“HCE & JARL VAN HOOTHER ON THE PISS WITH
THE PORTER: A WAKE-MACBETH INTERTEXT
Adaline Glasheen emphasized the importance of Shakespeare's works for an
understanding of the Wake in terms of biography and influence. She believes
Joyce was influenced by Shakespeare to such an extent that he wrote Finnegans
Wake about his dramatic predecessor. "Finnegans Wake," she contends, "is about
Shakespeare." and "Shakespeare is the matrix of Finnegans Wake." Vincent
Cheng agrees with Glasheen's assertions, and he uses her definition of matrix as
a "womb or mold in which something is shaped or cast" to define the Wake's use
of individual plays and thereby enlarge the shakespearean context for reading
Finnegans Wake: "By Glasheen's own definition of matrix," Cheng argues, "the
scaffolding of FW is in fact a multiplex." Cheng's study describes this
multiplex as composed of three major matrices, Hamlet, Macbeth and Julius Caesar
Hamlet is "foremost" among these matrices because it provides the basic pattern
for the organization of HCE and his family. HCE is old King Hamlet, Shem is the
prince, Issy functions as Ophelia, and Shaun is a combination of Laertes and
Polonius. Macbeth and Julius Caesar function as the other two matrices because
they are the "most alluded to" in the Wake.
Cheng and Glasheen produce a context for reading the Wake. Both attempt to
demonstrate that Joyce's admiration for, and knowledge of, Shakespeare's works
account for the frequent allusions to them in the Wake. Cheng, in particular, is
concerned with establishing both Shakespeare and his works as powerful presences
in the Wake, and Shakespeare and Joyce attempts to prove "beyond doubt the
centrality and omnipresence of Shakespeare, of the Shakespearean canon, and of
the dramatic metaphor in FW." Cheng's study provides a useful catalogue of the
ways in which the Wake incorporates fragments from the Shakespeare text. It
classifies them as quotations and allusions which fit into four categories:
"variants on the name of Shakespeare"; "variants on the titles of Shakespearean
plays"; "other quotations, parodies and allusions"; and "indirect, lesser-known,
and less obvious echoes and quotations from the plays."
Cheng's study points to some of the problems of attempting to contextualize the
Joyce-Shakespeare relationship. In part, these problems stem from the Wake's
destabilization of identity. The proper name 'Shakespeare,' for example, occurs
in the Wake only in such deformations as "Shakefork" (274.L4), "Shaggspick"
(177.32), "Shakespill" (161.31), and "Shakhisbeard" (177.32). Cheng deals with
such destabilization from a contextual point of view and describes the forms
that result from deformation as "obscure" allusions which attest to Joyce's
"elusive" methods: "Shakespearean allusions in the Wake," he states, "are not
bright apples hanging from low boughs, ripe for easy plucking." "Joyce's methods
are often obscure and elusive." Because the Wake often "(con)fuses" different
signifiers together in order to produce what Cheng terms a "multiplex allusion,"
or a "conflation of many allusions," contextualization of the Wake's re-marking
of fragments from Shakespeare's works can be accomplished only by suspending
those parts of the "multiplex allusions" which do not signify the Shakespeare
text. The proper name, 'Shakespeare,' for example, is inscribed in the Wake
through a disseminative play of différance. The proper name is solicited, in the
deconstructive sense of "shaken" (from the L. "sollus whole, entire + citus,
ciere to put in motion" [OED} cf. sollicito, "to disturb, stir, agitate, move .
. . to stir, put in lively motion, move violently," [Lewis and Short]) and then
disseminatively scattered or spilt throughout the text. "Shakespill" thus
operates not only as a trigger to set the Shakespeare-Joyce intertext in motion,
but also as a signifier of the techniques by which the proper name is erased on
order that the practice of writing signified by the sign "Joyce" can take place.
Contextualizing "Shakespill" by treating it as an allusion to Shakespeare, or a
variation on that name, entails setting aside its signification of the very
writing practice by which the originary proper name experiences the "fall" and
"expulsion into the exteriority of the sensible here below" in favour of
attempting a historical reconstruction that might invest "Shakespeare" with
something of its historical signification.
This study of the Shakespeare-Joyce intertext tries to avoid contextualizing in
favour of observing the hymeneal fusion of fragments from the Shakespeare text
as they are set to work within the "Joyce" writing practice of Finnegans Wake.
