Meat Makes the Man: Early Modern English Theater, Animal Flesh, and Socioeconomic Relations (Food and Medical History Series)

"The Butcher Shop" 1568 Joachim Beuckelaer

Our past series examining the field of food studies within and outside of the academy focused on how food history is a growing field whose parameters are still in the process of being defined. Within the historiography, early studies of food typically came out of the field of medical history as medical historians were trained to study the impact of a single material or substance on society and substances, such as sugar, transformed from medicine to food within the cultural imagination. Today’s post is the first of an ongoing series, which will discuss the intersections between food and medical history.

Conceptions of the human body are not fixed and trans-historical, but rather mutable, shifting in accordance with scientific and social influences. Early modern English writers and audience had a humoral understanding of health, which was portrayed in the theatre of the time. Humorological systems relied upon a balance, which any inputs or outputs could disrupt to the detriment of the individual’s wellbeing.  Food, thus, was an agent able to provoke change and in this disturbance it could impact one’s sexual desires and gender representation. At the time, not only the health but also the sex of bodies was considered differently. In the one sex model, women were less perfect versions of men and had the same anatomy, only inverted. With enough heat, women could become men. Additionally, humoral imbalances would influence how masculine a person acted. These beliefs are evident in the plays: William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew (c. 1590) and John Fletcher’s Tamer Tamed (c.1610). The following post will use these plays to investigate the impact of food’s role as a substance on humorological understandings of sexuality and gender dynamics during the Early Modern period in England.
Understanding the depiction of the impact of food upon sexuality in theatre necessitates an explanation of humoral physiology itself and its pervasiveness.  The body was believed to be filled with four substances, the humors, which when in balance indicated health. The humors, blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm, were attributed with different qualities, which, if over-or under-represented, influenced a person’s temper. Blood was warm and moist and indicated a sanguine, courageous, hopeful, or amorous person.  Black bile was cold, dry, melancholic, despondent, sleepless, and irritable. Yellow bile was warm and dry, choleric, easily angered, and bad tempered. Phlegm was cold and moist, calm and unemotional.[i] An overrepresentation of any of these substances would then over-represent themselves in a person’s temperament. A humoral body was porous, reacting to excretion, alimentation, menstruation, and lactation. The boundary of the body was thus vulnerable, able to be physically altered by absorbing the world around it.[ii] For Europeans, this explanation of the body’s composition and functioning was prevalent from the classical period until its end after a slow and incomplete decline starting in the seventeenth century, with remnants still existing in the nineteenth century.
The idea that food and drink could influence the balance of humors arose in Ancient Greece. While humoral physiological notions may have some roots in Mesopotamia and or ancient Egypt, Hippocrates is commonly accredited with applying the idea to medicine and Galen popularized the concept. Galen believed that different foods had varying potential to cause the body to produce different humors. Warm foods tended to produce yellow bile and cold foods, phlegm.[iii] Galenic medicine and theory held true throughout the early modern period. Like Galen, Early Modern English men and women believed that the food and drink they ingested would alter their humors to varying degrees. Beer, which was the basic source of nourishment in England, resulted in hefty bodies, and was associated with phlegm.[iv] Such beliefs are evident also even in texts through the eighteenth century in their discussion of how the substance affects temperaments.[v] While these theories would be altered and replaced centuries later by cellular pathology and germ theory, humorology prevailed throughout the early modern period.
