Stephen Dedalus in the Library: A Portrait of the Actor as a Young ManStephen Dedalus in the Library: A Portrait of the Actor as a Young Man Stephen Dedalus in the Library: A Portrait of the Actor as a Young Man
James Joyce’s Ulysses contains an astonishing number of literary adaptations, the most prominent being Homer’s Odyssey and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Among their many correspondences, Stephen Dedalus and Hamlet have been linked because of their shared artistic temperaments. Yet, neither Stephen nor Hamlet has any significant artistic output, which raises the question of how the reader can reasonably confer artistic status on them. This paper argues that both Stephen’s and Hamlet’s artistry derives from their role as performers in the works they inhabit. Stephen’s exposition on Shakespeare has been called a theory, lecture, and hypothesis. More than any of these, however, it is a performance. By examining the various strategies Joyce used to portray Stephen as a performer and his Shakespeare theory as a performance, this paper sheds light on an aspect of Joyce’s use of Shakespeare that has been little examined. In the library episode of Ulysses, Joyce adopted a dramatic, or performative mode to take on Shakespeare at his own game. In doing so, Joyce created a protagonist to rival Hamlet, and set himself up as a rival to the world’s greatest dramatist.