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Food in Shakespeare: early modern dietaries and the plays

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posted on 2010-05-17, 08:46 authored by Joan FitzpatrickJoan Fitzpatrick
Introduction: This book is the first detailed study of food and feeding in Shakespeare’s plays. Its purpose is to provide modern readers and audiences of Shakespeare with an historically accurate account of the range of, and conflicts between, contemporary views that informed the representations of food and feeding in the plays, in particular views about diet. It is not an exhaustive study of the plays nor is it a definitive study of food and feeding in the early modern period. It would be neither possible nor desirable in a book–length study to provide the reader with a roller– coaster ride through Shakespeare’s treatment of food and feeding and so my aim has been to consider those plays I think most clearly signal Shakespeare’s interest in food, specifically the sliding scale from the most ordinary to the most exotic manifestations of food and feeding, and most clearly engage with some of the other things being written about the subject prior to and during the early modern period. The book began life as a study of food in Shakespeare and Elizabethan culinary culture but it soon became clear that this was too large a topic for one book and so the main, though by no means exclusive, focus is on Shakespeare and early modern dietaries, outlined below. Also outlined below is the early modern perception of Galen’s model of humoral theory which dominated early modern thinking about how the body works and the role of diet. While it is crucial to understand the early modern view of the body and humoral theory, and reference will be made to this throughout the book’s main chapters, this is not a study of the humours or medicine per se. Readers who desire more detailed analyses of the humours are advised to consult studies by Gail Kern Paster and Jonathan Sawday who, amongst others, have located early modern ideas of selfhood in the context of that period’s understanding of the body (Paster 2004; Sawday 1995). While these studies have served to advance our understanding of the complex relationship between subjectivity, the body, and social structures regulating consumption in the Renaissance they have not attended to contemporary dietary literature, an immensely popular and influential genre. Ken Albala’s study provides an important introduction to the genre (Albala 2002) but this book is the first to explore early modern dietaries to better understand the uses of food and feeding in Shakespeare’s drama. In ancient physiological ...



  • The Arts, English and Drama


  • English and Drama


FITZPATRICK, J., 2007. Food in Shakespeare: early modern dietaries and the plays. Aldershot : Ashgate.


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This is the final draft of the text accepted for publication by Ashgate, but prior to copy-editing and proof correction. Details of the definitive version of this book are available at: www.ashgate.com/isbn/9780754655473




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