Although it is clear that foods were considered able to influence the body’s humoral temperament, the connection with gender and sexual drive is less evident. Women were believed to be wet and cold. They were also thought to be more sexual because their wetness signified the leakiness of their vessels and the lack of control that they had over their bodies and desires.[vi]  Excessive wetness would overpower their cold passivity. Men, on the other hand, were supposed to be hot and dry. Yet eating certain foods and drinking particular substances might alter these dispositions. Gendered bodies were thus inscribed by humorological theory.[vii] Every ingestion and excretion characterized sexual proclivity. That women urinated more often than men was viewed as a sign of their moistness;[viii] their inability to control their “leaky vessels” made them more sexual. The whore was the leakiest of all women. Since men were able to contain more liquids, the male body was seen as a container of liquids (humors), and masculinity was measured by containment and control.[ix] In the following plays, the substances imbibed and consumed alter sexuality. These two plays are most remarkable for the emphasis of how meat could be used as a way to control sexuality.
The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare demonstrates the shifts in gender and sexuality that food, more specifically meat, induces in the characters’ temperaments.  In the play within the play, the beautiful Bianca has many admirers (Lucentio, Gremio, and Hortensio) but her father will not allow her to marry until her older, shrewish sister Katherina does. Petruchio of Verona comes to Padua in search of a wife and decides to marry Katherina. He forces them to leave for his country house before their wedding feast and continues to deprive her of food and sleep for several days, pretending that he cannot allow her to eat his poor food, specifically meat, or lay on his inferior bed. Petruchio thus continues to tame Katherina’s willfulness and on their return to Padua, she obeys his commands. He proves his success in taming Katherina when at a wedding banquet for Hortensio, he wins the wager of who has the most dutiful wife when Katherina obeys his command to come and lectures the others on the importance of wifely submission. The major shifts in the gender dynamics of the play thus center on food. Katherina’s taming first begins when she is deprived of her wedding banquet, continues as she is deprived of food at Petruchio’s country house, and is complete with the lecture she gives at her sister’s wedding banquet. The analysis that follows will focus on how food, especially meat, affects the gender and sexual dynamics of the couple as it produces changes in their humoral physiology.
Katherina’s gender disposition shifts dramatically in the play. At the start of the play, she is described as “much more of a shrew of thy impatient humour” (3.2.29).[x]
Katherina’s temperament is here linked to her humorological physiology or disposition. This understanding of her character as shrewish, or choleric, is prevalent throughout the play. When she first meets Petruchio he says that he was told that she was “rough, and coy, and sullen” (2.1.242). However he lies and tells her that he thinks that she is “pleasant, gamesome, passing courteons, / but slow in speech, yet sweet as spring-time flowers,” (2.1.244-45) which is in reality the kind of temperament he will aim to give her after he tames her wild identity.[xi] By manipulating her diet, Petruchio manages to render Katherina’s disposition more “feminine” so that she may fulfill her prescribed sexual and gender roles.
            Petruchio tames Kate’s choleric or difficult, masculine nature by depriving her of meat. After they are wed, Petruchio wants them to rush off to his country home and will not let Katherina eat any of their wedding feast.[xii] At his home, they are served mutton, but Petruchio claims that the meat is bad and that they cannot eat it because
Twas burnt and dried away, / And I expressly am forbid to touch it, for it engenders choler, planteth anger, and better ‘twere both of us did fast, /Since, of ourselves, ourselves are choleric, /Than feed it with such over-roasted flesh... and for this night we’ll fast for company. /Come, I will bring thee to thy bridal chamber.” (4.1.150)

