerson lamented, as we also here in the chapter: ‘Our national epic has yet to be written’ [U246] - although he went on to say ‘Moore is the man for it,’ according to the Librarian Lyster. It is significant that Stephen does not challenge this; but when he tells Bloom in “Ithaca” that Ireland will be important because it belongs to him (not vice-versa) we feel that Joyce’ is projecting a real literary future. the other might thing him important because he belongs to Ireland whereas Ireland is actually important because it belongs to him" there is no doubt that the candle of his literary self-esteem is burning bright with some reason.

 —You suspect, Stephen retorted with a sort of a half laugh, that I may be important because I belong to thefaubourg Saint Patrice called Ireland for short.
  —I would go a step farther, Mr Bloom insinuated.
  —But I suspect, Stephen interrupted, that Ireland must be important because it belongs to me.
  —What belongs? queried Mr Bloom, bending, fancying he was perhaps under some misapprehension. Excuse me. Unfortunately I didn’t catch the latter portion. What was it you? …
  Stephen, patently crosstempered, repeated and shoved aside his mug of coffee, Or whatever you like to call it, none too politely, adding:
  —We can’t change the country. Let us change the subject.
Ulysses [1922] (London: Bodley Head 1960), p.768.

It is finally ironic that the central figure in Joyce’s mature pantheon - Leopold Bloom - should be waiting in the wings while the Literary Revivalists debate with Stephen where the next Irish epic will come from all unaware that Stephen is the author-to-be and he himself is the eponymous hero. [BS / March 2022.]


Appendix of Identity, Selfhood and Literary Creation

Stephen’s idea appears to be that the artist must become his own progenitor in order to be true creator. Yet even as he elaborates his theory of Shakespearean imagination with astonishing ingenuity and seeming conviction, we hear him say: ‘What the hell are you driving at?’ and, ‘Are you condemned to do this?’ Is this, then, a neurotic impulse rather than creative one. ֱProteus” has given us an ample view of Stephen’s personal insecurity and even his questions about the nature of personhood almost to the degree of concluding it is an accidental and an essentially insignificant construct. Whereas in “Scylla and Charybdis”he speaks confidently and the artist weaving and unweaving ‘his image’ just ‘we, or mother Dana, weaves and weaving our bodies’ and, with this thought, applies the idea of animal selfhood to the metaphysical plane, in “Proteus” he wonders if he himself is the same person at two different moments of his life: ‘Other fellow did it. Other me. Hat, tie, overcoat, nose. Lui, c’est moi.’ (This is, in fact, echoes in the amusing trope about his financial debts to George ‘AE’ Russell and others in the Library Scene: ‘Molecules all change. I am other I now. Other got pound.’

Almost in the same breath, however, he draws upon his ‘dagger definitions’ from Aristotle to say (or, rather, think): ‘But I, entelechy, form of forms, am I by memory because under everchanging forms.’ In this sentence - and it is a sentence in both the grammatical and the scholastic sense - Joyce holds hard to the Aristotelian idea of entelechy which adorned his early Notebooks- the code of evolving form and personality which leads any living thing to become the thing that it is destiined to become. That is to say, destined in the sense of fulfilling its own formal nature as that is enscribed on it in the most germal form. (There is both a primitive theory of DNA and a metaphysics of identity here which it would take some time to unpack.)

Yet Stephen inUlysses is stranded and becalmed. His mind is possessed by anxiety about his behaviour at his mother’s bedside - or, rather, by the necessity to repudiate criticism on the basis of a claim of artistic supremacy which is not yet apparent to anyone. This is nothing less than a core trait of Joyce’s own personality in which self-belief was elevated to the status of an existential principle and a rule of conduct with others. Richard Ellmann stated this with the utmost moral clarity in Richard Ellmann’s reflections on Joyce’s youthful character as it shows in the Letters, writing in his Introduction to the second volume: ‘he has little patience with those who fail to pay tribute to his talent, and is likely to shift suddenly from suppliant to renunciant. He is regularly on the verge of scorning the help he requires.’ In an even more acute series of remarks he points to a letter of Joyce’s to his mother in late 1902 - he was 20 at the time - in which, as Ellmann puts it, ‘we see only self-pity and heartlessness in this assertion of his own needs as paramount’. According to his great biographer, author of the letter ‘takes unfair advantage of the fact that his mother’s love is large enough to accept even the abuse of it’. (Letters, Vol. 2, 1966, p.xl.)

