HCE and Jarl van Hoother on the Piss with the Porter.

While looking for a virtual textual gift for a friend of mine, who really loves Shakespeare, i came across this illuminating and superb essay:HCE and Jarl van Hoother on the Piss with the Porter. If you have the stamina and the time, and read a little of James Joyce’s book ‘Finnegans Wake’ i suspect you may find this essay a little pleasant.–steve fly


HCE and Jarl van Hoother on the Piss with the Porter.

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.”[9] 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.’[10]

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.”[11]


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