At the Globe Tim McMullan presented the traditional melancholic figure but, with only two other actors available onstage, did not generate the usual stage business for his explanation of ducdame
as "a Greek invocation, to call fools into a circle" (2.5.59-60).
His glossing of the term "ducdame
"--"'Tis a Greek invocation to call fools into a circle" (2.5.56)--was delivered not to Amiens (Peter Gale) but to the Globe's audience, and his panoramic sweep made explicit our circular configuration and his scorn for us.
They have also done a wonderful job of calling attention to unusual and obscure references, with particularly illuminating entries on "bug," "ducdame
," "ecstasy," "elf," "Flibbertigibbet," "mummy," and "ouph." As in most first editions of reference works, there are omissions and small errors, (2) and one could quarrel with some decisions affecting coverage.
Then Jaques presides over two short scenes of obscure collective ritual that are seemingly at odds with his sympathetic encounter with the deer: the gathering of foresters, or lords disguised as foresters, in 2.5, during which he airs his mysterious incantation "Ducdame, ducdame, ducdame!"--a "Greek invocation, to call fools into a circle" (2.5.54, 59-60); and a second gathering of foresters in 4.2, where Jaques and the hunters celebrate the killing of a stag and sing the virtue of horns as a quixotic badge of honor and cuckoldry.
The third of Jaques's disjunct protocolonial episodes is an enigmatic scene at 2.5 that shows Jaques posturing as a colonial "insider" in terms of language and translation (as opposed to the rest of the exiles) through his staging of the curse--or is it a blessing?-- "Ducdame!" The word occurs as a refrain to a stanza he composes as a parodic addition to Amiens' delightful song in praise of forest life, "Under the greenwood tree," with its refrain, "Come hither, come hither, come hither!" (2.5.5):
A commentator signing himself only as "Welshman" argued that "Ducdame" was "honest Welsh, as nearly as the Saxon tongue could frame it.
Yet a further range of possibilities that enticed scholars and editors was that "Ducdame" might have come from Romany culture, which would account for Jaques's assertion that it was "a Greek invocation, to call fools into a circle" since Romany was sometimes called "Pedlar's Greek, the popular name for the cant language of the beggars and gypsies of his day." The Romany explanation would also account for Jaques's enigmatic later statement that he will go and "rant against all the first-born of Egypt," since the name "Gypsies" was derived from "Egyptians" (Furness).
And so, by means of Jaques and his mysterious "Ducdame," the Islamic resonances that Shakespeare had been at such pains to remove from As You Like It nudge their way back into the play's interpretive milieu.
Raleigh was quite captivated by Strachey's interpretation of "Ducdame" as a fragment of Romany language and recommended it to other scholars.