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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 365

On the eve of the rebellion in Ireland in the year 1824, Fergus Kilpatrick, a patriot, is assassinated. One hundred years later, his great-grandson, Ryan, who is compiling a biography of the hero’s life, tries to discover the identity of the assassin. His search entails the examination of historical records that prove to be enigmatic rather than illuminating. The contents of these documents recall episodes and characters from literature. For example, an unopened letter found on the cadaver forewarned of the assassination attempt in the same way that Calpurnia’s warning did not reach Caesar in time to save him.

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Ryan wonders about the possibility of a secret form of time, a drawing of lines that are repeated, like the systems proposed by the Marquis de Condorcet, George William Friedrich Hegel, Oswald Spengler, and Giambattista Vico, and like Hesiod’s degeneration of humankind. However, Ryan notices that history has copied not only history but also literature because certain words recorded from a conversation between Kilpatrick and a beggar are originally from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth (1606). Another discordant element in the investigation is a death sentence, signed by the usually merciful Kilpatrick, from which the name has been erased.

Finally, Ryan is able to piece together the clues. At Kilpatrick’s request, Nolan, Kilpatrick’s oldest companion, had learned the identity of the traitor to the cause: Kilpatrick himself. Because of the latter’s popularity...

(The entire section contains 365 words.)

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