In order to move away from the contextualizing practices of Glasheen and Cheng
it adopts the approach to intertextuality defined by Julia Kristeva. Today,
intertextuality is frequently and mistakenly used in association with authorial
borrowings and textual references and allusions, but as Leon S Roudiez explains,
intertextuality "has nothing to do with matters of influence by one writer upon
another"; nor "with the sources of a literary work." In La Révolution du langage
poétique, Kristeva defines intertextuality as "the transposition of one or more
systems of signs into another, accompanied by a new articulation of the
enunciative and denotative position." This reading of Joyce is primarily
restricted to tracing the dissemination, the 'shaking' and 'spilling,' of one
fragment from the Shakespeare text -- Macbeth, Act II, scene iii, II, 1-75, or
the drunken porter scene -- and detailing some of the deconstructive techniques
by which this passage is disseminated in the Wake and used to guide the reader
into his or her reading of it. Cheng states that "the reader doesn't learn about
Shakespeare in Joyce's allusions to Shakespeare; he learns about Joyce." In a
deconstructive analysis, the reader doesn't learn about Joyce, the man who
wrote; she or he learns about Joyce as a practice of writing that undermines
The "nightlessons" section, or II.2, is as much a lesson in the Wake's night
language for the reader as it is a representation of a classbook and a mimetic
staging of lessons for the children Kev, Dolph, and Issy. With its marginal
inscriptions demonstrating the Wake's exploitation of borders and marginal play,
its directions for apprehending the passage through which ALP's "languo"
"flows," and its staging of the "bridge" that the reader can "Cross" in order to
"pearse" the "castle" of the text (262.3-8), the chapter offers directions for
the reader to follow in order to cross the threshold of the Wake's "Inn"
(262.25) and to participate in the simultaneous mourning and celebration of
HCE's simultaneous presence and absence. HCE is dead; long live HCE. "Pose the
pen, man, way me does" (303.2-3), the chapter directs, and this direction that
Dolph gives to Kev is also a staged (and stage) direction to the reader who
wishes to read the text as a practice of writing, or to understand ALP's letter
as what McHugh terms "ultimately all writings, particularly FW itself."
The nine chapters that precede the lessons chapter are in part a preparation for
that chapter. They have disseminated tea, pee (urine), porter, whisky, semen,
ink, and water, as lexemes supporting the liquidity of ALP's language, and
fragments of the drunken porter scene from Macbeth have been (con)fused with the
narrative of HCE and ALP. One effect of this disseminative (con)fusion is the
over-determination of the signifier "porter" to the point where its occurrence
in the tenth chapter triggers off the Shakespeare intertext, the signified of
ALP's language, HCE's function as a porter, the porter that is dispensed in the
"Mullingcan Inn" (64.9), and the Porter family. The question "And howelse do we
hook our hike to that pint of porter place?" (260. 5-6), thus becomes a question
of how the reader can make his, or her, way ("hook" carries amongst its semantic
values "to bend" and to "move with a sudden twist or jerk" [OED]) into the text
where ALP's language flows, the Porter family resides, porter is dispensed, and
HCE works as a porter. Appropriately, the tenth chapter stages an invitation to
"Approach to lead our passage" (262.2), and this "passage" leads to the "castle"
and a "knock" that restages the positions of Lennox and Macduff as they stand
before Macbeth's castle, seeking their king. Like these loyal servants, the
reader who enters into the Wake's castle finds there has been a lot of drinking
("porter," in all senses, has been consumed), a case of impotence that led to a
"Phall" (4.15), a death, and a strong expression of female desire.
Cheng's study notes the first "allusion" to the drunken porter scene occurring
in the "request for a fully armed explanation" (51.23-4) of Earwicker's fall
from the "porty" (51.23). The intertextual play with the scene may be triggered
off much earlier, however, in the episode of Jarl van Hoother and the
prankquean. In this episode HCE in the role of Jarl functions as both the
inhabitant of the "homerigh, castle , and earthenhouse" and the porter-like
doorkeeper who responds to the prankquean's questions by closing the "dour" in
her face with a resounding "Shut!" (21.19). The drunken porter intertext is
triggered off in this episode by the repetition of "porter" in "porter-pease"
(21. 18-19), by the operation of a certain mathematical pattern and, at the
thematic level, by a restaging of signifiers of intoxication, impotence, and
In Macbeth the porter who responds to the knocking on the gate structures the
speech he makes while responding to the knocking by counting the knocks. His
counting punctuates his speech and divides it into five sections: an initial
response to the knocking in which the porter imagines himself as the "porter of
hell-gate," and four questions on the identity of the person, or persons,
knocking. More importantly, the porter's counting of knocks establishes a
pattern of four groups divided into three, two, three, and two: "Knock, knock,
knock . . . Knock, knock . . . Knock, knock, knock . . . Knock, knock." The
prankquean episode stages a precise repetition of this pattern, but, in a
deconstructive dislodging, overturns the signifiers that function within its
parameters. The prankquean responds to Jarl's refusal of her advances by
kidnapping the "jiminy Tristopher" (21.21) and returning to "Woeman's Land"
(22.8) where she sustains the power of her desire, both sexual and political, by
"raining" (22.18) and 'reigning' on the land. The signifiers of her desire are
grouped in precisely the same mathematical configuration as the porter's knocks.
The prankquean first "rain, rain, rain," (21.22), or 'ran' from the castle; then
she starts "to rain and to rain" (21.31); next, she "rain, rain, rain" (22.9);
and, finally, she starts "raining, raining" (22.18) once more. Both the porter's
"knock" and the prankquean's "rain" are signifiers of desire. In Macbeth, the
knock signify the desire to Lennox and Macduff to attend to the king's needs and
serve him as loyal subjects; in the Wake, the prankquean's rains signify her
desire to be served by Jarl. When Jarl fails to answer the prankquean's riddle,
she expresses her power by kidnapping and running ("raining") back to the land
where she sustains her 'reign' until Jarl meets her demands.
