The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0669 Monday, 8 October 2007
Date: Thursday, 4 Oct 2007 07:34:57 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Observation about ducdame
Comment: SHK 18.0649 Observation about ducdame
The traditional interpretation of 'ducdame' as 'duc ad me' (L. 'come to
me') probably has some merit, as it is impossible to pronounce the hard
consonants 'c' and 'd' together without an unvoiced schwa between them.
'Duc ad me' is also evocative of 'ducent damnatum domum': 'will condemn
and drag home as a fraudulent debtor' (Charlton T. Lewis, 'An Elementary
Latin Dictionary'). This certainly ties in with Jaques' opinion about
'any man' who 'turne[s] Asse' and 'leav[es] his wealth and ease'.
However, I agree that 'duc' almost certainly refers to Duke Senior (the
play is set in France, after all!). 'Ducdame' is trisyllabic, as
evidenced by 'Come hither', the phrase it replaces. 'Dame' did not,
therefore, rhyme with 'same' but with 'Sammy'. 'Dame' is a probable
variant of 'damme' or 'dammy', both the profane oath 'damn me' and 'a
person addicted to using this oath; a profane swearer' (OED). Most
likely, Jaques either calls the Duke a 'damme' (hardly commendatory, as
evidenced by the OED quotation: 'Punks and dammy-boys'), or imprecates
himself - i.e., 'Damn me for following the Duke'.
To my knowledge, 'dame' is not used elsewhere in Shakespeare except to
or as descriptive of a woman. Rarely does Shakespeare insult a man by
calling him a 'girl'. Usually, the insult specifically deals with
impotence or emasculation. Effeminates and homosexuals are in a
different category altogether.
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