I'd love to start a conversation about a decision that is not uncommon in productions of As You Like It—one that was part of the recent production that The Acting Company put on at the Dowling Studio of the Guthrie Theatre.
In As You Like It, Orlando is accompanied in his flight to the Forest of Arden by Old Adam, a loyal servant of his family's house. When Adam says, "Dear master, I can go no further. O, I die for food! Here lie I down, and measure out my grave. Farewell, kind master" (II.vi.1-3), Orlando first finds shelter for him and then goes to seek food for him. He encounters the banished Duke and his followers, and they hospitably invite him to eat with them. Orlando exits to bring Adam to the meal, Jaques delivers his "All the world's a stage" speech, and Orlando and Adam re-enter. Adam's last speech in the play is "I scarce can speak to thank you for myself" (II.vii.170).
Not long after that point in the production staged at the Guthrie—and in other productions I've heard about—Adam dies.
I'll be frank: I don't like the decision. The death of Adam seems to run contrary to the nature of things in the play. The Forest of Arden has an amazing power to dissipate sorrow and anger. It even converts the evil Duke Frederick. To have Adam die during the feast—in the production at the Guthrie, he died while Amiens was singing "Heigh-ho, the holly! / This life is most jolly" (II.vii.182-83)—places a deep emptiness at the heart of the forest.
But I'll also be frank about this: I understand the decision. Adam has no more lines, no more entrance cues, no more words from the other characters. On a practical level, he can make a final exit at this point. On a philosophical level, his death can embody the unmentioned Eighth Age of Man that hovers in the air just after the conclusion of Jaques' speech:
These words already seem a little tasteless when Adam, who might almost be described by these words, enters immediately afterwards. But, since the character of Adam is literally in his last scene of all (as far as we can credit the stage directions, which isn't really all that far), the decision to have him pass beyond that state into death is comprehensible.Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness, and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing. (II.vii.163-66)
However, I prefer a more optimistic use of Adam. In the 1994 animated version of As You Like It, for example, Adam and the others carry on with their feasting and singing regardless of Jaques' melancholy conclusion (for which, q.v.).
I'd love to know your thoughts—please provide them in the comments below! Should Adam die? Should he live? What difference does it make to the play one way or the other?