The prankquean episode is structured on a tripartite pattern that reflects the
"three- times-is-a-charm" motif that "runs like a musical theme -- with
variations throughout the book." This three-part structure is "associated with
the structural system of cycles" that provide an important foundation for the
Wake's narrative organization:
the Viconian rhythm of three ages and ricorso, the units of three tones and an
interval, three attacks and a pause, three surges and a change, and the
fairytale pattern of three tries and a magic 'opening.'
In restaging this three-part pattern, the prankquean episode repeats another
pattern that operates in the drunken porter scene. This first part of the second
act's third scene divides the revelation of the king's death to Macduff into
three sections: the porter's speech and his opening of the gate, Macduff's
request for the king; and the peripeteian moment of Macduff's three-fold cry, "O
horror! horror! horror!". This first part of the scene also stages three
entrances that punctuate the action prior to Macduff's realization of the king's
death: the entrances of the porter, Macduff and Lennox, and Macbeth. Macduff's
conversation with the porter, moreover, consists of three questions: an inquiry
into why the porter sleeps so late; the request for information on the effects
of drinking; and the questions "Is thy master stirring?" The porter's narrative
sustains the three-part pattern as it names the "three things" of which drink
"is a great provoker": "nose painting, sleep, and urine."
At the thematic level, the prankquean episode sustains the relationships between
desire, drinking, impotence, and urination, which Macbeth's porter develops as
he tells Macduff that drinking provokes "sleep and urine" and "provokes the
desire but takes away the performance." Like the interior of Macbeth's
castle, Jarl's "homerigh, castle and earthenhouse" is cold, and this coldness is
linked to Jarl's infertile sexual desire. The first two times that the
prankquean visits Jarl, he is masturbating, and the first staging of his actions
link the masturbation with a cold lack of desire for a more productive sexual
activity. He is "laying cold hands on himself" (21.11; emphasis added). The
second time that the prankquean visits, things have warmed up a little, but Jarl
still prefers "shaking warm hands with himself" (21.36) to satisfying the
prankquean's desire, and this time, Jarl's lack of desire for the Pee Queen is
linked to a drunken impotence, for Jarl has his "heels drowned in his
cellarmalt" (21.35). The link between desire and urination is, as Solomon notes,
sustained by the prankquean's urination that brings Jarl "water in addition to
While the prankquean episode restages patterns of organization and thematic
concerns that are both operative in the drunken porter scene, it undermines the
scene as a context for reading the prankquean episode by a play of différance in
which signification is simultaneously differentiating and deferring. Like the
drunken porter scene, the prankquean episode stages a narrative that revolves
around the issue of crossing a border or threshold. In both cases characters
stand before the doorway to a castle and express their desires. In both the
drunken porter scene and the prankquean episode, the interior of the castle is
cold, the inhabitants are drunk, and desire is a fruitless force. In the drunken
porter scene, however, it is a female desire, that of Lady Macbeth, which
dominates the interior of the castle, and a male desire, that of Lennox and
Macduff, which seeks to penetrate into the castle. In the prankquean episode,
this organization is deconstructed, and a female desire expresses itself outside
of the castle while a comparatively ineffectual male desire operates within. In
Macbeth female desire is a malevolent force responsible for death, destruction,
and instability within the realm; in the prankquean episode, female desire is
threatening, but when the prankquean succeeds in luring Jarl "out through the
pikopened arkway of his three shuttoned castles" (22. 33-4), the ensuing
copulation results in the creative production of "the first peace of
illiterative porthery" (23.9-10). When Macbeth obeys the demands of female
desire, the result is tragedy and its attendant destruction of political
stability; when Jarl is obedient to the prankquean's demands, his "hearsomeness"
(G. gehorsam, obedient) results in a happy populace as it "felicitates the whole
of the polis" (23. 14-15). In listening to the voice of (the prankquean's)
female desire and joining with her to produce the first 'piece' of 'pottery' and
'poetry,' Jarl participates in establishing artistic pursuits as a peaceful
alternative to war, and these pursuits function in the fecundating of a
harmonious social body.
The sign "porter" provides a fruitful example of how the Wake establishes an
intertextual play between its narrative of HCE and the drunken porter scene from
Macbeth. As a signifier operating within the Wake's textual economy, it
signifies the proper name of those "very nice people," "The Porters," "who care
for nothing except everything that is allporterous" (560. 22-3 and 31). At the
same time, it also signifies HCE's role as a gatekeeper, or porter (a role he
sustains in his guise as jarl); the "Reid's family" (and 'reads' family) "stout"
(52. 4-6) that is served at (the Wake as) the "Mullingcan Inn" (64.9); the
single "porty" (51.24) and plural "poorters" (69.26) who guard the Inn and the
"stonehinged gate" (69.15); and ALP's pee, or urine, which is, in turn, a
signifier of both female desire and the ink used in writing. Even from a
contextualizing perspective, porter "is a loaded word in the book, referring
always to doorkeeping as well as to ale and to other things."
