Nightmares and ominous dreams are used to great dramatic effect in plays such as Shakespeare’s Richard III. Act I of Shakespeare’s Richard III ends with the murder of the Duke of Clarence, presaged by the dream of drowning he recounts at the start of the scene. Just as the dream is about to end, howling… Continue Reading »
Posts Categorized: Early-modern-life
Why was herpetophagy (eating reptiles and amphibians) linked with madness in Shakespeare’s “King Lear”? Unpack the cultural anxieties involved in early modern English encounters with unfamiliar dietary norms.
In Act 1, Scene 3 of Othello, the manipulative Iago urges Roderigo, a wealthy Venetian recently disappointed in love, to join him in a plot to humiliate Othello. Reveling in the destruction he plans to inflict upon Othello’s romance with Desdemona, Iago declares that “The food that to him now is as luscious as locusts… Continue Reading »
Shakespeare’s plays are full of references to food and cookery, but they’re not always very appetizing. In Hamlet, the ghost of elder Hamlet describes the effect of the poison that Claudius pours into his ears, how it winds its way through the veins of his body and suddenly “doth posset / And curd, like eager… Continue Reading »
In 1608, famine plagued England. Preachers responded with sermons begging the gentry to show compassion for the poor, King James I responded with royal proclamations against grain hoarding, and Shakespeare responded with Coriolanus, a Roman revenge-tragedy. Likely composed in 1608 and staged c. 1609-1610, Coriolanus opens with starving citizens storming the stage with rakes, pikes,… Continue Reading »
How many animals have you encountered today, and in what forms? From pets and urban species such as squirrels and sparrows, to meat products and leather, the number may surprise you. Even for those of us who live in human-built spaces, like cities and suburbs, animals and animal bodies are still everyday aspects of human… Continue Reading »
A plate of beautifully baked cookies is a wonderful thing. It is a welcoming gesture for guests, it signifies a holiday or a special meal, and it is a demonstration of a baker’s skill at making something pleasing to the eye and the palate. In Shakespeare’s England, bakers in elite households prepared sugar sculptures, confectionary,… Continue Reading »
Today, turkey and stuffing are central fare on the holiday table. But turkeys weren’t even known in England until the 1520s, when they were introduced by explorers returning from the Americas. Turkey was immediately popular in England; within a hundred years, turkeys had become a common Christmas food. The story with stuffing is less clear…. Continue Reading »
In Shakespeare’s plays, we find scenes that take place in taverns and alehouses – but no coffee shops – and characters who drink ale and wine – but not what we now think of as the quintessential English beverage: tea. While Falstaff spends much of Henry IV, Part 1 calling for another cup of sack… Continue Reading »
See education in Shakespeare’s day through the eyes of Ben Jonson: learning ABCs and the Lord’s Prayer with hornbooks, and drilling Latin grammar endlessly.