They key thing that happens on this page (so to speak) is Mulligan asking for the key to the tower. We know that Stephen has paid the rent, we know that he’s the real intellectual, we know that Mulligan has been overplaying their friendship to Haines for the sake of squeezing some money out of the Englishman, we know that Mulligan’s real interest in Stephen pales in comparison to his more craven or conniving plans.
By giving up the key, Stephen is relinquishing control of the tower to an untrustworthy friend. As he does so, he knows it’s a turning point in his relationship with Mulligan and in his life. By handing over the key, he is freeing himself from the “third master” who wants him for the “odd jobs.”
And of course, Haines, the Englishman, prudently shows himself to be afraid of swimming on a full stomach. Or maybe the sight of naked Mulligan disheartened him.
Haines has totally lost Stephen, as the Englishman goes into his conspiracy theory about the German Jews taking over Britain.
Stephen, meanwhile, is having that moment familiar to all precocious young artists wherein he realizes he is wasting his gifts among idiots. After his vision of the purge of the heretics, background music by Palestrina, he gives himself a little sarcastic applause. He’s so smart! But surrounded by racists and spongers.
So when he hears about a man who has drowned in the harbor, he easily finds sympathy.
The reference to the drowned man also links back to the Odyssey, and to Odysseus’ supposed fate, lost with the rest of his crew for 10 years since the end of the Trojan war. And given that our modern Odysseus is a Jew, Haines’ comments further paint him as an impatient suitor.
Haines’ glib comment about history triggers a vivid and complex set of associations for Stephen, all turning around questions of what it means to be an artist or an intellectual within the rigid doctrine of the church–or what it takes to get kicked out as a heretic–and what the consequences of those oppositions are in the longer context of history.
The “Symbol of the Apostles” is the twelve stars here, as Rob has them, but is also another way of referring to the Apostle’s Creed. In Giovanni Palestrina’s mass for Pope Marcellus (Missa Papae Marcelli), it sounded like this . Impressive background music. Important in context, however, are the stories around this work. During Palestrina’s lifetime, the Church disputed whether polyphony was appropriate for sacred music. If you have listened to Palestrina’s work (and you should), you can imagine that he was a big fan of polyphony. The Mass for Pope Marcellus was presented to Pope Pius IV in 1564 as an example of how effective polyphony could be in sacred music, and the Pope approved. It’s not hard to imagine that Joyce might have felt some kinship with Palestrina as an artistic trailblazer, one managing many voices at the same time.
But behind Palestrina’s Mass, perhaps ironically, is the great enforcer of church doctrine, the archangel Michael. Stephen imagines him chasing out the heretics like Arius, Valentine, and Sabellius, with whom he also surely identifies. It seems history is to blame for them too.
Beyond the issues brought up by the content and associations of Stephen’s thought, it’s useful to also take a step back and see what’s happening here as a window into Stephen’s nascent creative process. What Stephen is experiencing is a lot like what his author called an “epiphany,” and moments like it will continue to turn up through this book.
Haines has been tentatively probing Stephen, trying to learn something about his religious beliefs, his thoughts about Shakespeare, his thoughts about Mulligan — anything that will help him understand the strange Irish intellectual and perhaps be able to use him in his work. Stephen has no interest in this, however, and the questions just make him feel more and more isolated.
In these panels, Stephen concludes that he cannot stay any longer at the tower, that he cannot be a part of Mulligan’s bankrupt intellectual project, even though he paid the rent on the tower. [n.b. — in real life, Mulligan’s counterpart, Oliver St. John Gogarty, was the one who paid the rent.] He accurately guesses that Mulligan will ask him for the key, and he will become displaced and homeless.
Stephen’s dragging his ashplant, or walking stick, behind him further accentuates his feelings of powerlessness and impotence. He calls it his “familiar,” like a magician’s assistant, calling his name. Everything around Stephen seems to be crying out for him to take action, like his Odyssean counterpart Telemachus. Even Haines reminds Stephen that he has the power to be his own master, but Stephen doesn’t see it yet.
Haines offers Stephen a cigarette, and asks directly about Stephen’s beliefs.
Haines has not spent much time around Stephen, but has heard enough and seen enough to assume that a person with such a strong bohemian affect can’t possibly believe in God, or at least not in the conventional God of the church. After all, Haines knows that Stephen has refused to pray at his dying mother’s bedside–proof that Joyce’s attitude towards religion, and the Catholic church specifically, was complex.
On the one hand, he could not bring himself to believe. On the other, he had a profound respect for the culture and learning of the church; he knew more about it and its doctrines than most believers. He took it very seriously, and he took his refusal to believe very seriously. His respect for the church amplified his defiance of it. Stephen, who is to a large extent Joyce’s alter ego in Ulysses, clearly does not want to identify with Haines’ attitudes towards religion, but cannot pretend to really believe either. We’ll watch Stephen continue to negotiate this paradox for… the rest of the book, really.
Rob has carefully drawn Haines’ cigarette case, which is described as a “smooth silver case in which twinkled a green stone.” It’s a deft symbol for the English Hibernophile… Ireland, of course, is often referred to as the “Emerald Isle,” as a beautiful green stone. Its setting in a silver case also recalls a line from Shakespeare’s Richard II, in which England is referred to as a “precious stone set in a silver sea.” Ireland has been substituted for England, but only as a kind of token.
