When Joyce wrote the Muddest Thick vignette in 1926, it somehow fell outside his outline for Books One and Three, and planted a stake deep in the unknown future for Book Two. The guessing game of II.1 began to come together in 1930 and was publishable by 1933, but the bridging text between the end of II.1 and the Muddest Thick first led to the unusual false start of 1934's 'Draft Six'.
In a 1939 letter to Budgen, Joyce described this chapter's technique as "a reproduction of a schoolboy's (and schoolgirl's) old classbook complete with marginalia by the twins, who change sides at half time, footnotes by the girl, who doesn't, a Euclid diagram, funny drawings, etc." Of this, only the Euclid diagram was fixed when he set to work in 1934. Shem resembled Joyce-the-teacher (cf SD in Ulysses-Nestor).
The 1934 rewrite was inspired by the idea of moving Issy's letter to a footnote, and transferring most of the evocations of her inattention to footnotes as well... with the twins' parallel marginal notes as an afterthought. (Hayman speculates that the typescript of draft six had wider margins in anticipation of this change.)
So can we tell if Joyce imagined the text of this supposed classbook to have been written first, describing perhaps the previous incarnation of the kids, with all three sets of marginalia then being added as they (re)read their previous story together?
A weak consensus agrees that this scene takes place upstairs at HCE's tavern (to be featured in III.3), in the evening just after the guessing game of the previous chapter. HCE and ALP appeared at the site of the game, and brought the children home specifically to do these lessons.
(How sure are we it's a tavern? Is it open yet? Is HCE free to leave on errands? Has everyone had dinner?)
But II.2 begins with a long 'route' (way too long to be the route from the games to the tavern) and yet another re-consideration of the parents and kids... with the kids all the while commenting ambiguously on this description of their own situation, which text Joyce seems to consider a center of their lessons.
(If the kids are studying history shouldn't their main lesson be HCE's past and future, and his battles and falls?)
The guessing game was a competition between Shem and Shaun for Issy's love. How are these lessons different, then? (Is it more than sexism that Joyce makes Issy characteristically inattentive to the lessons?)
In II.2 Shem clearly has the upper hand, specifically his sexual sophistication, while he obviously didn't in II.1.
(There's no simple way to present the marginalia as a linear text,
especially if the original pagebreaks are eliminated, as in FW2. I
suggest it be re-imagined in terms of separate paragraphs, each with a
heading from the righthand margin, renumbered footnotes, and bracketed
insertions for the lefthand marginalia.)
styles of note probably deserve three fonts, and three tones of voice
when read aloud. (But since we're utterly clueless about what voices JAJ
would have picked, one risks getting it dead wrong.)