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Mulligan keenly notices features of Stephen's obsession when he mockingly calls him "O, shade of Kinch the elder! Japhet in search of father!" Partially, his argument for Shakespeare's autobiographical tendencies is seeded by his own frustration in his search for paternal links.
Out of this, Stephen's rejection of the Irish renaissance is significant because he wishes to judge himself against the backdrop of classical standards. "In our case, Stephen has 'entered into a competition' with Shakespeare by making himself a companion to the model of Shakespeare and placing himself, as much as he can by means of lecturing, next to the model of Shakespeare." So the contention that Shakespeare's plays are autobiographical, by being a particularly unique argument, if successful, would forever attach the name Dedalus to Shakespeare -- thus, his intellectual roots would be fundamentally defined to the external world. Notably, this would remain true regardless of Stephen's recognition that nonfactual and unfounded notions back his case.
Additionally, Stephen's stance regarding Shakespeare can be perceived as a headstrong attempt to re-assert himself into the concrete world. Within the context of the book, it can be seen as an attempt to singularly place himself as the leading consciousness of the tale. This is, perhaps, a consequence of the progression of Stephen through Portrait and into Ulysses; while the former, by virtue of its title, was definitively an illustration of his character, that latter is far more removed from the individual perspective. So Stephen perceives that somehow he will be successful in locating an identity for himself that will, at the least, be recognizable to the external world. Since the consciousnesses of Stephen and Leopold Bloom tend to be intermingled through Ulysses, such an argumentative association would help to classify some thoughts as being specific to Stephen.
Furthermore, Stephen confides verbally that he does not truly believe his theory, but inwardly he states, "I believe, O Lord, help my un belief. That is, help me to believe or help me to unbelieve? Who helps to believe? Egomen. Who to unbelieve? Other chap." This is reflective of Stephen's dilemma concerning faith; inwardly he wants to follow Catholicism, but this comes out of his drive to satisfy his spiritual yearnings. Similarly, he wants to devise some logical path either to his father, or to the English, or to the Irish, or to the Romans; yet his reasoning tells him that such connections are unfounded. "The artist rejects the miseries of home life, symbolized by his mother's complaints and he has given up religion by going to the university. He finds consolation in such sensual things as dripping trees after rain and in the beauty of certain books, yet the ancient words of Aristotle and Aquinas from his aesthetics classes seem dead." Stephen, essentially, views learning as a somewhat enjoyable but pointless pursuit; as a result, it is inevitable that his position on Shakespeare fail under scrutiny, what matters is that he wants to will it to success.
This sort of compulsion for external monuments to inner turmoil is what resides at the heart of an artist. The fact that Stephen, and consequently, Joyce, understand that rational depictions of reality inevitably fall short means that all artwork must somehow be understood through the autobiographical lens of the artist. So, Stephen wants to believe that Shakespeare's plays illustrate how the external world acted upon his internal soul, yet rationality cannot lead him to this conclusion. It demands an irrational leap of faith to know that the beauty of his words is a representation of the beauty he saw in the world. No amount of learning could bring Stephen to this position; the very foundation of his argument is centered upon his conception of himself as an artist: he feels that an inner calling required that he become an artist. He first perceives this in Portrait:
His throat ached with a desire to cry aloud, the cry of a hawk or eagle on high, to cry piercingly of his deliverance to the winds. This was the call of life to his soul not the dull gross voice of the world of duties and despair, not the inhuman voice that had called him to the pale service of the altar. An instant of wild flight had delivered him and the cry of triumph which his lips withheld cleft his brain."
This spiritual revelation comes about through the senses -- he sees a beautiful girl, and realizes that his devotion is to beauty and not to the formal doctrines of Christianity. Similarly, Joyce knows that it would be a beautiful thing if Stephen could vividly display Shakespeare's autobiographical underpinnings -- this beauty would stem from its truth -- however, just as it cannot be logically proven that the girl he saw was beautiful, it cannot be logically proven that autobiography is inherent to art. This theme is also illustrated by the supposed riddle Stephen poses in "Nestor":
The cock crew
The sky was blue:
The bells in heaven
Were striking eleven.
Tis time for this poor soul
To go to heaven"
This is meant to be a ridiculous "riddle" for the very fact that it cannot be a riddle at all. Stephen provides the answer as, "The fox burying his grandmother under a hollybush." Obviously, Stephen's riddle holds absolutely no clues as to what the answer might be; the only way someone could possibly know the answer is if they already knew it. Stephen explains that, because of this, it is a mockery of all riddles. Whereas riddles are specifically designed to leave perceivable clues that might logically supply their solution, this riddle does not. Stephen, upon disclosing this information, laughs with nervous delight; it is comical to Stephen because he believes that he has identified one of the mysteries of human reality. Specifically, the riddle shows that all true riddles are artificially formulated to serve a certain purpose -- this purpose is to illustrate the capacity of logical reasoning. However, Stephen's riddle resides outside the bounds of logical reasoning, just as he understands the truth of beauty to reside. It should be expected, therefore, that anything Stephen considers to be striking very nearly to the truth possess this same inapplicable relationship with rational argumentation. Certainly, his Shakespearean analysis has this attribute; but from his point-of-view, it only strengthens the case regarding its truth.
Joyce uses the imagery with the fox again towards the end of Ulysses. A hallucination that brings his riddle back to the surface: "A stout fox drawn from a covert, brush pointed, having buried his grandmother, runs swift for the open, brighteyed, seeking badger earth, under the leaves." This is the physical and relatable explanation of the events that could have linearly led to the formulation of the riddle; however, it is presented in this reverse fashion. "The foxhunt represents the absolute disjoining of Stephen's two selves." The trouble is that Joyce, through the progression of Stephen from Portrait into, and eventually, out of Ulysses, has gradually brought about the loss of his hero's sovereignty. His shared perspectives and characterizations have resulted in a creature that can no longer be adequately understood as Joyce's conception of himself. Joyce appreciates that true and accurate knowledge of Shakespeare has been lost because his literature is all that remains of his mental state of being. So, his body of work is figuratively a dead body from which modern artists and intellectuals feed. Within the hallucination, Stephen takes the form of such academic scavengers, "Break my spirit, will he? O. merde alors! (He crises, his vulture talons sharpened.) Hola! Hillyho!" Just as Stephen stands poised to sustain himself with the literary remnants of others, he is also poised to become Joyce's remaining literary body. Thus, his individual spirit becomes elementally lost by his association with Joyce, and Joyce can never be known directly. So, as Stephen becomes increasingly a representation of a universal character, his subjective character is lost, as well as his link to Joyce.
It is important, also, to notice what the fox is looking for; he is seeking badger earth. This is a material goal. Accordingly, the goal of the fox is to either return to the earth -- to the physical world -- or to somehow comprehend it. This is the goal of the artist; it is Joyce's goal; and it is Stephen's goal. Joyce has arrived at the conclusion that the best possible representation of himself that can be conveyed is one in which he is a character lost in a world he cannot hope to understand. This is the essence of Joyce's understanding of faith, as he recognizes the fallacy of "dead" logic to capture what is the human existence. Stephen, through the straightforward processes of thought, must turn away from Joyce; but the leap of faith towards beauty, towards truth, and towards art force the reader to…[continue]
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