Reading this chapter was really like being caught between the devil and the deep sea (which is kind of what the title refers to, so clever I am) – continuing to read or giving up.
This is the toughest chapter I’ve read so far. Impossible to read without help from the notes. It’s complete free associaton and needs a lot of help to make any sense of.
It’s basically this long intellectual conversation in a library about Shakespeare, how much his biographical leanings influenced his work, whether Shakespeare himself was Hamlet (ironic because Joyce has modelled Stephen as Hamlet). Much of Stephen’s long theories are paraphrased from three Shakespeare biographers.
For good measure, there are the usual sprinklings of quotations from all the plays. Plus dollops of Socratic and Platonic philosophy thrown in.
And of course, meditations on Christian theology mixed into all this – the Father being the Son etc. as also the odd reference to Freud with regards to the Oedipal complex and homosexuality.
One interesting idea. He quotes Maeterlinck:
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.
And Joyce/Stephen goes on: Every life is many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-ove. But always meeting ourselves.
That is, basically, what happens to us is a function of who we ourselves are. Cool huh?
It continues to amaze me how thinly Joyce has veiled his own personna in the book, even as he (as Stephen) rather ironically, in this chapter, argues for how thinly Shakespeare veils himself.
It reminds of the film critic who said that Tarantino is beginning to bore becuase the only thing he is interested in is movies. And that’s basically what his movies are about. Guess I don’t know enough about movies to see Tarantino’s films as only being about movies.
But this book sure does seem to only be about literature. It’s so self-reflexive that it’s opaque. It’s Joyce trying to write the great Irish epic even as his characters talk about (and diss) the revivalists call for the need for someone to write a great Irish epic.
PS: I seem to be racing ahead with this book – partly because my beautiful book of notations is due back to the library this week. Obviously not going to finish the whole book this week but is anybody out there? That is, is anybody else reading it? Posted about it? Speak now!