Further remarks on Ellmann’s part about Joyce’s alternating moods of abjection and dear of betrayal directed at Nora Barnacle - especially in the turbid correspondence of 1909-12 sometimes known as The Black Letters suggests that self-doubt was regularly transmuted into doubts about the fidelity of others and even, on one occasion, took the form of thrusting Nora into an unwanted relationship only to humiliating the man whom he recruited to conduct it. It is widely believed that the substance of his play Exiles, written about this time -and which he identified for the audience in the culminating phrase ‘restless, wounding doubt’ is precisely about the dynamics of loyalty and betrayal which seemed to dominate his sense of relations with other people. Either they believed in him or their were renounced, in Ellmann’s phrase. (Renunciate is the actual word he uses.)

Although Joyce was famously uxurious and gregarious too boot, gathering around him friends and associates who formed a vibrant literary circle, he was also intrinsically solipsistic and manically prone to take offence. He was the opposite, in fact, of Leopold Bloom, the tolerant Ulysses of his own novel, who accepts his wife’s infidelity as ‘more than inevitable, irreparable’. Thus, in the ‘Ithaca’ chapter he puts into practice the famous dictum that to understand all is to forgive all and ends his day by kissing the ‘yellow smellow melons of her rump’ where, he knows, Blazes Boylan has done sterner duty in the course of the afternoon. Considered as the temperamental opposite of Bloom, Stephen’s personality therefore requires some considerable modification before he can write the novel in which Bloom appears to be the hero - or, at least, the modern-day counterpart of the titular character: Ulysses.

What Stephen needs, in fact, is the radical catalyst of meeting a very ordinary Ulysses as he actually does in the novel - even if he doesn’t know it much as Shakespeare, in his Library Scene relation, piled up wisdom in his plays and poems all unbeknown to himself. The Ulysses he meets is of course the very same Dublin Jew who is scorned by Mulligan in the same chapter (‘Scylla and Charybdis’). In real life, as regards the events portrayed in the novel, Joyce’s enormous - even irrefragible - self-confidence was about to achieve a form of self-realization not dealt with there in the form of his street-encounter with Nora Barnacle, his sexual compact with her and their voyage overseas together. It was not, however, until 1907, that the full impact of that experience - and with it his his explosion of ‘the whole theory of heroism’, as he called it in his letters, struck home to the degree of modifying the way he thought, felt and wrote. It might be said that the crucial turning-point came when he contemplated writing a short-story to be called ‘Ulysses’ as a late addition to the Dubliners collection in November 1906.

Famously, he researched the details about a Mr Hunter who provided the model for Leopold Bloom through a chance encounter in Nighttown in 1904. Equally famously, thie story ‘got no forrarder than the title’ and Joyce turned instead to writing ‘The Dead’ as the final piece in the story-collection. But he returned to it later, when he had refashioned Stephen Hero into the distinctly less adulatory - but essentially identical - novel known as The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. (It was while writing this, in fact, that he gave his lectures on Hamlet at the Università Populare of Trieste in 1911-12. Turning to Ulysses, he was able to say to his friend Frank Budgen that Stephen Dedalus ‘has a shape that can’t be changed’ and, later to Miss Weaver, that the young man’s mind is full of bric-à-brac and random bits of learning. This is hardly true of the author of the theory of Shakespearean creation in the Library Scene but it does mark his belief that the young artist’s mind and personality are less important in the human scheme of things that that of the homme moyen sensual who living at 7 Eccles St., Dublin.

