David B. Goldstein and Amy L. Tiger, eds.
Staging Food and Drink in Early Modern England
Duquesne University Press 2016
New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in British StudiesNew Books in FoodNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network December 19, 2016 Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed
Culinary Shakespeare: Staging Food and Drink in Early Modern England (Duquesne University Press, 2016) is a collection of essays that offers new dimensions for reading and understanding Shakespeare’s plays. Responding to a rich scholarship on Shakespeare, the authors shift the centers and margins of literary discourse to illuminate aspects that were previously dismissed as insignificant.
In Culinary Shakespeare, food is theorized as a territory where multiple dimensions intersect and overlap: aesthetic, social, national, political, etc. As the authors of the introduction section state, “This culinary Shakespearean moment, by crystalizing question about knowledge, power, ethics, colonialism, labor, and desire, introduces us to the grave importance of food in the early modern period and to the dangers of ignoring eating as an ontological and epistemological phenomenon” (1). A part of everyday life, food reflects the individuals engagements with the world and others, revealing intricacies of communication and world-view construction.
In Shakespeare’s plays, food is copiously visible and, at the same time, exquisitely subtle. As the essays demonstrate, Shakespeare offers a variety of food engagements ranging from traditional English cuisine and exotic delicatessens to drinking, feasting and banqueting. The three parts of the collection guide readers through the levels Shakespeare’s gastronomic representations permeate: Local and Global; Body and State; Theatre and Community. The three chapters coherently illustrate the idea framed by the introduction note: “For Shakespeare, the culinary is primary” (3). Although the statement may sound categorical, it nevertheless draws attention to textual layers that contain essential information not only about Shakespeare’s plays, but also about society and the community in Early Modern England. Describing food subtleties, the contributors discuss how Shakespeare address the issues of economy and nationhood. Highlighting the perspectives that were underrepresented in the traditional scholarship, Culinary Shakespeare also invites new engagements with literature and literary criticism. Revealing shifting nature of centers, the collection provides tools for reading texts as entities that participate in and absorb a diversity of discourses.