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Circe
Episode 15

Synopsis by Gerry O'Flaherty


The Monto
This episode is by far the longest in the book and is written in dramatic form with stage directions. Since the characters are either drunk or very tired it is difficult for the reader to distinguish between what is actuality and what is hallucination. Set out below is a summary of the action of the episode.

It is about midnight and Stephen and Lynch have come on the train from Westland Row to Mabbot Street, which is the entrance to the brothel quarter. The scene opens with a group of stunted men and women milling around an ice cream cart. A girl like Cissy Caffrey appears with two British soldiers, Privates Carr and Compton. Stephen sings the Introit of a Mass as he walks along the street. Shortly afterwards, Bloom comes rushing up Talbot Street. He had been delayed and has chocolate and bread, and now he buys a sheep's trotter and a crubeen. An old hag grabs his sleeve but he shakes her off and goes in search of Stephen and Lynch.

Montgomery Street
At Bella Cohen's he meets Zoe Higgins who discovers a potato in his pocket and takes it. They go into the house and find Stephen and Lynch with two other whores, Kitty and Florry. Stephen is at the piano and probably because he is dressed like a minister, one of the whores asks if he is in Maynooth seminary. Bloom hears someone coming down the stairs and he wonders if it is Boylan. Bella Cohen, the brothel keeper comes in and overawes Bloom and he hallucinates. When the back button of his trousers snaps he returns to reality, gets his potato back from Zoe and is no longer afraid of Mrs Cohen.

She demands to be paid and Stephen gives her two pounds. Bloom then gives her ten shillings and retrieves a pound note. He then takes charge of Stephen's money. Stephen tells of a dream he had during the previous night. Privates Carr and Compton pass with their girl singing 'My Girl's a Yorkshire Girl'. ZoŽ turns on the pianola and Stephen starts to dance. Suddenly he thinks he sees his mother, goes pale and stops. One of the girls is going to get water for him when he strikes out with his ash plant and breaks the mantle on the lamp. He rushes out of the house and most of the others follow him.

Mrs Cohen demands ten shillings for the damage but Bloom throws her a shilling and goes after Stephen. A row starts when Stephen speaks, in the absence of the two soldiers, to their girl. Stephen speaks of killing the priest and king and Private Carr takes this as an insult to Edward VII and knocks Stephen down. Lynch now slips away. Two policemen arrive but Corny Kelleher is able to save Stephen. As Bloom takes care of Stephen, the ghost of his dead son, Rudy, appears.

In Homer, the witch, Circe/Bella Cohen, transforms Odysseus' men into swine. Odysseus is not affected by her enchantments and overcomes her.

 
   Episode 15 Circe    Listen to the show >>

Nighttown was slang among Dublin journalist for the late shift on a newspaper, but Joyce uses the more customery reference to the brothel area of Dublin. Monto, named after Montogomery Street, was considered to be one of the worse slums in Europe at the turn of the century, rife with depravation and disease. Many of the brothels were frequented by British Soldiers, but those Bloom and Stephen frequent were at the upper end of the area.

The Minstrel Boy
Words by Thomas Moore
Music: a traditional air, arranged by Karl Ronan
Thomas Moore's song is alluded to twice in Ulysses: in the Sirens and Circe episodes. Its words echo a theme of betrayal, which is one of the main themes of Ulysses. Both Joyce and his son Giorgio sang this song.
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The Holy City
Words by Fred Weatherly
Music by Stephen Adams
The Holy City was sung by Joyce and is mentioned in both Stephen Hero and Ulysses. In Circe its name is transformed (like everything else in the episode) and the new Jerusalem becomes the new Bloomusalem.
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