Strange to see how a good dinner and feasting reconciles everybody. – Samuel Pepys
Feasts are a time of community unity, a time of imposed order even if chaos abounds. Feasts can be for celebratory reasons, they can be of a religious nature, and as Samuel Pepys points out, they can help mend rifts among people at odds with one another. Even when feasts have celebratory or religious purposes, they may also involve political matters. A monarch, for example, may host a feast to celebrate his wedding, but, while celebrating the joyous royal union, the guests are also celebrating the political union of two kingdoms. Many times a king marries to strengthen his kingdom and ruling power, not for love. His wedding feast is actually a political act.
These banquets, especially those given for political reasons, such as the crowning of a new monarch, epitomize the various elements of social order. For example, guests are seated according to status. The host sits at the center of the high table, esteemed guests sit next to him and the rest of the guests sit according to rank. The lowest ranking guests sit the furthest from the high table, sitting at the end tables. The courses of the meal are served in a standard order; dessert, for example, is served after the main course, not before. The food itself reflects the status of the host. The higher the rank of the host, the more unusual and expensive the food. The rules and rituals that govern feasts make them a time of order, a time when people can come together and restore order even if only temporarily.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
VanderWeele, Ashley, "Revenge, Guilt, and Greed: Feast Scenes and Political Order in Shakespearian Society" (2013). Honors Theses - Providence Campus. 10.