Analysis

This section presents the issue that will take up the rest of the novel: Bradley's love for Julian. At the end of the tutorial, Bradley feels that a powerful emotion has come over him. He does not name this emotion but it seems clear that it is love for Julian. Even without detailing sexual thoughts in Bradley's mind, Murdoch indicates the sexual nature of the tutorial through her use of language. As their discussion of Hamlet heats up, both of their bodies do as well. Julian slips off her purple boots, revealing her naked feet. Bradley sheds his jacket, his tie, and unbuttons the top of his shirt. By the end of their session, both are sweating. Although the two have not touched each other, their disrobing and heat mirror a sexual act. Bradley's suggestion that Julian "should go" implies that he is so overwhelmed by her presence that she needs to leave. Bradley's comment that he can smell her "her sweat, her feet, her breasts" is also innuendo.

The way Bradley recounts his meeting with Julian contrasts his description of his meeting with her mother, Rachel. Bradley describes seeing Rachel's "satiny shoulder strap, not clean," "flopped down over the vaccination mark on her plump pallid upper arm." Needless to say, this image of Rachel's arm does not tantalize in the same manner as does that of Julian's naked feet, since Bradley feels disgusted by the older woman's body. Bradley's disinterested feelings towards Rachel also are evident in his matter-of-fact manner when he describes his lack of interest in having an affair. Rachel's sad reaction is slightly poignant, but Murdoch does not suggest that Rachel will soon become a victim. In fact, the fierceness that Rachel describes in this scene foreshadows her final actions in the novel. She warns Bradley that she has a burning fire in her and that she will not become like Priscilla. She describes what is in her as more than just a "will to survive." She calls it "fire, fire. What tortures. What kills." Rachel's description of herself will become accurate when she kills Arnold at the end of the novel.

References to Hamlet recur throughout The Black Prince, although the bulk of discussion about the play's content takes place during this session. Bradley Pearson's opinions on the meaning of Hamlet are not Iris Murdoch's. In fact, Murdoch appears parodying an interpretation of Shakespeare by emphasizing Freudian psychology. Francis Marloe attempts a similar Freudian reading of The Black Prince in his postscript, an effort that appears equally silly. Bradley's commentary about Hamlet's quest for identity and for the language of identity do seem to relevant to The Black Prince, especially since Hamlet, often called the "black prince," is one of the book's namesakes. However the plots of the two books do not closely follow. Hamlet's identity crisis could apply to Bradley Pearson, but it could also apply to Julian and even to Francis Marloe.