 This passage is one of the most important of the entire play because it demonstrates how Petruchio will tame Katherina.  He will not let her eat meat, which increases choler and would only make her more choleric or shrewish. Choler was associated with the humor yellow bile, which was though to make one warm and dry and thus more masculine. Petruchio’s denial of meat is thus an attempt to keep Katherina from becoming more masculine or shrewish and to rebalance her temperament. He also wants to deny her meat because choleric dispositions were thought to be easily angered and bad tempered, and thus harder to control. It is interesting to note that Petruchio also deprives himself of meat here. He must rationalize his refusal of the meat as unfit for dinner since he claimed that it is burnt. Thus he is so committed to altering Katherina’s temper that he will sacrifice his own humoral balance.  Petruchio’s servants comment on his attempt to change his wife’s disposition through altering what she consumes. Peter states,  “he kills her in her own humour”(4.1.168). Petruchio literally kills Kate’s masculine disposition by killing the choleric humor that produces it. This deprivation of meat is clearly strategic. His plan is revealed when he says “she ate no meat today, nor none shall eat” (4.1.184) and that “thus [he]’ll curb her headstrong humour” (4.1.196). Although she continues to crave meat, Petruchio instructs his staff against serving her any. She feels famished and doesn’t care what food she eats, but insists that she must eat. Grumio replies, “I fear it is too choleric a meat. How say you to a fat tripe finely broiled?”  (4.3.20).  She replies in the affirmative but he reconsiders, “ I cannot tell, I fear ‘tis choleric. What say you a piece of beef and mustard?”(4.3.24). She says that it is “a dish that I do love to feed upon” (4.3.25), an indication of her habit of meat eating. Such excess may be the reason for her more masculine representation and choleric personality. Then Grumio says, “Ay but the mustard is too hot a little” (4.3.26). Kate says “why then the beef, and let the mustard rest” (4.3.27). He decides to give her nothing. At this point in the play, however, it is not clear whether Petruchio’s prohibition of meat will make Katherina fit her gendered role. When Petruchio and Hortensio enter with meat, Kate tries to eat it, yet fails.[xiii] At first Petruchio says that he is so kind because he dresses the meat himself and brings it to her (4.3.40), but then he says to take away the meat (4.3.35). Kate begs that he let it stand (4.3.45), but instead he gives the platter to Hortensio. She must then watch Hortensio eat the meat she cannot have. Petruchio encourages him to actually “eat it up all, Hortensio, if thou lovest me” (4.3.50). Hortensio’s dining assists in Katherina’s taming. Here the gender binary is made far clearer. Hortensio is allowed and even encouraged by Petruchio to eat meat, while Kate is denied the choleric substance. Katherina’s female embodiment is intensified by both her lack of access to the choleric, masculine, empowering product and by Petruchio’s control over that access. The success of Petruchio’s scheme start to become evident when he famously convinces her to say that the sun is the moon when clearly she doesn’t believe it to be so. However, the transformation is still not fully complete. She begs Petruchio to allow them to go to Hortensio’s wedding feast, where she would potentially regain access to meat. However, she is only allowed to go when she kisses him, an act that further grounds her sexual role and femininity (5.1.138). Now after he demonstration of affection, he believes that her risk of becoming choleric again has waned. He is so confident after her kiss that he actually encourages her, alongside the other guests, to do “nothing but sit and sit, and eat and eat” (5.2.12).  Her humors have been rebalanced and she has returned to her feminine role. She now is able to eat again, possibly even meat, until perhaps she becomes imbalanced again in the future.
Later when Petruchio competes to see who has the most obedient wife, he wins when Katherina is the only wife to do as her husband demands and admonishes the wives for not obeying their husbands. She says that she now sees their “strength as weak” (5.2.174). She commands, “vail your stomachs, for it is no boot, / and place your hands below your husband’s foot”(5.2.176-177). The note clams that the phrase “vail your stomachs” means to “lower your pride.”[xiv] However, I think something far more complex is being stated here that relates to medical views on health in diet, disposition, and gender presentation. When Katherina says, “vail your stomachs,” she is telling the women to watch what they eat so that they do not become too choleric. This is made clearer by the fact that before Kate is tamed and has yet to be deprived of meat, Petruchio says, “I know you have a stomach”( 4.1.145 ). Katherina’s reference to women’s stomachs here is thus suggestive of their masculine cravings for the meat that would make them manlier. Katherina’s transformation is completed when she forsakes the banquet to leave and have sex with Petruchio. Now her sexual identity is cemented and she is firmly rooted in a female gender representation.
