In Brief

When Martha Clifford's accusation in Circe prompts a constable to sternly command Bloom, "Come to the station," Bloom fearfully takes a step back and, "plucking at his heart and lifting his right forearm on the square, he gives the sign and dueguard of fellowcraft." These actions, and his reply to the policeman––"No, no, worshipful master, light of love"––indicate his familiarity with the rituals of Freemasonry. But appealing to a policeman's sense of Masonic brotherhood seems wildly inappropriate, and Joyce seems to be pointing out the absurdity with the phrases "worshipful master" and "light of love," both of which echo elements of Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing that do not paint Bloom in a good light.

Read More

Freemasonry has three tiers ("degrees") of membership: Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason. Bloom seems to be speaking from the second of these levels, "fellowcraft," and addressing the constable, "worshipful master," as his superior. In addition to indicating an initiate's progress in the symbolilc mysteries of the order, "Master" is the title of the highest-ranking official in a local organization, the Master of the Lodge. In many lodges this officer is addressed as Worshipful Master.

The "square" is one of the two primary symbols of Freemasonry, along with the compass, and it figures in many masonic rituals. The image shown here of a man being raised to the degree of Fellowcraft, for example, has the accompanying text: "Kneeling on my naked right knee, my left forming a square; my right hand on the Holy Bible, square, and compasses, my left arm forming an angle, supported by the square, and my hand in a vertical position." Bloom makes a slightly different kind of square when he "gives the sign and dueguard of fellowcraft." Sign and due guard are masonic terms for bodily gestures signifying that the member will faithfully perform and duly guard the mysteries of the order. One of these involves a square. In the other, the member acknowledges that he is subject to penalties if he divulges the order's secrets, by drawing a hand violently across his chest or throat.

Slote quotes from Avery Allyn's A Ritual of Freemasonry (1831) a formula for these two actions that is remarkably close to Bloom's: "The sign is given by taking hold of the left breast, with the right hand, as though you intended to tear a piece out of it, then draw your hand with the fingers partly clenched, from the left to the right side, with some quickness, and dropping it down to your side. The due-guard is given by raising the left arm until that part of it between the elbow and shoulder is perfectly horizontal; and raising the rest of the arm in a vertical position, so that part of the arm below the elbow, and that part above it forms a square. This is the due-guard. The two are always given together by Masons, and are called the sign and due-guard of a fellow craft: they would not be recognized by a Mason, if given separately." Both Gifford and Slote note that in performing these actions Bloom is giving one of a Freemason's "signs of distress," asking fellow members for assistance and protection.

In context, then, Bloom seems to be appealing to the constable as a fellow Mason and asking for his assistance––a fantastical and pathetically ineffective plea. The Freemasons are a non-sectarian order who admit members from different faiths, but in Ireland in 1904 their members came mostly from the Anglo-Irish ruling class and the Catholic church viewed them as a Protestant (and, to a degree, Jewish) organization that was more dangerous than atheism. Gifford correctly observes that "in all probability the constables of the Dublin Metropolitan Police would be 'good Catholics', suspicious and fearful of Freemasonry as some ultimate force of atheism and subversion."

Drawing on several sources, Slote observes that Bloom's declaration to the constable, "light of love," had a clear Masonic meaning in 1904, having been "proverbial in Dublin lodges since the eighteenth century." It expressed the belief that Freemasonry "carried always the light of love and universal tolerance to all Mankind." But this phrase also is a name for sexual licentiousness in Shakespeare's Much Ado––a fact which threatens to undercut Bloom's claim to be guiltless of the charges laid against him by Martha Clifford. Additionally working to undermine his plea is the fact that both "worship" and "master" are sycophantish terms of address regularly used in that play by Dogberry, a moronic constable. In an amazing feat of verbal dexterity, Joyce manages to make both halves of this sentence ("No, no, worshipful master, light of love") simultaneously proclaim masonic purity and confess sexual immorality. The effect is reminiscent of Dogberry, who regularly manages to say the opposite of what he means.

John Hunt 2023

Candidate taking the oath of a Fellow Craft, in Malcolm Duncan's Masonic Ritual and Monitor. Source: www.phoenixmasonry.org.

2023 photograph of Rob Phillips, the Worshipful Master of the Lodge of Dawn in Leeds, England. Source: www.thelodgeofdawn.co.uk.