Chapter 9, Part 2
Lecture Eleven -- Scylla and Charybdis, II
(from "Joyce's Ulysses" by Professor James A.W. Hefferman of Dartmouth College)
This second lecture on “Scylla and Charybdis” explains Stephen’
theory of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and considers what the theory
tells us about Stephen’s quest for a literary father and about
Stephen’s conception of the creative artist. Stephen hardly
convinces anyone that Hamlet expresses Shakespeare’s own fear
of an adulterous affair between his wife and one of his brothers.
He does not even believe this theory himself. What he does want
and need to believe is that Shakespeare’s art is driven by his sense
of usurpation and banishment, because it is precisely these feelings
that will fuel Stephen’s own art. In the process of finding a literary
father in Shakespeare-as-usurped-husband, Stephen unwittingly
identifies Shakespeare with both Ulysses and Leopold Bloom.
I. Seeking to unmask the playwright who stands behind Hamlet, Stephen
is also seeking a literary father; he thinks he can find that father in
Shakespeare, and that he can find Shakespeare in the ghost of Old King
A. In taking the ghost as the key to the whole play, Stephen turnsaway from the title figure, the tormented son, to focus on thetormented father.
B. Though Shakespeare was obviously alive when he wrote Hamlet,
Stephen claims that he was a “ghost by absence,” because he lived
and worked for twenty years in London, away from his home and
wife in Stratford.
C. Stephen imagines Shakespeare himself playing the ghost in the
first production of the play.1. Although other critics see Shakespeare as the internationalgenius of Platonic ideal and formless spiritual essences,Stephen wants to repatriate him, situate him in a particulartime and place.
2. Playing the ghost and addressing Hamlet, Shakespeare speaksto the son of his soul (the character he created) and the son ofhis body--a boy named Hamnet who died at the age of l l.
3. Stephen takes Hamlet as the dramatized version of whatShakespeare’s little boy might have grown up to be.
4. And because Shakespeare is a “ghost by absence,” Stephenclaims that Shakespeare identifies himself with the murderedfather and identifies his wife-born Ann Hathaway-with theguilty queen of the play.
II. Stephen wildly stretches the facts about Shakespeare’s life and doubts
his own argument but feels “condemned” to pLu”sue it.
A. During the course of the argument, he silently interrogates himself
B. He feels condemned to pursue the argument because he
desperately wants to know what it means to be a father and have a
III. His argument leads him to a Shakespeare who looks very much like
Ulysses on the one hand and Bloom on the other.
A. Bloom, Ulysses, and Shakespeare each leaves his home and wifeand eventually returns.
B. All three Wanderers suspect their wives of infidelity during their
C. Special parallels emerge when We focus on Bloom and
Shakespeare.1. Shakespeare’s son died at ll years of age; Bloom’s Rudy diedat the age of 11 days.
2. Like Bloom, Shakespeare had (according to Stephen) not onlyan adulterous wife but also a dead father and a livingdaughter.
3. Shakespeare addresses Hamlet as the grown up version of hisdead son Hamnet; Bloom links Stephen with the boy that littleRudy might have become.
IV. Bloom himself has already begun to play the ghost of 0ld King
A. Thinking about poetry, he quotes the first words spoken by theghost to Hamlet.
B. In quoting the words of the ghost, Bloom helps us see that he can
be linked to the ghost and through the ghost, to Shakespeare, the
literary father whom Stephen seeks.
V. Stephen seeks the life of Shakespeare in all his works.
A. According to Stephen, Shakespeare’s early poem Venus andAdonis tells in disguised form the story of how Shakespearemarried Ann Hathaway.1. The poem tells how Venus, goddess of love, falls in love withthe handsome Adonis; when he insists on going hunting, he isfatally gored by a boar.
2. Stephen argues that the 26-year-old Ann seduced the 18-year-old Shakespeare and, thus, unmanned him, leaving himsexually gored.B. In spite of Shakespeare’s vigorously active sex life, he could still
be outraged by threats to the fidelity of his wife-just as Ulysses
was~and his plays reflect his suspicion of that fidelity.1. Like Ulysses, Shakespeare dallied with other women duringhis long absence from his wife.2. Like Ulysses, he distrusted his wife.a. He left her only his “second best bed” in his will.
C. Hence, Stephen finds in all of Shakespeare’s work the themes ofb. He used the names of his brothers (Richard and Edmund) for two of his worst villains, which suggests that he (like Old King Hamlet) suspected one or both of his brothers of seducing his wife.
usurpation and banishment.
D. Though Stephen doesn’t believe his own theory, the theory is an
exercise in self-revelation. Stephen goes to Shakespeare to get
permission to create his art from his own sense of banishment and
VI. Shakespeare shows Stephen how to negotiate the relation between
himself as artist and the outside world, how to find a way between the
Charybdis of self-absorption and the Scylla of mere facts.
A. In Shakespeare, Stephen finds an artist who fused the subjectivelife with the objective world.
B. He found his way between subjectivity and hard facts by making his
art q vitally humanized mirror of life.
C. In Hamlet as Stephen construes it, Shakespeare represents the objective faces of his own family life but also projects himself as
the spiritual father of all his race-including, of course, all the
writers who would follow him.
VII. Nevertheless, Stephen makes us wonder just how far paternity can
serve as a metaphor for literary creation.
A. When Stephen says that fatherhood is a “mystical estate,” he callsto mind what Telemachus says to Athene in The Odyssey: “nobodyreally knows his own father.”
B. Back in chapter 2, the sight of Cyril Sergent prompted Stephen to
recall his own dependence on the mother who nurtured and
C. Hearing Stephen claim that Shakespeare fathered all of his race,
Mulligan pretends to be having a child, which turns out to be a
play called “Everyman his own Wife”-a play that exposes the
absurdity of purely male begetting.
D. Hence, Stephen’s theory of literary creation cannot be complete
until it makes room for the role of women.
Vlll. Finally, Stephen sees himself as the son of Dedalus.
A. Though in many ways he finds a literary father in Shakespeare, heremembers that his mythical father is Dedalus, who made wingsfor himself and his son Icarus so that they could fly and escape thelabyrinth of Crete.
B. Icarus drowned when the sun melted the wax from his wings;
Stephen likens himself to Icarus as a “lapwing” who drowned in
futility and drink after flying off to Paris to make his name as a
C. Nevertheless, Stephen’s memories of flying in his dream link him
also to the Celtic god Aengus of the birds, and his memory of a
man with a melon in his dream suggests Bloom as the possible
answer to Stephen’s quest for a literary father-especially because
the Shakespeare described by Stephen resembles Bloom in many
See the readings for Lecture Ten
Questions to Consider:
1. Why does Stephen deliberately twist the known facts of Shakespeare’s
2. Why is Stephen so eager to repatriate Shakespeare, to imagine him
acting in his own play, on his native ground, in a particular time and
place and setting?