Having finished his song, Mulligan runs down to the sea, where he and Haines will bathe.
Haines lingers behind with Stephen, trying to figure out how to react to Mulligan’s funny, if blasphemous song. By doing so, he is also probably trying to learn something about an Irish intellectual’s relationship to religion generally and the Catholic church specifically. A Hibernophile Englishman, Haines plays the role of an amateur anthropologist, absorbing everything he can about the peculiar habits of the natives. Mulligan both encourages him and mocks him for this — Stephen keeps it at a distance.
There’s a conspicuous classical reference here–Mulligan’s flapping hands are associated with “Mercury’s hat.” Just a few moments ago, Mulligan referred to himself as “Mercurial Malachi.” When I first noticed this, I thought it was a direct link back to the Odyssey, imagining that Mercury visited Telemachus in Ithaca… but it’s Athena who visits him.
Mercury is the god of travellers, businessmen, messengers and the like. He’s not a bad match for Mulligan, as he is also associated with trickery and deception, particularly around money. Joyce’s schema for the chapter doesn’t say anything about Mercury, but he seems to be here anyway. Joyce’s first readers didn’t really know how closely the parallel to the Odyssey was built, though the title gives a pretty big clue. References like this one would have provided other reminders to the reader to keep Homer in the back of your mind as you read.
So if Mulligan is being associated with Mercury… what of it? What message is he bringing here?
Haines has been trying to get Stephen’s Hamlet theory out of him, but Stephen isn’t interested in telling it, and Mulligan is running interference, trying to get at least a pint out of the deal.
Haines’ wants to prove his intellectual mettle with Stephen. He’s eager to show that he knows something about Hamlet, that he can even quote a line or two. [Elsinore is the castle where the action happens in Shakespeare’s play].
Back in December, when these pages were first posted, we got an email from a reader reminding us that we had left out a line of internal dialog here at this point. Just after Haines says “that beetles o’er his base into the sea,” the next line is “Buck Mulligan turned suddenly for an instant towards Stephen but did not speak.” We don’t really use this, but the reader felt it was a critical moment, because it showed (he felt) Mulligan having a flash of anxiety about Stephen killing himself. I was skeptical — I thought it more likely that Mulligan was having a flash of anxiety about Stephen further ridiculing the meal ticket Haines. But upon looking at the context of the “beetles o’er his base” quotation, I can see the possibility of the reading.
In any event, when Stephen sees himself in “dusty mourning” next to their “gay attires,” he’s clearly thinking of himself as Hamlet. Whether his two companions are Horatio and Marcellus or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern… that’s another question.
By pushing Haines about how much he might be paid for his clever sayings, Stephen has apparently screwed up the deal. Mulligan is annoyed, and asks Stephen why he can’t just play along for the sake of making a little money.
Stephen explains that they have to get money from somewhere, and given the options of getting money from the milkwoman or from Haines, the Englishman seems to be the more likely source.
Mulligan’s response–“From me, Kinch” — is one of those moments in the book that I had not really given much thought to until seeing Rob’s interpretation. And now, it seems to be the turning point in Mulligan’s and Stephen’s relationship. What I now think Mulligan means is that he’s figured out that in Stephen’s mind, he is the real source of any money, and that Stephen has basically torpedoed a perfectly good grift of Haines out of petulance and the underlying belief that Mulligan’s own money will come through. While he doesn’t come out and say it, this does seem to be the moment where Mulligan is officially done with Stephen, and vice versa.
There’s a lot that could be said here about Joyce’s own relationship to money and the means of literary production. Joyce struggled for much of his life to realize any income from his writings, partly because he was always unwilling to compromise his artistic integrity for the sake of getting things printed, partly because he never had great business sense. Over time, however, he became the beneficiary of very generous patrons and friends, and by the end of his life had managed to earn a small fortune through his benefactors and publishers. He also managed to spend pretty much everything he earned…
Haines suggests that he might publish a collection of Stephen’s sayings, but Stephen impertinently suggests he’ll participate if he stands to make any money by it. He thinks to himself how Mulligan’s and Haines’ habit of bathing is an attempt to cleanse themselves of more than just dirt.
In the first panel of this page, there’s a kind of exchange between Haines’ dialogue and Stephen’s internal monologue. Of course, what Stephen is thinking to himself (in the dark boxes) is harder to understand than what Haines is saying out loud. “They wash and tub and scrub” refers back to Mulligan’s teasing about Stephen’s infrequent bathing (check the last page), which Stephen also associates with Lady Macbeth’s scrubbing.
“Agenbite of Inwit” is a little more obscure. It’s a Middle English phrase that means (again according to Professor Gifford) “remorse of conscience.” When you think about it, it makes wonderful sense. Your inner wits bite you. again.
The kick under the table is Mulligan kicking Stephen, so as to get him to perform his Shakespeare theory and close the deal on Haines’ support. Or at least to get Haines to buy a few round of drinks. But Stephen does not want to play–apparently he’s in no mood, and since he’s getting paid today he doesn’t need Haines’ help. So he does a decidedly un-English thing and puts his desire to be paid for his work out in plain view.