(GJ) Canto XXVIII (p.10, ll. 22-27).

Perhaps, an embittered idealist (Hamlet), he can see in the parents of his beloved only grotesque attempts on the part of nature to produce her image.

Young men ironically have the role of father-protector thrust upon them when ardent wooing results in a daughters’ birth. It might be a noble role. That role can occasionally be tainted with subconscious desires. In his youth, every father-protector was a young suitor inclined to hate his love’s protector. I am secretly delighted that my son-in-law’s roles will shift from suitor to protector.

The tension between father and suitor lurks everywhere in Shakespeare’s plays, ending in Capulet’s pain, Lear’s madness, and Shylock’s rage. Not in Hamlet. Here the suitor, Hamlet, hates father Polonius, though the father has no wish to defend his daughter’s honor. Hamlet hated Polonius, but Hamlet had already won Ophelia, perhaps impregnated her, and ended the courtship either due to disinterest or to spare her implication in the slaughter which was to follow. 

The father-daughter-suitor relationship in Hamlet played on Joyce’s mind as he lectured about the play. Between November 1912 and February 1913, Joyce delivered a series of twelve lectures on Shakespeare and Hamlet to Trieste’s citizens. The talks have since floated into the ether. Only two sets of notes remain. There is a notebook labeled: “Quaderno di calligrifia di Shakespeare”  supplemented by sixty unbound sheets (Quillian “Shakespeare in Trieste: Joyce’s 1912 Hamlet Lecture Series”). 

Did Shakespeare’s life peek through the curtain into his art? In 1898 Sydney Lee published The Life of William Shakespeare, insisting analyses of the plays use only the events on the stage. Within ten years, Frank Harris released a work that analyzed the Bard’s canon focusing primarily on Shakespeare’s life as the center of his art. Quillian notes that Stephen lands decidedly on the side of the artist’s experience as the catalyst in Ulysses’ Scylla and Charybdis argument. Joyce also makes clear the importance of experience in the art he created.

Were it not for misshapen time in Giacomo Joyce, the lectures of the winter of 1912-13 would have occurred after Joyce’s time as a tutor to Amalia Popper. Any enmity he might have felt for her father and protector Leopoldo Popper could have passed. But in Joyce’s faster than light relativity, the game of love and the lectures occur concurrently. At whatever point the tutor-suitor wrote his prose poem, he sharpened a grudge against Leopoldo Popper. Now, Joyce has commingled Popper and Polonius as conspirators. The connection is unfair to Popper, who is a dutiful protector, while Polonius is negligent and callous. Polonius would bargain away Ophelia to advance his career, surrender her to the Prince, and be complicit in the onset of madness. A LeoPolonius Popper might have pleased Joyce, but Popper is not a political factotum. Joyce is not a prince, and Amalia is not a prize.

If there is deception in the Leopoldo-Amalia-James triangle, it is James who is the guilty party. He pretends to be a friend to Popper as Polonius might have done. In later years, when Joyce is Polonius to Lucia’s Amalia, he reflects nature’s “grotesque attempts … to produce her image.” Joyce was predicting his role in the destruction of the innocent and beautiful Lucia.

don ward September 8, 2020

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