Petruchio’s masculinity is emboldened in the play by his domination of Katherina, affected through the withholding of food, and meat in particular. Although his gender disposition does not undergo as drastic a change as that of Kate, his masculinity is strengthened by his consumption of meat, just as hers is by her lack of access to it. Before their wedding, Kate describes Petruchio as: “full of spleen” (3.2.10). The editor’s note claims that the spleen was associated with both melancholy and laughter, both high spirits and irritability.[xv] Indeed, each of the humors was associated with an organ: blood with the liver, yellow bile with the gall bladder, phlegm with the brain and lungs and black bile with the spleen, which was cold and dry. Men were supposed to be hot and dry, according to humoral conceptions of the body. In describing Petruchio as splenetic, Kate is thus suggesting that he is not fully a man. Petruchio, too, is imbalanced and melancholic. At first when he tries to tame her, Petruchio refrains from eating meat (4.1.168). The mirroring illusions he must create, in order to tame her, demasculinizes him at first. He set up a false world, not the “right” one, in which men are men and women are women. However, when he asserts control over the meat (4.3.40), he regains some of his masculinity. In the end, his gender identity is reaffirmed and rebalanced when Kate kisses him, and is cemented through the consummation of their marriage when they leave the banquet to go to bed.
Meat makes the man in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. John Fletcher’s Tamer Tamed, written as a kind of sequel to the play also makes use of meat and humoral physiology in its narrative, but with some alterations.
In the play, Kate, Petruccio’s former wife has died and he has just remarried. [xvi]  His new wife, Maria, proves to be head strong like Katherina. However, his former shrew-taming tactics do not work on Maria. She refuses to consummate their marriage until Petruccio alters his behavior. She barricades herself on the upper floor of her house with a group of other women who have chosen to abstain from sex with their husbands. During this time, the women feast on meat and drink. Petruccio attempts various methods to alter his temperament. At the end of the play her demands are met and Maria succeeds in taming Petruccio. Throughout the play there are multiple references to food, meat specifically, and the humors. However, since Fletcher rather than Shakespeare wrote this play, some of the tactics employed differ.
Attempts to manipulate the humors via the control of consumption, as a means of empowerment, also occur in this play. Bianca, Kate’s sister, warns Maria that “since his first wife set him going, / nothing can bind his rage” (1.2.59-60).  She wants Maria to succeed where her sister failed and be able to resist Petruccio’s taming methods. She asks if Maria has “a stomach to’t” (1.2.62). This question implies that her ability to take on this challenge depends upon her temperament and is also thus dependent on her diet or stomach. She agrees and decides that she will no longer be “the gentle, tame Maria” (1.2.76), “but a tempest”(1.2.78), and will refuse to have sex with Petruccio. In order to be a tempest, she will need to alter her humoral disposition or temperament. Later, it becomes evident that she does so, through the consumption of meat (2.1.118).  A high intake of meat will cause an imbalance of her humors and will make her choleric, violent, hot-tempered, unscrupulous, and vengeful.[xvii] With these characteristics, she hopes to have the strength to accomplish her mission. She then vows to do better than Katherina, who “took a scurvy course” (1.2.143). Maria understands that she cannot be malnourished, as Kate was when she stopped eating meat, if she hopes to tame Petruccio. However she is so confident in her abilities that she claims that she will conquer him so successfully that “aged women, /wanting both teeth and spleen, may master him” (1.2.176). Her discussion of spleen, which is a reference to black bile, demonstrates that Fletcher, like Shakespeare, was writing with an awareness of the humors. His bodily references to the stomach and digestion are made with this humoral understanding.
When Petruccio is unable to sleep with his wife he turns to food, as he did with Kate, as a means to try and control her. He proclaims, “he shall rise again, if there be truth/ in eggs and buttered parsnips” (1.3.15). These two foods were conventional aphrodisiacs of the time.[xviii] Thus he tries first to persuade her to sleep with him by forcing her to eat these foods. Kate had a reputation of being a shrew before they met so Petruccio knew that he would need strong methods to conquer her. Since Maria was initially of a gentle or subdued temperament before she took her vow to tame Petruccio, her resilience was unexpected. As a result, he first attempts to begin his conquest with milder tactics. However, these methods are to no avail. In a discussion with Sophocles, they conclude that she is “an ill wife” (1.3.125) and that she was “never virtuous” (1.3.126) or good-natured. Despite more pleading, Maria will not go to bed with Petruccio. He thus proclaims that he “must not to bed with this stomach” (1.3.223). He realizes that he cannot sleep with her due to her current disposition. In order to tame her he decides that Maria will have “no meat, lady” (1.3.223). In Taming of the Shrew, he tamed Kate by depriving her of meat in order to rebalance her humors. Again, Petruccio is attempting similar tactics. This passage also has a double meaning. She will not receive his “meat” or sexual flesh until her temperament changes. She then replies nonchalantly that he may “feed where [he] will…/for I’ll none with ye” (1.3.225). She does not respect his threat of depriving her of literal meat and for the sexual meat, she tells him to find another love, suggesting a dairy maid, because she is not interested in having sex with him. He once again asks for her to come to their marriage bed (1.3.228) but she continues to refuse. He repeats that she will “neither have meat” (1.2.154-155).  Like in Taming of the Shrew, he clearly wants to deprive his wife of literal meat because she will not make love to him and he thinks that in doing so he will change her stomach and cure her of her illness caused by a humoral imbalance. However, Fletcher’s use of meat is slightly different than Shakespeare’s. In this play, Petruccio’s discussion of meat is a pun. Meat is both food and sexual flesh.
