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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: August ::
Elizabethan Dining
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0540  Monday, 20 August 2007

[1] 	From: 		Ted Nellen <
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	Date: 		Friday, 17 Aug 2007 06:58:22 -0500 (CDT)
	Subj: 		Re: SHK 18.0535 Elizabethan Dining

[2] 	From: 		Paul E. Doniger <
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	Date: 		Friday, 17 Aug 2007 05:09:19 -0700 (PDT)
	Subj: 		Re: SHK 18.0535 Elizabethan Dining

[3] 	From: 		Nicole Coonradt <
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	Date: 		Saturday, 18 Aug 2007 19:22:35 +0000
	Subj: 		Re: SHK 18.0535 Elizabethan Dining


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Ted Nellen <
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Date: 		Friday, 17 Aug 2007 06:58:22 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 18.0535 Elizabethan Dining
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0535 Elizabethan Dining

 >Sorry to waste people's time with what may seem a silly question, but
 >can anyone tell me when the Elizabethans dined?
 >
 >If Beatrice comes to tell Benedick 'dinner is ready', is this midday or
 >evening?
 >
 >If it is evening, then presumably the women's gulling scene takes place
 >the next day.

I believe dinner is the midday meal and supper is evening meal.

Ted Nellen

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Paul E. Doniger <
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Date: 		Friday, 17 Aug 2007 05:09:19 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 18.0535 Elizabethan Dining
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0535 Elizabethan Dining

Allardyce Nicoll (The Elizabethans. Cambridge UP, 1957: 102) quotes a 
contemporary source, saying that the gentry dined "at eleven before 
noon," and that "husbandmen dine also at high noon." Merchants, he says, 
"dine ... seldom before twelve at noon." Dinner seems to be equivalent 
to our (America's) lunch. Supper was the evening meal (between five and 
six p.m.). This explains the lines in Julius Caesar where Cassius 
invites Casca first to sup tonight and then to dine tomorrow (1.2.288-290).

Paul E. Doniger

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Nicole Coonradt <
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Date: 		Saturday, 18 Aug 2007 19:22:35 +0000
Subject: 18.0535 Elizabethan Dining
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0535 Elizabethan Dining

I suspect there will be plenty of posts by members for this topic.

For Judy Lewis re her query on Elizabethan mealtimes:  in Ian Wilson's 
_The Evidence:  Unlocking the Mysteries of the Man and His Work_ (New 
York: St. Martin's, 1993), I just came across a journal entry by Simon 
Forman about a Globe production of _Macbeth_ from 20 April 1610 (Forman 
was, according to Wilson, "an astrologer, plague curer and confidant of 
Emilia Lanier" [316]).  Forman writes about the scene with Banquo's 
ghost that it occurs while the characters are "at supper" (316) and in 
the course of that play it comes as the evening meal in the action just 
after the murderers report successfully slaying Banquo (recall via stage 
direction, one extinguishes a torch-meaning it must be dark-while the 
other two attack), to which Macbeth replies that he will see them 
"tomorrow" and the feast follows immediately with Banquo's ghost 
appearing. (3.3 & 4) The scene closes with the Lady M's excuses and the 
company saying "good night" (3.4.119, 120) before the murderous couple 
discuss the night being "Almost at odds with morning" (3.4.126), and 
Lady M tells Macbeth to "sleep" (3.4.140) and he replies, "Come, we'll 
to sleep" (3.4.141).

Etymologically, "dinner" comes from the Middle English, from the Old 
French, "disiunare"-to break one's fast, "dis" from the Latin for 
"reversal" or "undoing", and "i&#275;i&#363;nium," meaning "fast."  So 
it was the first big meal of the day, apparently taken between rising 
and noon.  Our word "breakfast" seems to post-date this usage somewhat, 
though for a while it seems they are synonymous (in Medieval times).  I 
could be mistaken, but I think that, traditionally, when people in 
pre-Reformation times (ergo Catholics) went to Mass daily, one was not 
to have taken anything to eat or drink (not even water) prior to 
receiving the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion, which would account 
for the time of day in which dinner (or the erstwhile "breakfast" before 
the word was coined) would have been consumed-that is, post services. 
(Actually, come to think of it, that was probably the case for Catholics 
up until Vatican II, but for our interest here as regards Elizabethan 
England, with the Reformation, Mass, along with the whole of 
Catholicism, had been outlawed.) The Middle English Dictionary on-line 
is helpful in such etymological searches.  Announced at SHAKSPER in 
early 2007 as completed and available to the public, on-line and 
free-of-charge, it is an **excellent and invaluable** resource 
(especially b/c we get common usage in English prior to what OED 
normally catalogs) and is extremely, user friendly.  Try it here: 
http://ets.umdl.umich.edu/m/med/

Supper is listed most places as an evening meal.  At MED it is listed 
variously as "sopere," "sopar," "sopir," "sopper," "souper," and 
"soupir".  Noted first as the **final** meal of the day.

So, based on the contemporary evidence provided by Forman's journal and 
the etymology, it appears that the meal in _Much Ado_ to which Lewis 
refers occurs early in the day, midmorning and NLT noon.

Interestingly, our word "lunch" the truncated form of "luncheon," as the 
noon repast, originally meant **drinking** at noon.  From Middle English 
"nonshench," "none" being "noon," and "shench" from "drink" originally, 
Old English "scencan," "to pour out."

We also have a reference to "supper" in Hamlet when the Prince says that 
Polonius can be found "at supper" (4.1.19), "Not where he eats, but 
where he is eaten" (4.3.21).  Though Hamlet uses this only as a mad joke 
and it may not be taken as reference to the "real" time of the play, it 
certainly seems to suggest a "final" meal-of-the-day status, especially 
for the dead Polonius.  (Supper also appears as "The Last Supper" in 
reference to Christ as early as c. 1300.)  As far as diction is 
concerned, Hamlet does not say the King will find Polonius "at dinner."

Hope this is helpful.

Best,
Nicole Coonradt

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