While "porter" operates within the Wake's staging of the Porter family and its
narration of writing in general, it also functions as a marginal term that
operates on the border between the Shakespeare text and the Joyce text,
(con)fusing these texts to such an extent that a rigid demarcation between them
becomes impossible to sustain. From a contextual perspective, Macbeth is a
written work that operates outside of the Wake's margins. It is a distinctively
separate work composed by a different author. Within the Wake's margins,
however, "porter" operates as a written "trace" that retains its status as a
signifier operative within the borders of the Shakespeare text. In the episode
where the "free boardschool shirkers" (51.11) ask for the "fishabed ghoatstory"
(51.13) of HCE, for example, HCE operates as a signifier of the story itself --
the "haardly creditable edventyres of the Haberdasher" (51.14; emphasis added)
-- and the porter, or "porty" (51.24), who is requested to provide "a fully
armed explanation" (51.23-4). This episode restages the identification of
Macbeth's porter as a "devil-porter" or "hell-gate" by identifying "portey" as
"paused . . . amid the devil's one duldrum" (51. 32-4), or in the devil's
"dumps" or "low spirits" (OED).
Like those of the drunken porter, HCE's low spirits are the result of excessive
drinking. When HCE is caught with a "most decisive bottle of single" by the
"town guard at Haveyou-caught-emerod's temperance gateway" (63. 16-18), he
explains with a stutter that "he had had had o'gloriously a'lot too much . . .
to drink" (63. 20- 22). HCE also functions as the porter, or "boots" (63.34) and
is awoken by a "mortially hammering . . . against the bludgey gate" (63.
33-4). "Beelzebub," the signifier inscribed within the drunken porter's
demand for the identity of the knocker on the gate, is re-inscribed, in an
example of textual différance, when HCE, as the porter, "boots" (63.34), decides
that the "battering babel allower the door" is "not in the very remotest like
the belzey babble of a bottle of boose" (64. 9-11; emphasis added). Functioning
as a textual "trace," the signs "porter," "the devil's one duldrum," the
"hammering . . . against the bludgey gate," "belzey babbler," and "too much . .
. to drink," operate in the "ghoatstory" of HCE's "edventyres" as signifiers of
HCE's condition and actions. Simultaneously, they trigger a signifying play with
the porter from Macbeth, and he haunts HCE's "ghoatstory" like a phantom or
disseminative "trace". These signs do not signify the drunken porter scene as a
signified outside of their textual borders: they bring it within the margins of
HCE's narrative so that the "meaning of the outside [is brought, as 'this,'
within the margins of the inside, and bracketed, as 'it' is here, between the
margins of these double commas and brackets, and set to work as meaning 'that']
was always present within the inside, imprisoned outside the outside, and vice
versa." From a deconstructive perspective, then, the drunken porter scene
from Macbeth is not alluded to, or echoed, by the Wake, but brought within the
margins of the Wake where its signifiers are set to work within the narrative of
HCE, the "outside" becoming "the inside."
As it is set to work within the narrative of HCE's "hammering . . . against the
bludgey gate," the effects of "Beelzebub," as a proper name, are suspended. In
Macbeth, the name occurs in the porter's request for identity: "Who's there,
i'the name of Beelzebub?" Its status as a signifier of the Devil is supported by
the porter's references to "hell-gate," "the other devil's name," and his
identification of his role as a "devil-porter." In the Wake, however, the power
of this sign to function as a proper name is interrupted by the effects of a
disseminative spacing and decapitalizing that operate in the re-inscription of
"Beelzebub" as "belzey babble," and make the singular proper name a plural
signifier that is grafted into the Wake's staging of an unconscious language. As
a signifier of the proper name of the Devil, a signifier capable of being
studied under the heading of the subject, "Beelzebub" becomes absent and
absorbed into the Wake's narration of the "unconsciounce" (623. 25). Its
re-inscription thus exemplifies the effects of spacing as writing that Derrida
describes as "the becoming-absent and the becoming-unconscious of the
Both "porter" and "blezey babble" operate as textual "grafts" and "hinges". As
grafts they can show us how the Wake is disseminatively written: "to write means
to graft. It's the same word." The signs are grafted on to the Wake's
signifiers, but they are also "scions", slips which, through the cutting
operation of the pen, have been removed from the Shakespeare text of the drunken
porter scene and grafted into the Wake's narrative of HCE, where they trigger
off the Shakespeare-Joyce intertext as they continue to "radiate back toward the
site of" their removal, which is the Shakespeare text of the drunken porter
scene. As "hinges" (Fr. "brisures"), they trigger the "différance" and
"articulation" at work within the intertextual re-inscription of signifiers from
the Shakespeare text that are set to work within the Wake as it triggers off the
play of the Wake--Macbeth intertext. "Porter," as a "hinge," marks the
Shakespeare text as network of signifieds that is absent in the Wake even though
signifiers, in the form of textual fragments from the drunken porter scene,
already at work in the Shakespeare text, are re-inscribed with ALP's staging of
HCE. As a porter, HCE signifies a textual process. The triad serves a textual
(con)fusion, fusing various signifies together and remarking the "impossibility
that a sign [in this case, "porter"], the unity of a signifier and a signified,
be produced within the plenitude of a present and an absolute presence."
