Posts Tagged ‘Hamlet’

Telemachus 0051

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Haines has been trying to get Stephen’s Hamlet theory out of him, but Stephen isn’t interested in telling it, and Mulligan is running interference, trying to get at least a pint out of the deal.

Haines’ wants to prove his intellectual mettle with Stephen. He’s eager to show that he knows something about Hamlet, that he can even quote a line or two. [Elsinore is the castle where the action happens in Shakespeare’s play].

Back in December, when these pages were first posted, we got an email from a reader reminding us that we had left out a line of internal dialog here at this point. Just after Haines says “that beetles o’er his base into the sea,” the next line is “Buck Mulligan turned suddenly for an instant towards Stephen but did not speak.”  We don’t really use this, but the reader felt it was a critical moment, because it showed (he felt) Mulligan having a flash of anxiety about Stephen killing himself.  I was skeptical — I thought it more likely that Mulligan was having a flash of anxiety about Stephen further ridiculing the meal ticket Haines. But upon looking at the context of the “beetles o’er his base” quotation, I can see the possibility of the reading.

See this Hamlet vid. [The relevant line comes up around 2:50]

In any event, when Stephen sees himself in “dusty mourning” next to their “gay attires,” he’s clearly thinking of himself as Hamlet. Whether his two companions are Horatio and Marcellus or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern… that’s another question.

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Leopold Bloom

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

BloomDram

The everyman hero of Ulysses, Joyce’s reworking of Odysseus.  Bloom is 38 years old, Hungarian Jewish from his father (Rudolf Virag) and Irish Catholic from his mother (Ellen Higgins).  He currently works as an ad canvasser for the newspaper The Freeman’s Journal, but he’s had other odd jobs throughout his life.  He spends the day of June 16 wandering around Dublin:  going to a funeral, checking in at the office, visiting the National Library, walking on the beach.  He’s a deeply human and compassionate character, and carrying around with him two heavy emotional burdens:  grief over the death of his infant son Rudy 11 years before the action of the novel, and anxiety over his impending cuckoldry by his wife Molly, with whom he has not had full sexual relations since their son died.

 

Dramatis Personae for IV: Calypso

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Telemachus 0011

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

[cf. 1922 5.18, Gabler 1.85]

A moment ago, Mulligan was quoting Swinburne when he referred to the sea as our “great sweet mother.”  He’s modulated into George William Russell a/k/a AE, who often referred to nature as the Mighty Mother. Russell was a preeminent literary figure in turn of the century Dublin, and in 1904 he became the first person to publish a short story by Joyce–in a newspaper he edited called The Irish Homestead.  Russell has a prominent part in Episode 9–“Scylla and Charybdis”–and we’ll certainly talk more about him then.

Back here in “Telemachus”, Mulligan’s comment will lead, a moment from now, into a discussion of Stephen’s mother’s death.  There’s a lot to be said about the different roles of mothers and fathers in Joyce’s world–especially in Episode 9.  Very briefly–mothers are associated with ultimate, undeniable truth–truth beyond language.  They may be the one true thing in life (a paraphrase). Paternity, however–especially in the days before genetic testing–was uncertain.  This uncertainty creates an intolerable vacuum, that has to be cemented over with legal, verbal certainties. In “Scylla,” Stephen talks about paternity as a “legal fiction,” (and you should put as much emphasis on the fiction as on the legal here).  You should also be thinking about Hamlet again, and always!

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Telemachus 0012

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

[Cf. 1922 5:20-27, Gabler 1:86-94]

We get an important glimpse of Stephen here, as we learn that he refused to pray for his mother at her deathbed. What kind of a**hole doesn’t obey his dying mother’s wish to pray with her? Discuss.

I mean, yes, Stephen is an Artist of Profound Integrity, who cannot compromise his belief in his unbelief. And yes, we are meant to think of him as kin with Hamlet, with Telemachus, with those who fight to leave behind their lives as boys to become men. And I even think that we are meant to pity Stephen more than a little, who has become so alienated through his extremism.

Mulligan refers to himself and Stephen as “hyperborean.” What does this mean? Gifford gives us the basics–it’s a classical allusion, to a kind of perfectly youthful master race who lived at the far ends of the earth. More specifically, Gifford pegs the reference to Nietzsche & a passage in The Will to Power, wherein the Ubermensch were described as hyperborean, as beyond the constraints of conventional morality, especially Christian morality.

Anyone out there have more to say about hyperborean? About Stephen’s refusal to submit and what we’re supposed to think about it?

I love the bottom panel here… Mulligan looking stately and plump indeed, beautifully framed and posed like he’s about to start shooting lasers out of his hands. Which would make things interesting. His pose, his position, his framing, all speak together with the authority of Mulligan’s perfectly reasonable criticism of Stephen. And Stephen knows it, but he doesn’t care.

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Telemachus 0014

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

(cf. 1922, 5.31 – 6.6; Gabler, 1.100-11)

Stephen has just been accused by Mulligan of performing more than feeling his grief, of being the “loveliest mummer of them all” who prominently wears his mourning for his mother, but who refused to honor her final wish before she died. Stephen doesn’t rise to the bait, but continues acting the part.

This is one of the first pages where we see Stephen’s internal monologue placed in the context of external events. He remembers a dream he had shortly after his mother’s death, in which she appears as a ghost (remember Hamlet? we finally have our ghost!). We will see this dream in different variations throughout the novel. For now, a few things jumped out at me… first, note the emphasis placed on smells. Joyce is one of the great smell writers… “wetted ashes” has always struck me as an amazingly precise and familiar smell. Also the green of the bile and the green of the bay… just moments ago, Mulligan suggested that ’snotgreen’ be a new color for Irish art. We get a sense of what Stephen thinks of that idea here.

Finally, note how Rob has drawn Stephen’s pose here. Joyce writes that Stephen has his palm on his brow, but Rob has focused on how Stephen is looking at the bay “beyond the threadbare cuffedge,” a marvelous bit of framing.

hopes for further discussion from you, gentle reader:

–the color green
–parallax and visual framing
–ghosts
–motherhood

Reader’s Guide for I: Telemachus

Dramatis Personae for I: Telemachus

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You can buy copies of the works mentioned by clicking on the links below.

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