Food and Feasting During the Time of Shakespeare

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Jules Regueiro Mr. Kiernan English 11-A June 9, 2008 During Shakespearian times, the real world was not as prosperous as the worlds created by Shakespeare in his plays. During Shakespeare’s lifetime the outbreak of The Black Plague was a very real threat. This constant fear led to substantial problems such as food shortages and a decrease in culture which allowed William Shakespeare to emerge as a representation of all that was good during this era. Despite the poor people’s everyday struggle to find food, the rich still lived lavish lifestyles with an abundance of feasting and celebration. The purpose of this essay is to reflect on the relationship between food and culture and how people in Shakespearian times used the two to overcome The Bubonic Plague. The Black Plague was an epidemic that took the lives of one-third of all Europeans during the time Shakespeare was alive. With the plague running rapid, many people became corrupt in order to find food and support there families. In Kastan’s A Companion to Shakespeare, he says, “the high prices and shortages of food, were wicked, wondering, idle people whose thefts were at the heart of all the trouble.” (34) He then goes on to say, in regards to the new corrupt people: Worse, the cost of imprisoning them all meant that there was no money left over to relieve the truly needy poor. His answer to these problems was straight forward: harsher laws and sharper law enforcement to stop the mouths of these people who laugh in their sleeves at the lenity of the law and the timorousness of the executioners of it… There was much seditious talk (for which many were hanged), and in Kent alone there were eleven riots connected with these shortages of grain between 1585 and 1603. (Kastan 34-35) In 1598, William Shakespeare was found guilty of illegally storing eighty bushels of malt. He had this abundance of
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