Shakespeare Jahrbuch 145 (2009)

Stage and Banquet

How, what and with whom we eat helps to constitute our social identity. In early modern England this becomes visible, for example, in medical, moral or religious dietary instructions, but also through eating cultures based on social hierarchy, in the seasonal changes between daily life and holidays, and, last but not least, in the differentiation between the self and the other on the basis of eating habits and food. In Shakespeare’s plays these cultural implications of eating are explored in great detail: recall the numerous feasts, Falstaff’s and Sir Toby’s debaucheries, or the rather disturbing culinary skills with which we are confronted in Titus Andronicus or Macbeth. The contributions to this volume discuss a number of plays and show how the intake of food or the lack thereof can (de)stabilize societies (Peter Holland, Gerhard Neumann, Tobias Döring); they analyze how food and hunger negotiate social and cultural (Kim Hall) or gendered power relations (Sasha Garwood), tensions between youth and old age (Nina Taunton) or religious conflicts of the time (Tobias Döring). Several articles focus on the banquet – the great banquet on the one hand, and the early modern dessert course on the other (Peter Holland, Kim Hall). Particular attention is also paid to the tension between the symbolism and the materiality of dishes – especially with regards to eating on stage (Michael Dobson, Peter Holland, Kim Hall). Finally, the treatment of food is shown to be genre-specific as can be seen in the relationship between early modern dietaries and Shakespeare’s plays (Joan Fitzpatrick), as well as in the differences between Shakespeare’s comedies, tragedies and histories in this respect (Nina Taunton, Michael Dobson). This volume shows that, even (or especially) in Shakespeare, we are what we eat.