1st Edition

Food in Shakespeare
Early Modern Dietaries and the Plays

ISBN 9781138265066
Published November 10, 2016 by Routledge
176 Pages

USD $62.95

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Book Description

A study of common and exotic food in Shakespeare's plays, this is the first book to explore early modern English dietary literature to understand better the significance of food in Shakespearean drama. Food in Shakespeare provides for modern readers and audiences an historically accurate account of the range of, and conflicts between, contemporary ideas that informed the representations of food in the plays. It also focuses on the social and moral implications of familiar and strange foodstuff in Shakespeare's works. This new approach provides substantial fresh readings of Hamlet, Macbeth, As you Like It, The Winter's Tale, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, Henry V, Titus Andronicus, Coriolanus, Pericles, Timon of Athens, and the co-authored Sir Thomas More. Among the dietaries explored are Andrew Boorde's A Compendyous Regyment or a Dyetary of Healthe (1547), William Bullein's The Gouernement of Healthe (1595), Thomas Elyot's The Castle of Helthe (1595) and Thomas Cogan's The Hauen of Health (1636). These dieteries were republished several times in the early modern period; together they typify the genre's condemnation of surfeit and the tendency to blame human disease on feeding practices. This study directs scholarly attention to the importance of early modern dietaries, analyzing their role in wider culture as well as their intersection with dramatic art. In the dietaries food and drink are indices of one's position in relation to complex ideas about rank, nationality, and spiritual well-being; careful consumption might correct moral as well as physical shortcomings. The dietaries are an eclectic genre: some contain recipes for the reader to try, others give tips on more general lifestyle choices, but all offer advice on how to maintain good health via diet. Although some are more stern and humourless than others, the overwhelming impression is that of food as an ally in the battle against disease and ill-health as well as a potential enemy.



Joan Fitzpatrick is a Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Loughborough, UK. She has published books and articles on Shakespeare and Spenser. She also writes the 'Spenser and Sidney' section of The Year's Work in English Studies.


'For those who thought Shakespeare wasn't much interested in food or nutrition, here is something for rumination. This solid, close textual reading of key characters and themes in Shakespeare's plays uses contemporary English dietaries to explain the obscure imagery. This study is succinct and refreshingly devoid of abstruse critical theory. We are invited to think anew about Falstaff's gluttony, the witches' brew in Macbeth, vegetarian references in As You Like It as well as references in several other lesser-known plays. A welcome addition to the burgeoning field of food and literature studies.' Ken Albala, University of the Pacific, USA and author of Eating Right in the Renaissance ’...looks at eleven of Shakespeare’s plays and the ways in which Shakespeare uses food to clue his audience into the make up of various characters...interesting and certainly opens the way for future scholars to look at the plays...Recommended.’ Choice ’... eye-opening culinary excursions...of monasticism and abstinence, the symbolism of fish, venison, even early modern vegetarianism - are side-roads that prove rewarding in themselves.’ TLS ’In discussions of Hamlet and Titus Andronicus, Fitzpatrick proves adept at drawing together and harmonizing a host of critical insights into the uses of food in the play. And throughout her book her writing remains engaging, clear, and sensitive to evidence from theatrical productions as well as scholarly evaluation... compelling and thoughtful arguments move us closer to the important goal of developing a comprehensive poetics of food in Shakespeare.’ Renaissance Quarterly ’Food in Shakespeare's innovative and close reading of not simply food habits but also metaphors of consumption... represents a usable, scholarly approach not just to Shakespeare but to food and cultural studies and early modern studies.’ Sixteenth Century Journal