Episode 6

A brief guide to “Hades”

Prepared by Danis Rose

2021 edition Ulysses pages 98-130
2017 edition Ulysses pages 80-104
1922 edition Ulysses pages [84]-111

Thursday 16 June, 1904: 11 a.m. to 12 noon, Newbridge avenue, Sandymount, to Glasnevin cemetery.

How many! All these here once walked round Dublin. Faithful departed. As you are now so once were we.


TITLE and SENSE: Hades. Descent to Nothing.
SCENE: The Graveyard
HOUR: 11 a.m.
ORGAN: Heart
ART: Religion
COLOUR: White Black
SYMBOL: Caretaker
TECHNIC: Incubism

Bloom travels, uncomfortably, with three other companions by creaking carriage from 9, Newbridge Avenue (home of the defunct Paddy Dignam), to the dismal fields (the lugentes campi) of Prospect Cemetery in Glasnevin, where he attends the “paltry funeral” (one coach and three carriages) of the lately departed Dubliner.f1 After the funeral, Bloom returns by coach to the metropolis (back to the real world again). Mrs Dignam, a hopeless dipsomaniac, is presumably off her head somewhere and understandably is not present at the graveside.

Having set off ten minutes late, the journey to the graveyard is somewhat hurried: they are “going the pace”. On route, the carriage crosses over four waterways: the Dodder, the Grand Canal, the river Liffey, and the Royal Canal, respectively. These waterways symbolize the four rivers of zophos (the Underworld): the Styx, the Acheron, the Cocytus, and the Periphlegethon. Hades is rich in infernal inhabitants commemorated by memory, by statue, or by gravestone, and also in hearts, broken, broken-down, or sacred.

At this point in the novel, several important events take place that are not narrated in the text. The sixth item in Bloom's budget (and the fifth to relate to an event occurring outside the written text) involves Bloom donating five shillings in memoriam Patrick Dignam. While not described, this donation is amply confirmed elsewhere in the text. We are informed in Hades that Cunningham, who traveled in the coach with Bloom, Dedalus senior, and Power, is arranging for a “whip up for the youngsters”. He is soliciting contributions towards a kind of emergency fund to help out little Paddy's alcoholic widow: something in the region of a few bob a skull. “Just to keep them going.” Lambert remarks to Dedalus he wants to help tide them over “till the insurance muddle is cleared up”. What this is exactly is left unanswered, but presumably the policy was not maintained and payments discontinued. Nowhere in Hades is Bloom described as being approached for money, but we learn later in Wandering Rocks that he was and that, astonishingly, he put his name down for five bob. Cunningham and Power seem to spend the immediate post-Hades hours actively collecting and seeking to augment the money. Cunningham is still looking for donors when they resurface in Wandering Rocks. Reading through a list of subscribers, John Wyse Nolan is taken aback by Bloom's generosity. Cunningham confirms it and adds that Bloom went further – he put down the five shillings too. Power, standing beside them, embellishes the account. Bloom did so “without a second word either”. We can only interpret these remarks to mean that both Cunningham and Power were physically present as witnesses when Bloom handed over the cash.f2

On leaving the newspaper offices (taking into account his generosity to the widow and the commission he has just collected), Bloom has now one pound five shillings and four pence in his pocket.

Joyce modelled Patrick Dignam's funeral on that of Matthew F. Kane of Dublin, the chief clerk in the crown solicitor's office. Kane died of heart disease on 13 July 1904, at the young age of 40. He had been bathing from a boat in Dublin Bay. Kane's wife was an alcoholic and, according to Stanislaus Joyce, a “consummate whore”.f3 Joyce, who attended the funeral, long retained a newspaper cutting of the event. A second source of inspiration was the funeral of his sister.f4


Dodder, Grand and Royal Canals, Liffey = The 4 rivers of Hades
Cunningham = Sisyphus
Father Coffey = Cerberus
Caretaker = Hades
Daniel O'Connell = Hercules
Dignam = Elpenor
Parnell = Agamemnon
Menton = Ajax
Bloom = Odysseus

When one reads Homer's account of Odysseus' visit to Hades, one is struck by the pedantic inclusion of a litany of heroes, male and female, quite unnecessary to the narrative: a mere enumeration, as if these passages were a later interpolation. Even so, Joyce was to make great use of this, assiduously seeking among the list of the apparitions Odysseus encounters personalities attributable to his characters.

Joyce's broad approach is to place the ghastly event in the dismal fields of a graveyard on the occasion of a funeral attended by Bloom, modelling Paddy Dignam on Elpenor, dead before his natural time. “Got here before us, dead as he is.” He modernizes the ancient rituals. A few quiet prayers and the sprinkling of water in the mortuary chapel and at the graveside replace Odysseus' libations and gory blood-letting. The pit, of course, is the open grave into which the corpse of Dignam is lowered.

The journey undertaken by Odysseus, with its crossing of the four great waters held in antiquity to surround the underworld, is mirrored in the funeral coach rattling its way across Dublin, passing en route over the Dodder, the Grand and Royal Canals, and the Liffey. The cortège is appropriately small. Odysseus has at this stage of his Odyssey seen the loss of all but his own ship. “Paltry funeral. Coach and three carriages.”