HCE serves the process of writing as a play of différance, and, consequently,
operates as a "process server" (63.32) in sense different from that which an
interpretation of HCE as a novelistic character would produce. HCE is the
gateway, the "Have you-caught-emerod's temperance gateway" (63. 18-19; emphasis
added) at which HCE is "seized . . . by the town guard" (63.18). HCE also is the
force that is "mortially hammering . . . against the bludgey gate" (63.33-4),
and the porter, or the "boots about the swan" (63.35) who is woken from a dream
of "wealthes in mormon halls" (64. 4-5) by the "battering babel allower the door
and sideposts" (64. 9-10). As HCE also attempts to "open . . . a bottlop stoub,"
or 'bottle of stout' ("a strong variety of porter" [OED]), by "hammering his own
magnum bonum" (63. 32-3) against the gate, it is possible that HCE also
signifies the bottle of stout, or porter, as well as the "gateway," or
"sideposts" upon which the bottle is hammered. As the Wake states, "our mutual
friends the fender" (a "large piece of timber placed as a guard" [OED]) "and the
bottle at the gate seem to be implicitly in the same bateau." (65. 35- 6).
In our "nightlessons" the over-determined signifier "porter" retains the trace
of its operation as a signifier within the drunken porter scene, and, at the
same time, sustains its pluri-dimensional signification of HCE, Jarl van
Hoother, the Porter family, and the metonymic chain of lexemes that support the
liquidity of ALP's language. This "loaded word" functions as a trigger which
sets off both the Shakespeare-Joyce intertext, and the machinery of at least
four different narrative strands: that of the initial "phall" when HCE as "Phill
filt tippling full" and "stottered from the ladder" only to have a "barrowload
of guenesis" stout (porter) hung "hoer his head" (6. 8-10 and 27) as he is
stretched out for his wake; that of Jarl, who acts as a porter and a door in the
prankquean episode; the strand of "porty" "executing . . . empties which had not
very long before contained Reid's family . . . stout" (52. 1-6); and HCE as the
"gateway," the knocker on the gate, and the porter, or "boots" who is awoken by
the "battering babel" (63.19 and 34, 64. 9-10). Because porter also signifies
urine -- the prankquean's "porter pease" -- it is inextricably involved with the
Wake's staging of writing and copulation, the two activities that Freud
associated in his investigation of the unconscious:
As soon as writing which entails making a liquid flow out of a tube on to a
piece of paper, assumes the significance of copulation . . . it is stopped
because [it] represent[s] the performance of a forbidden sexual act.
In the prankquean episode, "the woman's 'piss-word' . . . opens the gate and
provokes the man to thunderous creativity: the slamming of the secret door
behind which procreation begins." This "piss-word" is found in the riddle that
links the "Peequeen" (508.26) with the porter or "firewater" that "is the cause
of man's fall" and a "symbol of the renewing firewater -- whiskey for Tim
Finnegan." Urine is, of course, also the liquid that Shem uses to create the
"indelible ink" (185.26) with which the "continuous present integument" (186.1)
of the Wake is written.
The question "howelse do we hook our hike to that pint of porter place?" (260.
5-6) triggers off all of the signifieds of porter and stages a basic question
about our entry into the place where porter is dispensed (as ink, as urine, and
as stout), the Porter family resides, and HCE serves as a porter. This place is
Joyce's writing itself. To "hook our hike" to that place, the "nightlessons"
chapter states, "we" (and this "we" function as a doubled "I" that, a bit like
'you,' attends (undergoes) its own incessant violent re-inscription within the
arithmetical machinery") need to apply the lesson that it has taught on how
to "caps ever" (260.4). "We" also need the power to "hike" to the "pint of
porter place". In short, "we" need the "will" (260. 4) to write, the "will" of
"Shikespower" (47. 19; emphasis added) so that "we" can apply the pen, as an
implement for cutting and grafting, and "sever" the "s" in a remarking of
"hikespower" as a signifier already at work within the already defaced names of
Shakespeare. "We" need to obey the textual command of how to use our pens in
order to participate in perpetuating the act of reading Joyce's writing.
In its command for its reader (the "I" that "undergoes its own . . . violent
reinscription") to "Cross" (262.4), or "pass" (OED) into the linguistic aporia
of its ('not,' 'night,' and 'knot') "nat langwedge" the Wake places us in a
position very much like that occupied by Lennox and Macduff as they stand before
Macbeth's castle in search of their king, Duncan. It offers the "upper"
"bridge" (262.3) of A's writing ("an upsidown bridge" [119.28]) and instructs us
to "Cross" this "bridge," (as "you" and "I" are crossing ["passing,"
"traversing" (OED)] it now, here, on this page, where "you" read this placing of
a cross (and traverse across) in these letters that "lay acrosee" [OED] this
line in order to "[t]hus come to castle" (262.5]). Let "us" "knock" (262.6)
then, "you" and "I," like Macduff and Lennox, but "we" are already being
interrupted by a figure 1 that hands over "our" knock." (262.5), and, beneath
us, from the other side of the marginal line separating "our passage" (262.2)
through this central column, "we" read "Yussive smirte and ye mermon answerth
from his beelyingplace below the tightmark, Gotahelv!" (262.F1). This double
writing (con)fuses "you" and "I" ("Go on reading, but watch our for this, which
should have already started to make your head spin: that each separate fragment
is only readable within the well-calculated play of an extremely numerous
recurrence and in an innumerable polysemy"). It erases the proper name of
Joseph Smith, the man who claimed to have seen God and Christ; it accuses "us"
of being 'so smart'; it fuses the proper name under erasure with that of the
Mormon religion that the historical figure signified by the (already absent)
proper name founded; it takes us back to Maurice Behan's dream "that he'd
wealthes in mormon halls" (643.4) and, from that dream, to outside the wake and
the (now erased) song title "I Dreamt That I Dwelt in Marble Halls"; it fuses a
simulacrum of a proper name with a signifier of a mythical, male 'merman' and
(con)fuses a plural subject ("Yussive smirte and ye mermon") with the singular
pronoun "his"; it takes us below the "tightmark", intoxicating "us," makes us
"tipsy" (OED) with a writing that is "tight," "difficult to deal with" (OED),
"closely packed . . . terse, concise, condensed" (OED); and it curses "us" with
'Go to Hell' and sets this curse to work in a play of différance with the
blessing 'God Save' (G. Gott Heil).
