Ulysses

by: James Joyce

Episode Nine: “Scylla and Charybdis”

A library attendant comes to the door and summons Lyster to help a patron (Bloom) find the Kilkenny People. Buck recognizes Bloom standing in the hall and explains that he just saw Bloom in the National Museum eyeing the rear end of a goddess statue. Implying that Bloom is a homosexual, Buck teasingly warns Stephen to beware of Bloom.

Stephen continues: while Shakespeare was in London living the high life with many sexual partners, Ann cheated on him back in Stratford—this hypothesis would explain why there is no other mention of her in the plays. Shakespeare’s will pointedly left her only his “second-best bed.”

Eglinton suggests that Shakespeare’s father corresponds to the ghost of Hamlet’s father. Stephen forcefully denies this supposition, insisting that the ghost of Hamlet’s father is not Shakespeare’s father, but Shakespeare himself, who was old and greying at the time the play was written. Fathers, Stephen digresses, are inconsequential. Paternity is unprovable and therefore insubstantial—fathers are linked to their children only by a brief sexual act.

Stephen goes on to suggest that Ann cheated on Shakespeare with his brothers, Edmund and Richard, whose names appear in Shakespeare’s plays as adulterous or usurping brothers. Eglinton asks Stephen if he believes his own theory, and Stephen says no. Eglinton asks why he should expect payment for it if he does not believe it.

Buck tells Stephen it is time for a drink and they leave. Buck makes fun of Eglinton, a lonely bachelor. Buck reads aloud a play he was scribbling while Stephen argued—it is a farce, entitled Everyman His Own Wife or A Honeymoon in the Hand. As they walk out the front door, Stephen senses someone behind him—it is Bloom. Stephen steps away from Buck, and Bloom passes between them down the steps. Whispering, Buck again alludes jokingly to Bloom’s lusty homosexuality. Stephen walks down the steps, feeling spent.

Analysis

In Episode Nine of Ulysses, we meet up again with Stephen, whom we last saw headed to a pub with the men from the Freeman office. He never met Haines and Buck at the Ship pub at 12:30, as they had arranged this morning. Instead, Stephen has wound up here, at the National Library, performing his “Hamlet theory.” Stephen is trying to interest Eglinton and A.E. in publishing the theory, and in his own talent in general. Stephen’s presentation is hardly formal—it rather takes the shape of a discussion between men-of-letters. There are frequent interruptions and digressions, and Stephen often ad-libs, using thoughts or the words of others from earlier in the day.