The gatekeeper, key-carrying John O'Connell, who is rarely seen outside his domain, is Hades.

In his schema Joyce makes a great deal of his person-to-person correspondences, beyond the above; but these are really no more than adumbrations. He lists most, but not all, of the ghosts encountered by Odysseus. Of these, only Eriphyle seems to lack an identifiable counterpart.

Joyce specifically identifies Sisyphus with long-suffering Martin Cunningham. Cerberus, the three-headed dog that keeps the palace of Pluto, he recognizes in the character of the muscular Christian Father Coffey, “obese as a poisoned pup and bully about the mizzle.”f5 Hercules (who bound Cerberus in a chain and dragged him to the light) we find in Daniel O'Connell, the chief at rest in the middle of his people. Agamemnon gives rise credibly to Parnell, the “uncrowned king” of Ireland, and Ajax to Menton. The ghost of Ajax refuses to speak with Odysseus, on account of the latter having been given the armour of the slain Achilles and not him. Menton is short with Bloom on account of the former having once been bested by Bloom on the bowling-green, by a pure fluke, in the view of ladies.

The boastful hunter Orion, killed by the bite of a scorpion, is mirrored in the cattle drover past whom the mourning carriage drives. Tityus (like his fellow giant Orion little better than a rapist and whose heart is eaten in the zophos by two vultures yet regenerates according to a lunar cycle only to be eaten again) is associated with the Catholic concept of the Sacred Heart. Finally, Persephone (or Proserpina), the dreaded consort of dread Hades, is more closely allied to the wife of John O'Connell through their common barrenness.

For some reason, Joyce connects the seer Theoclymenus, who warns the suitors of their impending doom, with the disappearing mystery man in the mackintosh that attends the funeral and making the thirteenth mourner “death's number.” This mysterious figure may well be the remnants of Mr Duffy from Joyce's short story ‘A Painful Case’ in Dubliners.f6

The extended conversation between Odysseus and his dead mother Anticleia is absent in Joyce. All Bloom thinks is a brief “poor mamma.” As for his father, while Anticleia tells her son of Laertes' plight, we find the Dublin mourners speaking in whispers of Bloom's father “that poisoned himself” in (appropriately) the Queen's Hotel he once managed in Ennis, County Clare.

Antinous is present only allusively in Homer. His presence in Joyce's ‘Hades’ is more immediate, if heavily disguised. He crops up as the obese grey rat that Bloom sees slithering about an old crypt. This rat = Boylan analogy is to re-appear powerfully in ‘Sirens’.

Cerberus can perhaps also be seen in the form of the rat.

Bloom's relieving escape from the pomp of death “back to the world again” at the end of Hades can be compared with Odysseus' eventual flight from the wraiths of the dead.

THE ODYSSEY, 11 (Hades)

Setting: Zophos (the Underworld)

Following the instructions given him by Kirke, Odysseus reaches the place of the dead, the asphodel meadows, without mishap or difficulty. It is a kingdom ruled over by Hades, son of Cronus and Rhea, and brother to Zeus, Poseidon, and Hera.

On his arrival Odysseus dutifully performs the votive rituals.

To the blood-drenched pit throng the starved multitude of the dead, the nekyia, uttering strange cries like the bawking of bats, and among these ghosts Odysseus recognizes the shade of his crew member Elpenor, abandoned in Kirke's isle. Elpenor has arrived in death's kingdom sooner than his black ship could sail there. Next, the shade of his mother Anticleia appears, but Odysseus waits as he was told until in due course Teiresias makes his way to the pit, golden staff in hand, and Odysseus allows the famished Theban to gorge on the pool of black blood.f7

When restored by his drinking, Teiresias foretells the course of Odysseus' return to Ithaca, but warns him that, as he reaches the island of Helios the Sun God, he must not harm the sacred cattle there. He also foretells Odysseus' death in old age among a race “that knows nothing of the sea,” knowing neither crimson-painted ship nor bladed oar, a race of men that eats no salt with their food.

After Teiresias has slipped back among the shades, the spirit of Odysseus' mother, Anticleia, approaches; and she tells him of the manner of her death — grief at his absence — and tells him of his father, Laertes, living pitiably not as a noble but as a starveling, sleeping not in a palace but in the broken huts of shepherds.

After her, flock to the pit the thin ghosts of other notable women: Tyro and Antiope, and Alcmene, Megara, and Jocasta, the mother of Oedipus, and many others: Procnis, Ariadne, Clymene, and yet more. And after these there approaches the ghost of Agamemnon, greatest of the Achaeans, foully murdered by Aegisthus through the wickedness of an unfaithful wife. Agamemnon tells Odysseus never to trust a woman, and never to share a confidence with one.

And after Agamemnon has withdrawn, the shade of Achilles approaches, and that of other heroes, and all utter tales of woe and eerie cries, and the dread place echoes with their dead voices, and Odysseus flees, fearing the advent of dread Cerberus.

Satisfied with what he has learned, Odysseus hastens back to his ship and the Achaeans row back across the river of Ocean, till a merciful breeze rises and swells the billowing sails of their curved boat and blows her forward.