While food imagery for Maria is used in a similar manner as Shakespeare’s description of Kate’s resistance, this imagery for Petruccio is more complicated. When she decides that she will not have sex with Petruccio, she says that she will “keep fasting/[her] valiant bridegroom” (1.2.96-97). He will try to tame her by depriving her of physical meat in order to temper her choler, but she will deprive him of her meat, or sexual flesh. He is discussed as being starved of sex, made to fast and is left hungry. She will not take his sexual meat and will not give him hers. By depriving him of the ability to eat her meat, she hopes to tame his temperament. Her flesh is meat that would increase his choler, and she already thinks that he is “too hot”(1.3.201). Thus she must not let him have her if she is to take away his title as a “brave wife breaker” (1.3.267) and “tame” (1.3.268) him.
Both characters continue to try and tame each other by using meat. Maria wants to stop Petruccio’s consumption of meat in order to reduce his choler for the purpose of diminishing his feelings of entitlement towards sex. If she succeeds, his diet will desexualize him. Petruccio also wants to deprive Maria of meat to tame her choler. However, he wants to lessen her power so that she will not be so resistant to having sex with him. He thinks that this diet will make her more sexual. While it may seem contradictory at first that they are both trying to cause the other to fast for different sexual goals, it is important to remember that humoral understandings of the body were different for males and females. Although the characters are held to the one-sex model, males and females still had different humoral temperaments and these alterations in humors would affect their sexual drives differently depending on their gender. When Maria, who is supposed to, as a woman, be cold and wet, is too choleric, she is harder to control. This more violent temperament overpowers her wetness and sexual appetite.  However, when Petruccio is too choleric, the violent temperament makes him feel too entitled to have sex, which overpowers the dry and controlled disposition that men were supposed to have. Meat, either in the form of food or in sexual flesh, makes them both too hot and each one, both headstrong, must try to stop the other from eating it in order to obtain their goals. Access to meat will determine who holds the power in the relationship.
Maria tries to prevent Petruccio from gaining access to her sexual meat by locking herself among other women on the highest floor of her house. Petruccio however will attempt to “starve ‘em out” (1.3.279).  He says that if she gives “no sport, [she will have] no pie” (1.3.275). He tells Jacques to make “an imposition upon souse and puddings…/ that the women / may not relieve yon rebels” (1.4.13-15). Souse is a part of a pig or other animal that is pickled.[xix] He is telling Jacques, as he had earlier told Grumio in Taming of the Shrew, to not bring his wife meat. Livia, Bianca’s cousin, comes to the floor and brings food.[xx] The other women at first do not trust her. They think that she “hast been kept up tame” (2.1.19) and is an accomplice to their husbands, but she insists that she has “come/ to do as [they] do” (2.1.15-16) and hide from men. Bianca still worries that she is a traitor who will “curse [their] meat” (2.1.101) and thus their venture.  However, they are finally convinced when she produces “cold meat/ and tripe of proof” (2.1.118).  Her gift of cold meats and entrails of cows or swine proved to the women that she is on their side, for meat is the empowering substance. The women then gorge themselves on the meat and get drunk on the wine and beer that she also brings.
Petruccio obviously has not succeeded in depriving Maria of meat for she has maintained a supply to consume. He begins to tire of this rift, but he believes that “if [he] offer[s] peace, / she’ll urge her own conditions” (2.5.6-7) and he is still not ready for that consequence.  Although he knows that he is currently losing the battle and is suffering, his friends encourage him to “clap spurs on, and in this you’ll deal with temperance” (2.5.30). They still think that he has a chance to rid her of this humoral imbalance and make her subservient to his general will and more specifically, his sexual desire. Time passes and the women still deny the men. Therefore at the end of Act 2, Scene 5, Petruccio promises to try and find some agreement over a supper that the women have accepted to attend. He says that he is “roguey and scurvey” (3.1.19). This deprivation of sexual meat has wrought horrors on his health. He is malnourished and his choler is diminishing, evident in his suggestion to at least try and speak with the women. The women though continue to obtain their choleric sustenance from chambermaids who “give ‘em flesh” (3.1.56).  After the dinner Pedro and Jacques discuss the events that took place at the supper. Pedro insists that Petruccio has “found his full match now” (3.2.6).  