The Towneley 'First Shepherds’ Play': Its ‘Grotesque’ Feast Revisited
With few exceptions, criticism of the Towneley ‘First Shepherds’ Play’ maintains that the food consumed by the shepherds in their feast-scene must have been imaginary and that performed consumption of this imaginary food must have been mimed. This essay counters this view, arguing that the shepherds’ menu includes food commonly served at English medieval Christmas feasts, and that, given the play’s theme, the play itself was likely performed in conjunction with — or even during — the actual Christmas feast. The play offers evidence of performance practices that integrated audience food consumption with the play itself.
Contributors to Early Theatre retain full copyright to their content. All published authors are required to grant a limited exclusive license to the journal. According to the terms of this license, authors agree that for one year following publication in Early Theatre, they will not publish their submission elsewhere in the same form, in any language, without the consent of the journal, and without acknowledgment of its initial publication in the journal thereafter.