For the purpose of rereading the drunken porter scene and its intertextual
relationship with "our passage" into the wake, this footnote is important
because it triggers an intertextual signifying play with Macbeth's drunken
porter scene. The "beelyingplace' place is both a textual and intertextual place
where the simulcrum of the proper name, 'Beelzebub,' is involved in a further
erasure from "belzey babble" (64.11) to "beelying" (emphasis added). Where
"belzey babble" retains, albeit in an altered form, the consonant and vowel
pattern 'be,' 'el' (condensed into 'bel'), 'ze,' and 'bub' (altered to 'bab') of
Beelzebub's four syllables, the "beelying" of "beelyingplace" drops both the
'ze' and 'bub' syllables and produces a lexeme that is both trisyllabic ('bee,'
'ly,' 'ing') and quadrisyllabic ('be,' 'el,' 'ly,' 'ing'). Yet at the same time
that "beelying" further erases the trace of 'Beelzebub,' it strengthens the
intertextual signification of the drunken porter scene by setting the scion, or
slip, from Beelzebib ("beel") to work in a signification of the textual as a
scene, or "place," of dissimulation and fiction, a "lying" "place." The drunken
porter scene is an equivocal scene of 'lying' because the porter lies late in
bed after drink gave him "the lie" and Macbeth prevaricates, offering the
equivocal "Not yet" with which he answers Macduff's question, "Is the King
stirring, worthy thane?" Macbeth knows, of course, that Duncan is lying dead and
Macduff and Lennox enter Macbeth's castle expecting to find Duncan. From the
perspective of the old theatrical organization, they are searching for the
identifiable, true, paternal, divinely-inspired and ruling figure whose
existence guarantees the health and well-being of Scotland and its citizens. In
Macbeth, the happiness of the country is dependent on the existence of a king
who can be identified as the "Lord's anointed temple." Macduff's lament
emphasizes the relationship between the existence of a true king and the
well-being of the country:
O nation miserable,
With an untitled tyrant bloody-scepter'd
When shalt thou see they wholesome days again.
The identity of Duncan provides a stable focal point for the rituals and laws of
Scotland, and, as a loyal servant whose social position is defined in
relationship to Duncan, Macduff is happy to perform his "limited service" as one
of Duncan's subjects. The death of Duncan destroys the socially harmonious
identity of the country and turns the loyal servant Macduff into a blood-thirsty
seeker of revenge for Duncan's death. According to the paradigm of values listed
in Macbeth as "the King-becoming graces," Macduff is justified in seeking to
destroy the evil consequences of Macbeth's "vaulting ambition," the ambition
that sustains (and is sustained by) his wife's desire. The Wake, however,
sets the Macduff/Macbeth struggle to work in the signification of a game, and,
"below the tightmark" of the marginal border, overturns the preferring of
Macduff that Shakespeare's play sustains in its staging of Macbeth's unjustified
usurpation of power and Macduff's subsequent avenging of Duncan's death: "I
loved to see the Macbeths Jerseys knacking the spots of the Plumpduffs Pants"
(302.F1). In Macbeth, the hierarchical relationship preferring of God, male,
truth, justice and loyalty, etc., but the Wake sustains the proper name of the
"Macbeths," alters 'Macduff' to "Plumpduffs" (an alterity that erases the proper
name), and prefers the "Macbeths" over the "Plumpduffs." This inverting re-
inscription of the Macduff/Macbeth hierarchy is also sustained in the
signification of clothing that sets the "Macbeths" to work as the higher
garment, or "Jersey," and "Plumpduffs" as the lower garment, or "Pants."
To return to "our passage" through the writing that stages our entrance into the
"castle" of the text in the Wake's central column: "we" enter the text looking
for the identity of the paternal HCE, but, like Macduff and Lennox, when we
"pearse" (262.8), or 'pierce,' the "publocation" (71. 16), we find that HCE,
like Duncan, is already dead from his "phall." He lies 'dumb' on his 'bed' and
all "we" can do is recite, and re-read (and re-write) the exclamation of
astonishment "well, all be dumbed!" (262.9). When we are in this "Inn inn!"
