Balancing the body and consulting the heavens: Medicine in Shakespeare’s time

Few Elizabethans were wealthy enough to afford a licensed physician. Instead, they would rely on the knowledge of a local “wise woman,” with her home collection of remedy recipes and medicines. Or, they would send a description of their symptoms (along with a urine sample) to an “empiric,” who might cast an astrological horoscope. Broken bone? Call the barber-surgeon!… Continue Reading »



Before the Thanksgiving turkey came the banquet peacock

Lavish dinners—and the cookbooks and instruction manuals for how to execute them—were popular during the Renaissance, and they emphasized the art of food, in addition to—and at times, over—its taste. Peacocks were thus an ideal banquet food because their colorful plumage made for artful display. But over the early modern period, turkeys came to replace peacocks as the customary food of ceremonies and holidays.




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 »


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 »


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.


Seed cake inspired by Thomas Tusser

See a 17th-century recipe for seed cake inspired by the farmer poet Thomas Tusser. Ingredients include rosewater, caraway seeds, and sherry.


Play on! Yvette Nolan on translating ‘Henry IV, Part 1’

If you’ve been following the Shakespeare & Beyond blog, you’ll know that the Folger has been doing a monthly series of Q&As with some of the playwrights and dramaturgs involved with Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Play on! project to translate all of Shakespeare’s plays into contemporary English. This month’s post breaks out of the typical Q&A… Continue Reading »