Posts Categorized: Early-modern-life

Cursing Coriolanus and combating cornhoarders

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 »


Introducing Wild Things: Animals in early modern life and culture

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 »


Knots, cookies, and women’s skill

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 »


Much Ado About Stuffing: Recreating an early modern stuffing recipe

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 »





Savoring the seasons and Lettice Pudsey’s fritters

Food is intimately connected to climate and season. It was for Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and it is for us today. Beautiful, local produce is once again available in the northeast now that spring is turning into early summer. In Shakespeare’s Love’s Labor’s Lost, Berowne insists that all things have their season: “At Christmas I… Continue Reading »


Elizabeth I and the Qing Empress Xiaozhuang

Like Elizabeth, Xiaozhuang was a woman with intellectual and political interests, attaining the powerful position of Empress Dowager in Qing China.


Tastes of the Mediterranean: Italian food before Italy

Italian regions share a culinary history that is rooted in the ingredients, tastes, and techniques that came out of early-modern innovations, explorations, and cultural movements.