(262.26), we are in a passage of language that is the expression of ALP's female
desire, and the "password" (262.7) that we needed to enter is also the
"piss-word," or urine of the "Pee Queen." It is urine that stimulates Jarl to
come out of his castle and perform the defecation that "always stands for
creation" in the Wake, and it is urine that enables Shem to produce the ink with
which he writes the letter that sustains ALP's desire in expressing it. From the
angle opened up by the Wake's continual play on the relationship between water,
firewater, ink, and pissing as passing through ALP's "languo of flows," the
answer to the question "Where are we?" (260.1) is simply 'urine,' or 'you're in'
("fancy you're in her yet" [171.28]), "livesliving being the one substrance of a
streamsbecoming" (597. 7-8).
1. Adaline Glasheen, Thrid Census of Finnegans Wake: An Index of Characters and
their Roles (Berkely: U. of California Press, 1977), pp. xxii and 260.
2. Vincent Cheng, Shakespeare and Joyce: A Study of Finnegans Wake (University
Park, Penn. and London: The Pennsylvania State U. P., 1984), pp. 6-7.
Shakespeare and Joyce, pp. 1-2 and 8-9.
3. In her translation of Derrida's La Dissémination, Barbara Johnson uses the
term "(con)fusion in order to remark, with the double marks of the
parentheses, the operations of the copula "is". Derrida explains that the "is"
which joins reading to writing in the statement "reading is writing" also
pulls the two signifiers "reading" and "writing" apart. Where confusion can
signify a lack of clear understanding or of clarity, "(con)fusion" signifies
both the linking of signifiers that are "fused" with ("con") each other and
the separate identities of each of the signifiers that are so linked. See
Dissemination, trans. B Johnson (Chicago: Chicago U.P., 1981), pp. 63-4.
4. Leon S. Roudiez, Tanslator's "Introduction" to Julia Kristeva's Desire in
Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art (New York: Columbia U.P.),
5. William Shakespeare, "Macbeth," in W. J. Craig, ed., Shakespeare: Complete
Works (Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1980). All references are to this edition.
Shakespeare and Joyce, p.12.
6. Roland McHugh, The Sigla of Finnegans Wake (London: Arnold Hill, 1976), p.113.
7. Many studies have contributed to defining the 'watery' or liquid association
of ALP's "languo of flows." Amongst them are Clive Hart's Structure and Motif
in Finnegans Wake (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern U. P., 1963), which identifies
whisky withthe Holy Ghost; Eternal Geomater, which provides perhaps the most
extensive analysis of the relationships between porter, pee, ink, semen,
whisky, tea, and water; and Bernard Benstock's Joyce-Again's Wake, which links
tea with ALP's final "the" and delineates the 'T'-'P' (and "tea"-"pee")
8. Macbeth, II. iii. 3-18.
9. Eternal Geomater, p.4. Solomon also provides a detailed analysis of the
three-fold pattern of the Jarl-prankquean episode on pp. 6-8.
10. Macbeth, II. iii. 1-70, passim.
11. Macbeth, II. iii. 31-33.
12. Eternal Geomater, p.9. Solomon notes that the pee-queen's visits result in a
gradual rise in temperature. She points out that Jarl "is the door ('dour') as
well as the porter, the doorkeeper" (p.9), and that in wetting against the
door, the prankquean is attempting to stimulate Jarl's desire.
While writing can be considered a peaceful alternative to war, from a
deconstructive perspective, it is a violent alternative because the domination
of writing by phallogocentrism is a forceful limitation of writing as
"pluri-dimensional symbolic thought" (Of Grammatology, p.86). In the series of
binary terms that sustain the preferring of one term over the other (good/bad;
inner/outer; spirit/matter; light/dark; speech/writing, etc.) the upper term
governs the lower term by a violent suppression. The question of whether or
not writing (and other so-called 'artistic" production) is preferable to war
begs the question of the difference between them. Derrida contends that: "we
say 'writing' for all that gives rise to inscription in general, whether it is
literal or not and even if what it distributes in space is alien to the order
of the voice: cinematography, choreography, of course, but also pictorial,
musical, sculptural 'writing'. One might also speak of athletic writing, and
with even greater certainty of military or political writing in view of the
techniques that govern those domains today. All this to describe not only the
system of notation secondarily with these activities but the essence and
content of these activities themselves ." (Of Grammatology, p.9). Joyce placed
much emphasis on war in writing the Wake and the entry into the Wake as the
"Willindone Museyroom" (8.10) and the narrative of Buckley and the Russian
general provide two examples of how the text presents its writing as involved
with warfare. To enter into the "Willingdone" is to enter into a war museum
and a "room" in which the "muse" of inspiration operates. It is also to walk
onto the battle field of Waterloo where 'Wellington' can be seen on his horse,
Copenhagen: "This is Willingdone on his same white horse, the Cokenhape" (8.
16- 17). Joyce described writing the Wake as declaring war; "What the language
will look like when I have finished I don't know. But having declared war I
shall go on 'jusqu' au bout.'" (James Joyce, p.581)
13. Eternal Geomater, p.9; emphasis added. In her riddle to Jarl, the prankquean
identifies herself with both "porter" and pee as she asks why she is "like a
poss of porter- pease" (21. 17-18), or porter 'pees.' It is worth noting that
"Mullingcan" carries several semantic values that provide lexemes to support
the Wake as the "Mullingcan Inn." Mull carries the semantic values of
"rubbish," "a promontory or headland," a "muddle or mess," "to crumble," and
"to make (wine, beer, etc.) into hot drink" (OED). These values are applicable
to the Wake as a midden heap, the hill of Howth, the narrative of the tower's
fall, and a "can" in which beer, or "porter" is heated.
