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Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Arthur F. Kinney
Brian W. Ogilvie
European History | Literature in English, British Isles | Theatre History
Drawing on recent criticism in food studies and material culture, this dissertation examines representations of recreational consumption in early modern drama. Shakespeare and his contemporaries litter the commercial stage with scenes of appetitive desire, leisurely eating, and conviviality. This dissertation asserts that such moments provide more than comic relief or colorful accents to staged fictions; they coalesce into a socially and politically resonant discourse of profitable consumption. While pastimes such as civic festivals and pageants were common in early modern England, what I term the culture of the everyday feast--commercially organized opportunities to eat, drink, and recreate that occurred in and around London's public theaters--emerged as a new, socially powerful phenomenon. By closely examining depictions of recreational spaces and goods in plays by Shakespeare, Jonson, and many others staged between 1585 and 1615, I demonstrate how recreational experiences not only make social relations visible but also interrogate the sources of social authority. By strategically celebrating and satirizing various alimentary desires and practices, the theater encourages audiences to consider the ways in which leisurely consumption can be constitutive, not corruptive; communal, not isolating; and, above all, socially and politically advantageous.
This dissertation adopts two strategies to explore staged depictions of socially profitable consumption. The first is a treatment of theater's engagement with one of early modern London's most popular recreational spaces, the tavern, and the way that chronicle history plays and urban comedies utilize the tavern as a setting in order to negotiate the changing nature of political and social life in urban culture. The second strategy involves case studies of consumable goods, such as tobacco and other novelties, which provide evidence for the material culture that shapes and defines recreational commerce and how it functions dramatically. Taken together, these chapters demonstrate the theater's efforts to distinguish itself within the broader recreational economy of early modern London. The theater does so by incorporating London's other pleasurable practices and spaces into its staged narratives, and imagining the social possibilities--the liberties and limits--that the recreational marketplace affords its participants.
Zajac, Timothy W, "The Everyday Feast: Recreational Consumption and Social Status in Early Modern English Drama" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations 1896 - February 2014. 538.