A Theatre Goers Fork
Size: H:221mm, 11mm at widest point
Made in: Unknown
Made by: Unknown
Material: Brass, Iron
London's theatres were at the centre of an entirely new type of entertainment business aimed at every section of society. Going to the theatre wasn’t just about what you could see on the stage, but what you could consume when you got there.
So what were you likely to be doing when an actor on the stage uttered ‘To be or not to be? Thanks to recent archaeology, we can go a long way to answering that question.
This fork was excavated from the site of the Rose Theatre on London’s south bank and brings us closer to what the theatre-going experience would have been like in Shakespeare’s day. Probably dropped by one of the richer audience members in the galleries it would have been used for daintily eating sweetmeats, while the groundlings down below were more likely to indulge in beer and oysters. One thing is clear – food and drink were a fundamental part of a good day out in Southwark.
This object is from the Museum of London
'Let the sky rain potatoes. Let it thunder to the tune of ''Green-sleeves'', hail kissing-comfits, and snow eryngoes. Let there come a tempest of provocation, I will shelter me here.'
The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 5 Scene 5
'Dear actors, eat no onions nor garlic; for we are to utter sweet breath.'
A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 4 Scene 2
- The most common foodstuffs eaten at the theatre were fruits, nuts and shellfish
- Oyster consumption required knives - the standard dagger every man carried was as much a piece of cutlery as it was a weapon
- While knives and spoons were common in England at the time, forks were still considered highly specialised pieces of cutlery
- This fork is for sweetmeats: marchpane (marzipan), sugar-bread, gingerbread etc - the equivalent of a box of chocolates today
- Shakespeare's banquet scene in Henry VII brought the house down - literally. An elaborate arrival on stage was accompanied by cannon fire - which managed to set alight the Globe's thatched roof and the theatre burnt to the ground.
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