14. In his Annotations, McHugh notes that the name of the boots in Charles Sleby's
The Boots at the Swan is Jacob Earwig. Like HCE, he is deaf. He impersonates a
policeman; HCE impersonates a "process server" (63. 32).
15. On the "trace," a difficult term in Derrida's theory because it "is nothing"
and "exceeds the question What is?," see Of Grammatology, pp. 66, 70, 75, and
93. I have made the bracketed insertion in the quotation from Derrida to
demonstrate the deconstructive technique of always bringing the reader's
attention back to the site of inscription, and remarking the signification of
a hymeneal (con)fusion with practice. The terms "this" and "that" are set to
work both inside and outside the brackets so that their signifying function
crosses the border of the brackets. They are marked and remarked by the
double, ' ', to indicate their function as a "hinge" or "brisures" (Of
Grammatology, pp. 65 and 69) that signifies a particular 'meaning,' (as in
'this' or 'that' meaning) and, simultaneously, signifies the so-called
Derridean meaning that resumes after the parenthetical interruption. "This"
and "that" thus work on the margin, to use a Derridean term, and signify both
the "inside" and "outside" (see Of Grammatology, p.44).
16. Of Grammatology, p.44. This deconstructive perspective is supported by
McHugh's recognition that ALP's letter is "ultimately all writings" (Sigla,
17 Macbeth, II. iii. 1-20. Of Grammatology, p.69. On the effects of spacing, see
Of Grammatology, pp. 65-73, and Dissemination, pp. 252-67.
18. Derrida develops the model of the hymen as intertext in "The Double Session,"
Dissemination, pp.175-286. On "(con)fusion" and the "graft" see Dissemination.
p. 64 and pp. 355-58; on the "hinge," or "brisure," see of Grammatology, pp.
65 and 69. The quotation on the impossibility of a sigla's production with the
"Plenitude of presence" is a citation from Of Grammatology, p.69.
19. On the identification of the "boots" and HCE, see note 14 above. Annotations
interprets the Latin "Magnum bonum" as 'great good.' As there is an attempt at
penetration (of the gateway), the magnum bonum may signify both the head and
the tip of the penis. The latter signification is supported by the prankquean
episode where Jarl is eventually aroused by the pee queen's "porter-pease," or
porter pees, and attempts to satisfy her desire in the ensuing copulation. The
removal of the top of the "bottleop stoub," or bottle of stout, would enable
the porter to flow. As porter signifies both urine and semen because of the
metonymic chain 'water,' 'ink,' 'tea,' 'porter,' etc., the flow of porter can
signify both urniation and ejaculation. As Solomon comments, "sex, with Joyce,
is always 'mixturated'" (Eternal Geomater, p.22; cf. p.78).
20. Freud's comment appears in "Inhibitions, Symptoms, and Anxiety." Quoted in
Derrida's "Freud and the Scene of Writing," Writing and Difference, p.229.
While Derrida refers to this passage, he points out that it concerns the
"archi-trace as erasure: erasure of the present and thus of the subject," a
concept of "trace" that "must be radicalized and extracted from the
metaphysics of presence which still retains it" (ibid.). Spivak summarizes
Derrida's caution that "the institution of grammatology through the
recognition of systematic 'repression' of writing throughout the history of
the West cannot be taken as psycho-analytic endeavour on a macrocosmic scale"
(Of Grammatology, p. xlvii).
21. Eternal Geomater, pp. 50 and 9.
22. Dissemination, p. 335.
23. The technique of "caps ever"-ing parallels Derrida's investigation of writing
as incision and grafting as the "s" is cut from "sever" and grafted on to the
end of "cap". It could also be considered as an example of deconstruction's
decapitalization of the power signified by the capitalization of the noun and
proper name within writing.
24. On aporia as a conundrum and a knot in language, see "Ousia and Gramme: Note
on a Note from Being and Time" in Margins of Philosophy, pp. 39-40.
25. Dissemination, p.327.
26. Macbeth, II. iii. 1-52, et passim.
27. Ibid.,II. iii. 74.
28. Ibid.,IV iii. 103-5.
29. Ibid., I. vi. 27. Lady Macbeth is, of course, the "spur" that "pricks the
sides" of Macbeth's "intent." Malcolm lists the "king-becoming graces" in IV.iii.91-4.
30. Eternal Geomater notes that "password" puns on "the woman's pissword" (p.50).
It provides an analysis of the relationships between water, whisky, porter,
ink, urine, and female desire to which the present chapter is indebted.
Solomon points out that the passage into the Wake is troped as "crossing of
the female river" and "genital union between man and woman." She also
translates the "Amnis Limina Permanent" sequence generated from ALP as "All,"
"foetal membrane," and "threshold" (pp. 50-51).
© Alan R. Roughley
|volume 1, issue 1, 1995|