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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: July ::
Joyce and Shakespeare
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 431.  Friday, 16 July 1993.
 
From:           S. W. Reid <SREID@KENTVM>
Date:           Thursday, 15 Jul 93 15:33:54 EST
Subject:        Joyce and Shakespeare
 
A while back (April, actually) a query regarding the `Scylla and Charybdis'
episode in *Ulysses* and Stephen Dedalus's theory of Hamlet got responses
from several members of SHAKSPER. Subsequently it was posted on MODBRITS, our
computer conference on Modern British and Irish Literature, because the
questions about early 20C views seemed equally relevant to that `list'. I
thought SHAKSPER subscribers might be interested in the results. These follow
the initial queries, which provide a context now forgotten by some, perhaps.
 
S. W. Reid
Kent State University

 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
 
 Susan Harris of UNC Chapel Hill writes:
 
"1) Is the factual information Stephen uses to back up his claim true? I.e.,
"did Shakespeare really leave Ann Hathaway his second best bed? Was his son's
"name really Hamnet? Did he really beat his lead actor (I forget the name) to
"an assignation? Etcetera.
 
"2) If this information is not true, would it have been accepted as true at
"the time of Ulysses (June 4 1904?) If not, where would Stephen have gotten
"it?
 
"3) Does the conclusion Stephen draws about Shakespeare's brother having had
"an affair with Ann seem completely wacko to those of you who make this kind
"of conjecture for a living, or is it plausible?
 
"4) Would it have seemed plausible in 1904?
 
After John Cox suggested that Harris read Rene Girard's chapter on Joyce's
reading of Shakespeare in Girard's *A Theater of Envy*, Harris wrote to
ModBrits and added the following to her query:
 
"Someone on the Shakespeare network recommended that I read the chapter on
"*Hamlet* and *Ulysses* in Rene Girard's *A Theater of Envy* (`Do You Believe
"Your Own Theory?'). I liked the argument, but was surprised by some of the
"claims he makes therein about Joyce scholarship. He discusses Stephen's final
"repudiation of his own theory (`Do you believe your own theory? -No') and
"then says, `As far as I know, all critics of this text regard this *no* as
"final'. Is this true? Are there really, as Girard seems to claim, no other
"critics who have taken Stephen's theory seriously?
 
                       * * * * * * * * * * *
 
My edition of Don Gifford's _Ulysses Annotated_ (Berkeley: U. of CA Press,
1988) gives this information: `The principal sources for the free-wheeling
and largely fictional biography that Stephen performs in this episode are
George Brandes, _William Shakespeare_ (London, 1898), cited as Brandes in the
notes to this episode; Frank Harris, _The Man Shakespeare and His Tragic Life
Story_ (New York, 1909), cited as Harris; and Sidney Lee, _A Life of William
Shakespeare_ (London, 1898), cited as Lee' (p. 192). Gifford also gives
numerous specific references to the episode--his notes are well worth
checking out. Acting strictly from rather fuzzy memory, I believe we do know
from Shakespeare's will about the bequest of the bed, and his son was named
Hamnet, but I believe all the rest is pretty speculative and proto-Freudian.
Hope this helps.
 
Chris Loschen, Brandeis University
Loschen@Brandeis
 
                      * * * * * * * * * * *
 
In response to Susan Harris's queries about Joyce and Shakespeare: Although I
haven't read Girard's chapter, judging from the remark she quotes about
Stephen's negative reply about believing his own theory I would say Girard's
scholarship in this instance is incomplete, to say the least. A review of the
extensive literature on `Scylla and Charybdis' would reveal a range of
responses to the query, including the hypothesis that Stephen, sensing the
obvious skepticism of his listeners, indulges in a defensive lie. A quick
glance at the text shows that Stephen immediately thinks to himself `I
believe, O Lord, help my unbelief' -- surely indicating that no careful
reader could take Stephen's remark at face value without making a supporting
argument. The biographical record also indicates that Joyce probably believed
a good deal of Stephen's theory. In any case, all this has been worked over
by William Schutte, Hugh Kenner, and no doubt many others. Which is not to
say that no more can be said, but that Girard probably didn't bother to do
any research. On Shakespeare's will: an article in the *New York Review of
Books* sometime over the last two years surveys the will and what's known
about it (indeed, he did leave his wife his second best bed), and the
conclusions, I recall, are not inconsistent with Stephen's theory. And so far
as I remember, the meager facts on which Stephen builds his theory (the
marital separation, etc) are accepted as true. There is a long tradition of
biographical speculation about Shakespeare, and Stephen easily could have
read a great deal of it in 1904 in the very library in which he delivers his
theory.
 
Mark Wollaeger, Yale University
MWollae@YaleVM
 

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