Jacques mentions that during the supper “she looked on him” (3.2.7) and Pedro wonders if it was “scurvily” (3.2.8). He wants to know if Maria is beginning to feel warmth for Petruccio due to lack of certain nourishment that would change her disposition and thus her inclinations towards her husband. However, Jacques says that her look “was of no great affection” (3.2.9) and she had acted obstinate throughout the night. She has not changed noticeably. Petruccio’s power however has diminished. Jacques fears how “he’s fasted” (3.2.47) and without the sexual meat, he is weaker. When Sophocles asks Petruccio if he touched her at all during the night and he replies that he hadn’t (3.3.1-2), Sophocles asks, “Where was your courage?” (3.3.3). Petruccio only answers by asking, “Where was her obedience?” (3.3.4). Sophocles has noticed that Petruccio is no longer as brave and his choleric disposition has begun to be tempered. Maria, however, still is disobedient. Petruccio is starving while she continues to feast. Sophocles then suggests that Petruccio rape Maria (3.3.8) but Petruccio says that he “never could, nor should [have sex with her], til she consented; / and [he] might take her body prisoner, / but for her mind or appetite- ” (3.3.15) he could never have control. Her will and consumption, fueled by meat, has dominance. Meanwhile Petruccio wishes that he could just have “a kiss or two / to close [his] stomach” (3.3.34-35). He thinks such a gesture would help maintain his disposition and keep him from starving. He has successfully been blocked from obtaining sexual meat and is left to eat his words. Each night he has a “diet of the same dish” (3.3.160): spurs of “’thou knave’ / or ‘thou whore’ for digestion” (3.3.161-162). He may feel sick (3.3. 170) but Maria continues to eat and flourish.
Due to his lack of success Petruccio then tries different tactics than controlling meat to tame Maria, although she continues to work to obstruct his access to that substance. He pretends that his sickness worsens in order to gain control over her through her pity. Maria however does not submit. In replying to questions about his condition and the state of the care he is receiving, she insists that “meat … / he shall not want” (3.5.32-33). She says that he will not be deficient in meat, yet Petruccio asks if she will “starve him here” (3.5.41). In his opinion she has lied because he has been deprived of sexual meat for a very long time. He continues to squabble and speak of his sickness until Petronius, Maria’s father, suggests that he go to Bedlam, the insane asylum (3.5.61).  Then he just complains but makes it known to Petronius that he is not actually crazy. Maria has placed two watchmen in his presence to guard him. When he complains of his wife’s actions the second watchman insists that Maria “has taken care [that he] shall want nothing” (3.5.73). The watchmen ignore his sexual desire and lack of bodily flesh. Petruccio’s stated needs have gone unmarked. The watchmen also grow to fear him for they believe he has actually gone mad and they decide to flee. Petruccio then breaks out of the room and begins to rant about how terrible women are. He finishes his monologue by asserting that he will “go a-birding”(3.5.135) and will finally have power over Maria.
While the first attempt to tame her by acting insane did not work, Petruccio tries other, more dramatic, methods. When Petruccio next speaks to his wife, he acknowledges that she again has the upper hand (4.1.55). At first she mocks him for pretending to be sick just because of “one refusal from a tender maid” (4.1.49). She teases him for his dependence on flesh in order to maintain even his own sanity, not to mention the ability to control another. She continues to torment Petruccio. Eventually he cannot stand being married to her and says that he will sever their marriage (4.4. 118). He promises that when he leaves she will have half of his estate legally bequeathed to her as a marriage settlement (4.4.123-124). He is about to leave when she says “now I love you / and, now I see you are a man” (4.4.130-131).  Petruccio has gained “a way of understanding [that Maria] long wished for” (4.4.138).  He has been tamed and now Maria can tell him how much she actually cares for him. After she has obtained equality in their relationship she repeats her feelings of love for him multiple times. In their celebratory revel, she confides that she has “cold meats ready for [him]” (4.4.198). This is the first time in the play that she has ever talked of giving him meat. Her statement is a loaded one. She now trusts him enough to promise to present him with meats, which would risk increasing a choleric disposition and perhaps make him less tame. However, more importantly, she is no longer going to starve him in the future. She is going to allow him to consecrate their vows with her own sexual meat. This statement is thus one about trust and also about sex. She promises that he should “take [his] time and pleasure” (4.4.203) and she will “see [him] horsed” (4.4.204). This statement is further evidence that by saying that she has meat ready for him means that she will now let him ride her, like a horse, and have his sexual pleasure when he returns from his trip to France. His appetite will be quenched. The horse comment was also a pun, for she is literally taking him to the stables before his journey.
