As You Like It: Act 2, Scene 5 - Summary & Analysis

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ACT II Scene V.


      It is a scene not found in the play. It presents the Duke and his followers in the forest and prepares us for the entrance of Orlando.


‘Tis a Greek invocation, to call fools into a circle I’ll go sleep if I can; if I cannot I’ll rail against all the first born of Egypt. (Act II, Scene V, Lines 66-68)

      When Amiens had finished his song, Jaques composes his own song and sings it. The last word of his song is ducdame. Amiens asks its meaning and Jaques answers. Really speaking the word ducdame has no meaning at all Jaques really speaks this word three times, ‘ducdame, ducdame, ducdame, as parallel to the words of Amiens, ‘come hither, come hither’. It is only intended to fill up a line with a striking sound that has no sense. He replies to Amiens that it is a magic word to cajole fools into a circle. It is Greek in the sense that it is unintelligible even to himself and so he cannot explain it. Perhaps he means that the forest of Arden is the magic circle and all of us are fools. He rails at the duke who has brought all these fools into the magic circle of this forest of Arden. Jaques is now sick of the forest of Arden and the duke, and will therefore retire and sleep, If he cannot sleep, he will rail at the first born of Egypt. Jaques perhaps means that he will rail at the Duke Senior for having brought all of them to the forest. The reference to the Senior Duke is made because he has submitted himself to the unjust action of his brother. The reference here is to the book of Exodus in the Bible, Chapter XI, verse 5, where we find God punishing Pharaoh by killing the first born children of his people because he had refused to set free the Israelites so that they could go back to their Promised Land.

      “And all the first born in the land of Egypt shall dies’’. The phrase, the first born of Egypt, here means the elder brother. So Jaques is railing at the Duke Senior, the elder brother of Duke Frederick (who has unsurped the throne).

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