Reader's Guide: Nestor 004

[cf. Gabler 20: 11-17; 1922 24:11-17]

Cochrane has forgotten the location of the seminal Pyrrhic victory: Aesculum. For fun: here’s a computer game simulation of the battle:

He manages to remember the general’s words, or at least one variant of them. This causes Stephen to ruminate further on history: the accomplishments of a legendary general reduced to a catchphrase and a cliché.  Perhaps Stephen wonders whether he himself will suffer such a fate. The differences between history and literature might be at stake in these pages.  Homer appealed to Joyce because The Odyssey portrays a rich, multi-faceted protagonist. Joyce’s own version, Leopold Bloom, is meant to be equally “well-rounded”–a contrast with the simplifications of historical figures.

As Stephen contemplates Pyrrhus, the Greek general appears in Rob’s final panel, a brighter and more muscular rendition of Stephen.  Stephen imagines the officers waiting on Pyrrhus’s word in the midst of battle.  “They lend ear,” is Stephen’s description of Pyrrhus’s men, but it simultaneously refers to Stephen and his boys––a contrast that highlights Stephen’s own meager position as part-time teacher for children of the entitled class (some of whom would be officers in the British army by right of birth). The school caters to upper-middle class protestant families, which would have been apparent to Irish readers of Joyce’s day.

“They lend ear” all evokes Shakespeare, primarily key moments in Julius Caesar, but also perhaps Hamlet, and Othello. We’re getting to Shakespeare.