Petruccio however does not trust these claims and he decides to test her. He pretends that on his return voyage he has died at sea. Maria stands by his coffin and speaks of how sorry she is that he is gone. Reacting to her words, Petruccio rises out of the coffin and she goes to him. She admits that she “has done [her] worst” (5.4.43) and she asks for him to forgive her. As an offering she pleads, “From this hour make me what you please. I have tamed ye, and now am vowed your servant” (5.4.44-46). She asks for him to not fear what she is saying and she then asks for him to kiss her. They then kiss repeatedly. Sophocles suggests that they quickly get to bed, however the couple remains fixated on each other. She promises that she is “honest” (5.4.54) and that she will “dedicate in service to [his] pleasure” (5.4.58). At this point she has already professed her love for him because he was tamed before his journey to France. His coffin ploy had no real effect except that it persuaded him that her words of love before his voyage were sincere. This tactic did nothing to tame her. Before she had decided to attempt to tame Petruccio she had already committed to serve him as a wife. She just had refused to fulfill that role until her agreed to serve her equally as a husband. At the close, his coffin ploy meant little for he had already been tamed at that point in Maria’s mind.
Regardless, the couple is now happy in their love. Petruccio then orders Jacques to “get all the best meat [that] may be bought for money” (5.4.59). The two, now standing “bound, to love mutually” (5.4.97) in equality, trust each other’s love and their relationship enough to each eat literal meat. However this statement is significantly a call for them to first gorge on food and then gorge on each other’s flesh in bed. They will share meat, the substance of control. The play thus finishes with them forming an equitable partnership, governed by a sharing of substances and sex.
This play shares many traits with The Taming of the Shrew. It is quite evident that both plays utilize humorological conceptualizations of the body in order to explain shifts in character changes. In both plays choleric characters, like Kate, Maria, and Petruccio are difficult to have power over. They also all have characters that try to subsequently tame them by controlling their access to meat, either literal or figurative. At the end of each play there is a form of celebration in which the characters talk of eating meat together. They then leave the festivities to have sex. Each play closes with a sexual resolution for their relationship conflict.
There are some differences however. Fletcher’s discussion of meat is slightly more complex. He still pays attention to the affect meat had on humoral temperament. However he complicates the idea of meat, by making it be both food and sexual flesh. This usage makes the play slightly more dynamic and it also follows in how the entire play is much more overtly concerned about sex than Shakespeare’s. His play is further complicated due to his discussion of alcohol. The women are quite drunk after Livia brought them beer and wine (2.1.118). Their drunkenness and their resulting leaky “vessels” (2.5.99) are so noticeable that they are repeatedly commented on (3.2.23). Drunkenness complicates the analysis because alcohol was associated with both wetness and a lack of control.  When women drank, they were thought to become wetter, and thus more sexual. These women however are abstaining from sex, or at least sex with their husbands. However, while drinking alcohol they are likewise eating the meat that Livia and then later the chambermaids had brought them. Perhaps the choleric properties of meat are so strong, they negate or at least minimize the effects of alcohol upon the women’s temperament. As the overpowering substance of control, meat and its choleric effects would enable the women to still control their sexuality while they are drunk.  These complications do alter the analysis somewhat, yet generally the plays share quite a few similarities.
However, the greatest difference is that Maria, the female lead, is not tamed by meat. Petruchio was able to tame Kate by depriving her of meat in Taming of the Shrew. Maria was able to tame Petruccio by impeding his access to her sexual meat or flesh. Petruccio however does not successfully tame Maria. Only after Petruccio has changed his ways and gives her control of half of the estate, does Maria begin to stop her shrewish methods. He does not in fact tame her. At the end she does give Petruccio access to her flesh and professes her affection. However, at the beginning of the play she was gentle. She has been acting shrewish only in order to gain equality in her relationship, not because it is her nature. She had to intentionally consume lots of meat in order to aid her shrewery. When she gets what she has desired, she returns to her beginning disposition. How could Petruccio have ever had a chance in taming her though when he never blocked her access to meat? Although he had made threats and told Jacques not to give Maria meat, she still managed to eat it throughout the play. If he had been more successful in preventing her consumption, would the play have ended differently?
The idea of meat as a substance of power and control is not limited to Early Modern English Theater or to the humoral conceptualization of the body. Carol J. Adam’s The Sexual Politics of Meat offers a feminist critical theory that traces the connections between meat, rampant masculinity, and misogyny. Meat acts as a substance through which economic and social control is enacted. Meat, in its production, distribution, and consumption, governs ideas of health, access to resources, and social conditions. William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew and John Fletcher’s Tamer Tamed demonstrate how such an awareness of the power of meat in bodies and in society existed in Early Modern English Theater. Meat may make the man, but it also governs social and economic relations.