Yet the final stage in this progression is the realisation on Joyce’s part - though not Stephen’s- that the transition from artist to citizen (that is, from Stephen to Bloom) has been made and that, in a crucial sense, the former becomes the progenitor of the latter, though older than he, as the latter becomes in a sense himself. In spite of their stunning degree of non-communication in the peni-penultimate ‘Ithaca’ chapter - such that the only style fit to convey it is the encyclopaedic method of factual recitation - the ultimately reciprocal relation between the two personalities at the heart of the novel is exactly prefigures in the Shakespeare chapter (so to call it) when Stephen ‘proves by algebra that Hamlet’s grandson is Shakespeare’s grandfather and the he himself is the ghost of his own father’ - as Mulligan irreverantly puts it - thus, in short, demonstrating that all of Shakespeare’s plays (but particularly Hamlet) came out his own experience of sexual subjection and loss of manhood in an early marriage with an older woman.

How this fits in with Joycean biography is a complex question involving, I believe, much reflection on Joyce’s underexplored relation with his mother Mary (‘May’) Joyce who appears in Ulysses as a pietistic Catholic ghoul attempting to terrify him into repentance. Needless to say she was neither much like that nor very like Mrs Conroy, the seemingly snobbish mother of Gabriel in ‘The Dead’ whose contempt for Gretta - modelled on Nora - is conveyed by the expression ‘country cute’. Joyce was unfair to his biological mother though he had his psychological and artistic reasons. (Nevertheless, in the Library Scene, in the midst of talking up the ‘mystical estate’ that is father-son relations, Stephen is compelled by an inner necessity to say that ‘Amor matris, subjective and objective genitive, may be the only true thing in life.’ (It is here that he wonders what he is ‘driving at’.)

In the ‘Circe’ episode, when the inner lives of Stephen and Bloom are psychoanalysed and projected on the walls and furnishings (animate and inanimate) of a brothel, Stephen’s drunken mind plucks out the solution to the problem of change and becoming in human persons which is the underlying theme of his meditations in the Library. ‘What went forthr to the ends of the world to traverse no itself. God, the sun, Shakespeare, a commercial traveller, having itself traversed in reality itself, becomes that self. [...] Self which it was ineluctibly preconditioned to become. Ecco.’ It is one of the comical oddities of the chapter that Bloom, meanwhile, endures his own hallucination and sees himself in a mirror with Shakespeare’s face and the antlers of a cuckold. It is very odd that he should do so since Bloom has almost no thoughts about Shakespeare at all but in this instance his very real cuckoldry is mapped on to reality in the form of Stephen’s Shakespeare theory - one of those interchanges of inner knowledge which upsets the empirical pattern of narration in the novel.

It is, in fact, an illustration of Joyce’s version of the Bard as the victim of an early seduction which has resulted in an element of self-doubt that mobilised all the emotions of his plays: ‘Belief in himself has been untimely killed’ - yet, as Stephen tells his little audience in the same passage, ‘[h]e goes back, weary of the creation has piled up to hide him from himself [...] untaught by the wisdom he has written or by the laws he has revealed.’ But that sentence really has less to do with Bloom than with Joyce himself who can hope that, by pursuing his art to the limit he can encompass a far greater scope of knowledge and response than anyone might hope to do - even in Stephen Hero - in his own person. Hence, indeed, the adjunctive theory of Impersonality which Joyce articulated inA Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. It is, of course, through the denial of self that the self finds its greatest expression. (Perhaps it might be said, equally, that it is through the denial of jealousy that Bloom achieves his greatest stature as an ethical hero.)

There is something magnificent and equally astonishing about the way that Joyce makes Stephen’s tour de force interpretation of the life and mind of William Shakespeare - largely based on his attentive reading George Brandes Study of Shakespeare (trans. 1898) and other contemporary works by Sidney Lee and Frank Harris - and turns into a code for the imaginative processes of his own art. There is of course much more to Ulysses that the Shakespeare theory or the Library Scene but unless we pay due attention to that moment of guiding intelligence about the relation between experience and art - and likewise dismiss the purely idealising tendency of the literary revivalists against whom Stephen ranges himself in the Irish National Library - we will miss something of the immense cultural depth of the novel. It is known that Joyce made many hundreds of allusions to Shakespeare in its pages, actually quoting elements from 32 of the dramatist’s 35 plays and many of his sonnets and longer poems.

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