Master Bloom

Of various reasons for echoing the Divine Comedy in Ulysses, one of the most important is to make Leopold Bloom play Virgil to Stephen's Dante. This equivalence is subtly introduced in Oxen of the Sun: "Master Bloom, at the braggart's side, spoke to him calming words to slumber his great fear." The early 17th century style of this section of Oxen repeatedly employs the title "Master"—it calls Dixon, Lenehan, Lynch, and Madden by that name, plus Beaumont and Fletcher for good measure—but Joyce may well be loading the word with additional significance, since Dante's maestro Virgil often attempts to quiet his fear. In the allusions cited at the end of Joyce and Dante (283) Mary Reynolds sees a particular reference to two lines from canto 20 of the Purgatorio: "my master drew up closer to me, / saying: 'Have no fear while I'm your guide'" (134-35). If this is indeed an allusion its implications are not immediately apparent, but it foretells stronger and clearer echoes of Virgil and Dante later in the novel.

John Hunt 2022

Dante, Guided by Virgil, Offers Consolation to the Souls of the Envious, Hippolyte Flandrin's 1835 oil on canvas painting held in the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Virgil and Dante, painter and date unknown. Source:

Amos Nattini's 20th century illustration of Statius' meeting with Dante and Virgil. Source: