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If you look up “Joking Jesus” on YouTube today, this is what comes up first.

With all of the talk about Hamlet and Gogarty and Irish history and Dublin, etc. etc., it’s easy to lose track of the power that this blasphemous little verse can have.  As we were saying about Mulligan’s parody of the mass at the beginnng of this episode, the blasphemy here would have been fairly shocking to pious people.

Does the song make sense to you so far?  If you haven’t had a lot of churchin’, it might not.  On the last page, for instance, when Mulligan sings “My mother’s a jew, my father’s a bird,” he’s referring to the story of the Annunciation

The Annunciation by Francesco Albani

The Annunciation by Francesco Albani, collection of The Hermitage

So Jesus’ mother Mary was a Jew. We can start with that. And Jesus’ father… well… our future friend Leopold Bloom will have some theories about that in episode 12 (“Cyclops”), but suffice it to say that Jesus came into human form through the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is often represented as a bird. A dove, I think.  Well, at the risk of killing all the jokes in such a clever way, you can just go here to learn more about the Annunciation.
In this panel — I’ll just assume that you know already that Jesus is described turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana.  “Plain” in this context means plain stout, as in a “pint of plain.” And yeah, it’s gross, but the joke here is that Jesus says “If you don’t think I’m the Messiah, you aren’t getting any of the wine I make–you’ll have to wait until I have to piss & hope it comes out beer.”  Which isn’t going to win you any points with the churchgoers. There’s more to come.

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Mulligan’s friendly condescension in the first part of this chapter has now turned into something a little darker. “You have eaten all we left, I suppose,” a comment directed at Stephen, is basically insulting. Stephen is the last to leave the tower, and he has the key. He’s being treated like the help, like unreliable help, the “server of a servant” again.

For the sake of clarity we left a line out here — after the “You have eaten” line, Mulligan says “And going forth he met Butterly.” It’s yet another instance of Mulligan using scripture for a (rather elliptical) joke. It’s based on a passage in the passion of the Gospel of Matthew where the apostle Peter realizes that he has betrayed Jesus three times over the course of one night, as Jesus had predicted he would. The original passage is: “And going forth he wept bitterly.” Mulligan’s quote puts him, curiously, in the place of Peter, whereas before he was Jesus. There is no other mention of a Butterly in the book, by the way.

Finally, keep an eye on the key. It’s a symbol of ownership, property, and power.

Oh and one more thing — Rob, is it time to say something about the “Latin Quarter Hat”?

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Having just come to the realization that he is never going to be able to cash in on Stephen’s talent, as well as, arguably, that Stephen has caught on to him, Mulligan backs away from his scolding and attempts a half-hearted rapprochement.

Something has snapped between them, however, as the handing-back of the snotrag suggests. Mulligan’s complete insincerity about what he is saying to Stephen is also underlined by his immediate contradiction of it. He agrees that Haines isn’t worth trying to squeeze money or support out of, but still continues courting him.

Mulligan’s line about being stripped of his garments refers to the Stations of the Cross, or the “Way of the Cross,” a devotional practice used by Christians, particularly Catholics. This gives you another example of Mulligan’s wiseassery, but also one that points to his sense that he is the innocent victim of Stephen’s role as Artist.

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