I first bought the draft TWL in Bologna after three weeks' camping around
Florence and Rome. I met a list member, Umberto Rossi, in Rome and had
quite a day even visiting Lake Nemi which features at the beginning of the
Golden Bough. It was called the Terra Desolata and it was the first time I
had read the excised intro re the bender with Stephen presumably Dedalus.
The poem as originally intended therefore was a narrative with a descent:
April is etc then would look like the beginning of a gin fuelled dream
sequence through western culture with a final awakening. That would have
contextualised it. Pound's excision definitively decontextualised it. It
seems to me that half the critical battle since has been to recontextualise
Ted Hughes' shaman context is very attractive especially when compared to
his treatment of Shakespeare in 'Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete
Another context it seems to me is a line drawn out of Roman Shakespeare:
Titus, Julius Caesar, Anthony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Timon of Athens.
All of these plays are quoted or referenced. Indeed 'The Hollow Men' is a
direct quote from Julius Caesar and the last section in THM on the
existential gaps concluding with essence and descent is a gloss on Brutus'
soliloquy about the role of the phantasmagoria and man as a little kingdom.
Timon can be seen as the ancestor of Beckett and the modern distrust of
language which is summed up by Russell:
- Bradley wrote the essay 'What is the Real Julius Caesar?' in
response to Bertrand Russell's statement "returning now to Julius Caesar I
assume it will be admitted that he cannot be a constituent of any judgement
that I can make. When you say, "Julius Caesar launched the first Roman
invasion of Britain," you're not really asserting something about the real
Julius Caesar-you can't be, as you have no direct knowledge of him. Instead,
you're asserting something about the collection of facts and ideas about
Caesar with which you are acquainted. No matter how many facts we may learn
about Caesar, we can still only know him by description. We can never reach
a point where we directly know him by acquaintance. Bradley's essay I take
as his last word in response to his first work, The Presuppositions of
Critical History. Naturally he doesn't agree with Russell.
Julius Caesar (can I recommend the Hollywood dvd with Marlon Brando -
virtually text perfect - I can only see the encounter between the soothsayer
and Portia omitted) has been argued conclusively as the first play put on at
the Globe. There is some doubt as to the date but 12 June 1599 has been
fairly conclusively argued. As such the play is about two calendars: the
Julian and the Gregorian, or the Catholic and Anglican i.e the nature of
sacred and profane time. The shape of Shakespeare's canon then can be seen
as an hour glass (as introduced in Henry V (the last play at the Curtain) by
Chorus) in which Julius Ceasar is the still point of his turning world. If
put into this context then THM sits in origin in the centre of Julius
Caesar. And of course TSE gets his Conrad (JC!) quote at last.
Incidentally if 12 June is correct then when Brutus said there is a tide etc
which taken at the full it would have been at about 4pm when the Thames /
Tiber would have been at low tide just outside the theatre. Shakespeare had
got the sweetly flowing Thames to act in the play!! What a moment!! What a
The plot of Julius Caesar is drawn from II Thessalonians 2.2 where a word, a
letter and a spirit destroy Brutus although they are reversed in the play
from the order given in the epistle. This would have bee one of the set
readings in the lectionary at this time. II Thessalonians is Paul's little
apocalypse in the NT's gospel, epistle, apocalypse schema.
TWL then is the end of the first half of TSE's canon and parallels Henry V.
1. There is a narrator in both.
2. The narrator and the characters are at cross purposes.
3. There is Ireland in the background (Isolde).
4. There is the first stage Irishman in Henry V - what is my nation??
5. There is high life and low life.
6. There is very high theology.
7. There is a lot of Latin and French, puns: incarnation versus carnation.
8. There is momentary unity but it is lost at the end: the common dead are
not named: they are so vile.
Henrsy V was not much performed unlike Julius Caesar: cf Brando, Mason,
Gielgud. But it ressurrected in WWII with Olivier's version and again
recently with Branagh's. The BBC version 20 years ago is excellent but
omits Henry's crucial analysis on the nature of betrayal:
Treason and murder ever kept together,
As two yoke-devils sworn to either's purpose,
Working so grossly in a natural cause
That admiration did not whoop at them;
But thou, 'gainst all proportion, didst bring in
Wonder to wait on treason and on murder;
And whatsoever cunning fiend it was
That wrought upon thee so preposterously
Hath got the voice in hell for excellence;
And other devils that suggest by treasons
Do botch and bungle up damnation
With patches, colours, and with forms being fetch'd
From glist'ring semblances of piety.
But he that temper'd thee bade thee stand up,
Gave thee no instance why thou shouldst do treason,
Unless to dub thee with the name of traitor.
If that same demon that hath gull'd thee thus
Should with his lion gait walk the whole world,
He might return to vasty Tartar back,
And tell the legions, "I can never win
A soul so easy as that Englishman's."
O, how hast thou with jealousy infected
The sweetness of affiance!