Cooks, Cooking, and Food on the Early Modern Stage
Templeman, Sally Jane
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
I wish to place an embargo on my thesis to be made universally accessible via ERIC for a period of 18 months.
Reason for embargo
I intend to publish this thesis as a book.
This project aims to take the investigation of food in early modern drama, in itself a relatively new field, in a new direction. It does this by shifting the critical focus from food-based metaphors to food-based properties and food-producing cook characters. This shift reveals exciting, unexpected, and hitherto unnoticed contexts. In The Taming of the Shrew and Titus Andronicus, which were written during William Shakespeare’s inn-yard playhouse period, the playwright exploits these exceptionally aromatic venues in order to trigger site-specific responses to food-based scenes in these plays. Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair brings fair-appropriate gingerbread properties onstage. When we look beneath the surface of this food effect to its bread and wine ingredients, however, it reveals a subtext that satirizes the theory of transubstantiation. Jonson expands on this theme by using Ursula’s cooking fire (a property staged in Jonson’s representation of Smithfield’s Bartholomew Fair) to engage with the prison narrative of Anne Askew, who was burned to death in front of Bartholomew Priory on the historic Smithfield for denying the doctrine of transubstantiation. This thesis also investigates water, which, for early moderns, was a complex and quasi-mystical liquid: it was a primary element, it washed sin from the world during the Great Flood, it was a marker of status, it was a medicine, and it was a cookery ingredient. Christopher Marlowe not only uses dirty water to humiliate his doomed monarch in Edward II, but he also uses it to apportion blame to the king for his own downfall. In Timon of Athens, Shakespeare draws on the theory of the elements to cast Timon as a man of water, who, Jesus-like, breaks up and divides (or splashes around) his body at his “last” supper. Fully-fledged cook characters were a relative rarity on the early modern stage. This project looks at two exceptions: Furnace in Philip Massinger’s A New Way to Pay Old Debts and the unnamed master cook in John Fletcher’s The Tragedy of Rollo, Duke of Normandy. Both playwrights use their respective gastronomic geniuses to demonstrate the danger that lower-order expertise poses to the upper classes when society is in flux. Finally, this project demonstrates that a link existed between ornate domestic food effects and alchemy. It shows how Philip Massinger’s The Great Duke of Florence and Thomas Middleton’s Women, Beware Women use food properties associated with alchemy to satirize notions of perfection in their play-worlds.
"What's this? Mutton?': Food, Bodies, and Inn-Yard Performance Spaces in Early Shakespearean Drama." Shakespeare Bulletin. 31.1 (2013):79-94.
PhD in English