This is based in night-town as Bloom has followed Stephen and Lynch there. There is a nightmarish quality to this episode, as the content flickers between the real and the imaginary. This is particularly evident when Bloom is on 'trial'.
A description of the area is given and it is clearly poverty-stricken. There is a crowd present and two British soldiers, Private Carr and Private Compton, sneer as Stephen and Lynch pass by.
Bloom appears and is flushed and panting as he tries to keep up with Stephen and is 'cramming bread and chocolate into a side pocket'. He buys a pig's crubeen and a sheep's trotter from a butcher's and is almost knocked down by a cyclist and a tram.
The narrative shifts to Bloom's guilty thoughts and nightmare visions and imagines he is talking to his father. Through guilt he hides the meat he has bought. He sees Molly in scarlet trousers and she signals she is pregnant.
After numerous imagined encounters, in reality he thinks he is on a wild goose chase by following Stephen, and asks himself why he is doing it. He thinks it is fate that he saw him at the maternity hospital and is worried Stephen will lose all his money. Because of his guilt, and possibly fear, Bloom gives the meat to a dog.
The narrative returns to the imaginary and police ask for his identification. Martha appears and she asks him to clear his name. Bloom says he is British and he is an author. Mary Driscoll, a former servant, appears to accuse of him making 'certain suggestions' and Molly refers to her in the last episode 'Penelope'. The nightmare continues and he is accused of masochism; Bloom comically asks to be beaten. The day's events are used against him in an exaggerated form.
There is a brief shift back to reality as Bloom asks a prostitute, Zoe, if Stephen is inside the house and she feels his talisman (the potato). The nightmare continues and Dr Mulligan states Bloom is 'bisexually abnormal' and Dr Dixon says he is 'the new womanly man' and Bloom should have clemency as he is about to give birth.
Back in reality, Bloom enters the house as Zoe will not let him fondle her without paying. Lynch, Stephen, Kitty and Florry are also present. Bella Cohen (the madam) arrives and for a short period she is referred to as Bello and Bloom is the female - this marks the shift from reality to the imagined.
On their departure, Stephen pays and Bloom returns a pound which he has left behind. Bloom says he will take care of Stephen's cash. Bloom picks up a cigarette that Stephen has dropped and also advises him to eat. Stephen remembers being described at school as a 'lazy idle little schemer'.
When having his palm read, Bloom is asked if he is hen-pecked and this leads him on to remember Boylan and imagines Boylan telling him he can look through the key hole (when he and Molly are having sex), and Bloom thanks him.
Both Stephen and Bloom look in the mirror, and the face of a beardless William Shakespeare appears. Stephen then tells them about his dream of the melon and the red carpet and thinks the dream was there - on the street of harlots. After dancing, and thinking he has seen his dead mother, Stephen smashes the chandelier and leaves.
Bloom sorts the problem out with Bella, but outside Cissy Caffrey has accused Stephen of insulting her. Carr and Compton, the two soldiers, want to beat him and Bloom tries to calm the situation. Carr strikes Stephen, however, but with the help of Corny Kelleher the confrontation is resolved. Bloom sees his dead son, Rudy, aged eleven and a white lambkin is peeping out of his waistcoat pocket.
This is a complex episode not least because of the shifts between the imagined, guilty thoughts and reality. This is also of interest because of the way in which Bloom attempts to protect and advise Stephen. The surrogate father-son bond is emphasized here and is picked up on in the following episode.
The scenes where Bloom is placed on trial have the tone of a nightmare and the accusations made against him are clearly his own thoughts being used to punish himself.
Ulysses: Novel Summary: Chapter Two - Episode 15