Works Cited
Adams, Carol. The Sexual Politics of Meat: a Feminist-vegetarian Critical Theory.
London: Continuum, 2010. Print.

"Elizabethan Humours." George Mason University Classweb. George Mason University.
Web. 08 May 2011. <http://classweb.gmu.edu/rnanian/humours.html>.

Fletcher, John, Celia R. Daileader, and Gary Taylor. The Tamer Tamed: Or, The
Woman's Prize. Manchester [u.a.: Manchester UP, 2006. Print.

Paster, Gail Kern. Humoring the Body: Emotions and the Shakespearean Stage. Chicago:
University of Chicago, 2004. Print.

Paster, Gail Kern. The Body Embarrassed: Drama and the Disciplines of Shame in Early
Modern England. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1993. Print.

Shakespeare, William, and H. J. Oliver. The Taming of the Shrew. Oxford: Oxford UP,
1998. Print.

Schivelbusch, Wolfgang. Tastes of Paradise: a Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and
Intoxicants. New York: Pantheon, 1992. Print.[xxi]



[i] "Elizabethan Humours." George Mason University Classweb. George Mason University. Web. 08 May 2011. <http://classweb.gmu.edu/rnanian/humours.html>.
[ii] Paster, Gail Kern. The Body Embarrassed: Drama and the Disciplines of Shame in Early Modern England. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1993. Print. 13.
[iii] In his, On the temperaments (De temperamentis, humors were also influenced by the seasons of the year, time of life, geographic regions, organs, and occupations.
[iv] “Beer and phlegm were mentioned in the same breath” Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants, Chapters 2: “Coffee and the Protestant Ethic” and Chapter 4: “Tobacco: the Dry Inebriant.” Print. 48.
[v] Quoted in Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants. 45-48: “seventeenth century tried to fir coffee into this scheme [of humors]…Opinions varied as to whether coffee was cold or warm, dry or moist substance, for its sobering and anti-soforic effects were observed in equal measure among the different temperaments. Finally its adherents agreed on the empty formula that coffee contained all the properties of the fourfold scheme, and it was therefore the appropriate remedy for the most varied temperaments: it cheered the melancholy, subdued the choleric, and animated the phlegmatic (the sanguine was held to be the “normal” healthy temperament…” (45). We can see multiple examples of authors arguing about coffee’s effect on the temperament: “Dufour wrote that coffee “dries up all the cold and most fluids,” the eighteenth century French physician Tissot wrote in his work The Health of Scholars “viscous phlegm, which lines the sides {i.e. of the stomach] is lost,” the English physician Benjamin Moseley spoke of “coffee, which through its effectiveness, thins the mucous moistures, and improves circulation of the blood.”
[vi] Paster, Gail Kern. The Body Embarrassed: Drama and the Disciplines of Shame in Early Modern England. 25.
[vii] Ibid. 7. More subtly, “they experienced such basic social interpellations as their engenderment in humoral terms, since humoral theory was instrumental in the production and maintenance of gender and class difference as part of what Foucault has called “the hysterization of women’s bodies.” When they were required to master their bodies for the sake of “the civilizing process” (the various disciplinary regimes Foucault has seen as characteristic of emergent modernity), the bodies that had to be mastered were humoral bodies.”
[viii] Paster, Gail Kern. Humoring the Body: Emotions and the Shakespearean Stage. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2004. Print. 42.
[ix] Paster, Gail Kern. Humoring the Body. 214.
[x] Shakespeare, William, and H. J. Oliver. The Taming of the Shrew. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998. Print.164. Here we can see that Shakespeare was writing with an awareness and attention to humors. The editor H. J. Oliver notes: “perhaps already by the time Shakespeare wrote this play, ‘humour’ had become a vogue word; it was certainly so by 1597… Medical theory said that a man’s character depended on the proportions in his composition, or the four ‘humours’ or ‘fluids’; and so, by extension, jealousy, e.g., or shrewishness (as here) could be a humour. But a person could be brought out of his ‘humour’ if, for instance, he could be made to see how absurd it was; and so the word often denoted some deliberately cultivated way of behavior that could be ‘cured.”
[xi] “For I am he am born to tame you, Kate, / and bring you from a wild Kate to a Kate/ Conformable as other household Kates.” Shakespeare, William, and H. J. Oliver. The Taming of the Shrew. 2.1.275-8

[xii] Ibid. 3.2.200. He wants to go but in line 208 he talks about how the horses have already eaten, but Kate cannot.

[xiii] Ibid. 4.3.c.30. Petruchio and Hortensio enter with meat (in the stage notes).

[xiv] Ibid. 231.
[xv] Ibid.162.
[xvi] In this play his name is spelled “Petruccio,” not “Petruchio.” Fletcher, John, Celia R. Daileader, and Gary Taylor. The Tamer Tamed: Or, The Woman's Prize. Manchester [u.a.: Manchester UP, 2006. Print.
[xvii] Elizabethan Humours." George Mason University Classweb.
[xviii] Fletcher, John, Celia R. Daileader, and Gary Taylor. The Tamer Tamed. 63.
[xix] Ibid. 77.
[xx] Ibid. 82. (stage note) “Enter Livia with food, alone.”

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