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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: September ::
Observation about ducdame
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0649  Friday, 28 September 2007

From: 		Mark Alcamos <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 26 Sep 2007 09:39:33 -0700
Subject: 	Observation about ducdame

I am currently studying 'As You Like It' and it is my understanding 
there has been some speculation without conclusion on Jaques use of the 
chant, 'Ducdame, ducdame, ducdame' in Act 1, Scene 5.  Most opinions 
would appear to agree with the entry in 'Shakespeare's Words' Glossary 
(David & Ben Crystal) who define it as '[unclear meaning] probably a 
nonsense word ...'

While studying this Scene I think I've stumbled across a very plausible 
and likely interpretation.  This invocation is not some of Shakespeare's 
small Greek, but simply some of Shakespeare's infamously abundant wordplay,

     Ducdame = Duke Dame

(Per 'The Oxford Dictionary of Word Histories,' dame is Middle English 
for female ruler.  And the 'Shakespeare Words' Glossary also cites four 
dame variations having to do with women.  Obviously, we'd guess it 
derives from 'damsel.')

  . . . meaning Duke Senior acted like a girl because he allowed his 
brother to take away his Dukedom rather than fight for it.  I believe 
Jaques is not only melancholic, but his recognized attitude problem 
reaches toward Duke Senior too.  If you consider this interpretation you 
can see the 'stanza' he wrote (remember he'd pretended not to know the 
term, although he'd obviously already written his own PLUS his 
insistence for more singing . . . ) is actually mocking their Merry Band 
for having left behind their courtly wealth and ease.  He has this 
residual resentment toward the Duke (which he expresses passive 
aggressively) for not having the 'will' to fight his brother.

I understand this changes the Jaques character somewhat and I am still 
studying the play so I haven't worked this slight modification all the 
way through 'for consistency sake' but it sounds so Shakespearean it'll 
be tough for me to reverse my interpretation without pretty convincing 
findings to the contrary.  I believe this also helps to explain the 
second hand account we heard in Act 2 Sc 1 of his sad musings for the 
innocent deer - he's projecting the 'Ground Rules' of an immoral world, 
only the strong survive and the innocent are taken advantage of ... woe 
is me ...  (Through the 'Sweet are the uses of adversity ...' speech we 
learn Duke Senior has in fact, reached a kinder, gentler attitude about 
the immoral world he's been cast into ...)

I thought the community might be interested in this observation and 
might want to comment.


Thanks,
Mark Alcamo
Bremerton, WA.

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