Shakespeare’s Culinary Aesthetic

Document Type

Conference Proceeding



Conference Title

French Shakespeare Society (SFS)


Paris, France

Conference Dates

March 17-19, 2011

Date of Presentation



While much attention has been paid to the culinary and dietary metaphors in Shakespeare’s works, the culinary aesthetic with which he would have been familiar is less well known. In other words, what types of foods would a man of Shakespeare’s social standing and profession have eaten in the late 16th and early 17th century? How did the flavor profiles, ingredients and cooking techniques influence his frame of mind and what repertoire of dishes would he have been able to draw from when thinking about food? This paper will examine Tudor and Stuart cuisine. I will argue that the same aesthetic preoccupation with variety, polyphony, surprises and ingenious conceits dominate in drama and cuisine, without however abandoning a certain fundamental straight-forwardness in regard to materials or ingredients. That is, when conjuring metaphors that directly relate to food or not, it was a distinctly Tudor and Stuart approach to art in general, largely influenced by the arts of the table, that steered Shakespeare toward the aesthetic choices he ultimately made.