Often overlooked both in the plays in which they live, and in real life are Shakespeare’s servants. Adam is senior servant to the De Boys family in Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy, As You Like It. While on paper he serves Oliver the families oldest son, his true loyalties, lie with his late master Sir Roland De Boys and now with Orlando, the youngest son. He is an old man, but that does not stop him from doing his duty, caring for others, as well as putting up a good fight. Today we’re going to take a look at a speech he gives the night after Orlando has challenged and defeated Charles the Wrestler, when Adam has found out something that Orlando might want to know.
We begin before the beginning. Since he was a young man Adam has served Sir Roland De Boys. Orlando is the youngest son of Sir Roland De Boys, his other two sons being Oliver, the older, and Jaques the middle. They live and work in the Duchy of Duke Senior, in France, and are a part of the aristocracy and inner circle. And all seems well, as far as we know, until one day Sir Roland De Boys dies leaving his sons as soul heirs to his estate, or so he thinks. Soon after Duke Senior is usurped by his younger brother Duke Frederick and banished from the Duchy to the Forest of Arden, where he and his bestest buds must go and never come back, or die trying. Meanwhile back at Camp De Boys, Oliver, the oldest son and soul executor of his Fathers will have fulfilled his Fathers wishes of sending Jaques to school to be educated, but has not been so generous to Orlando, instead forcing him to work in the fields , feed the animals, and overall work as peasant on their lands. Understandably this makes Orlando a little mad. Orlando knows that his Father requested in his will that he send Orlando to be educated to and is ready to what’s his by right, by force if he has to. Orlando vents these frustrations to Adam, but it’s not long before Oliver appears. Orlando tells Oliver exactly how he feels and it’s not long before the two are at each other’s throats. In an effort to maintain some decorum in the house Adam does everything in his power to break them up. But it’s not just Orlando that Oliver treats poorly. After sending his brother back into the house, Oliver calls Adam an ‘old dog’ to which Adam tells the audience of his grief for his old master. What Oliver doesn’t know is that Orlando is planning to challenge the Dukes wrestler Charles the next day, in an attempt to prove to the court that he is worthy of being a gentleman. And that’s exactly what happens. The next day Orlando wins the wrestling match by knocking Charles the wrestler out cold. All seems well for Adam and Orlando until he tells the Duke who his father was. The Duke isn;t too keen on that but goes about his day. It’s not long after that Adam learns of a plot from Oliver that he plans to kill Orlando, and as Orlando makes his way home that night, Adam tries to warn him by saying…
What! my young master? O my gentle master!
O my sweet master! O you memory
Of old Sir Rowland! why, what make you here?
Why are you virtuous? Why do people love you?
And wherefore are you gentle, strong, and valiant?
Why would you be so fond to overcome
The bony pricer of the humorous duke?
Your praise is come too swiftly home before you.
Know you not, master, to some kind of men
Their graces serve them but as enemies?
No more do yours: your virtues, gentle master,
Are sanctified and holy traitors to you.
O, what a world is this, when what is comely
Envenoms him that bears it!
[Orl.] Why, what’s the matter?
O unhappy youth!
Come not within these doors; within this roof
The enemy of all your graces lives.
Your brother, ‘no, no brother; yet the son,.
Yet not the son, I will not call him son
Of him I was about to call his father,.
Hath heard your praises, and this night he means
To burn the lodging where you use to lie,
And you within it: if he fail of that,
He will have other means to cut you off.
I overheard him and his practices.
This is no place; this house is but a butchery:
Abhor it, fear it, do not enter it.
Well-born, honorable, noble
courteous, friendly, kind
old form: memory
do, have to do
old form: vertuous
showing fine qualities, praiseworthy
foolish, stupid, mad
old form: price
capricious, moody, temperamental
old form: bonnie
strong, stalwart, strapping
sanctimonious, hypocritical, deceiving
graceful becoming decent
old form: Enuenoms
poison, taint, destroy
old form: vse
be accustomed, make a habit [of]
old form: practises
scheme, plot, stratagem, intrigue
proper place, safe place
old form: butcherie
My young master! Oh my gentle master!
Oh my sweet master! Oh you spitting image of old Sir Rowland you! What are you doing here?
Why are you so praiseworthy? Why are you so loved? And why are you so gentle, strong and brave?
How could you be so foolish as to defeat the Dukes champion wrestler?
Your praise has made it home before you.
Don’t you know some mens best qualities are what do them in?
Yours are doing just that to you: Your virtues, gentle master,
Are deceiving enemies to you.
Oh what a world we live in, when good qualities destroy those who bare them.
Orlando: Why, what’s the matter?
Oh unlucky young man!
Don’t come within these doors, the enemy of your good nature lives under this roof.
Your brother, no he’s not brother, the son, no he’s no son.
No I will not call him son of the man I was about to call his father.
He has heard all of the praise coming your way, and tonight he’s planning to burn down your house with you inside it!
And if he fails at that, he won’t stop until he finds another way to kill you.
I overheard his plans.
This is no place for you; this house is nothing but a slaughterhouse;
Hate it, fear it, do not go inside.
Notes On Performance
When performing this speech be sure to raise the stakes to the appropriate level. Put yourself in Adams shoes and act accordingly. Like in a lot of Shakespeare this is an opportunity for you to be larger than life!
Keep in mind Adams’ long and deep history with this family, that’s where the stakes will come from. He has probably worked for this family since he was Orlando’s age and at the same time has probably helped raise Orlando from birth. Orlando would be like a son to him.
Remember your given circumstances, particularly place. We’re out the front of the most dangerous place in the world to these two right now, with a murderer just beyond the door. It’s probably quite dark outside and they have to keep this a secret. These are just a few of the layers you can play with in this scene!