A Roman pie 🥧 for pie day

Ave and Happy Pie Day ! Since it’s Roman month, I thought I’d talk about the most infamous pie in Shakespeare’s Roman plays, and give you an ancient Roman recipe that tastes a lot better!

In Act V of Titus Andronicus, the titular general and his household cook and serve the Empress’ sons to their mother in a pie! Here’s how the scene plays out in the 1999 film Titus:

The infamous pie scene from Titus Andronicus

Before he cooks the Empress’ sons, Titus actually tells them what he is going to do to them, like some kind of psychotic chef giving a cooking program:

This one hand yet is left to cut your throats,
Whilst that Lavinia 'tween her stumps doth hold
The basin that receives your guilty blood.
You know your mother means to feast with me,
And calls herself Revenge, and thinks me mad:
Hark, villains! I will grind your bones to dust
And with your blood and it I'll make a paste,
And of the paste a coffin I will rear
And make two pasties of your shameful heads,
And bid that strumpet, your unhallow'd dam,
Like to the earth swallow her own increase.
This is the feast that I have bid her to,
And this the banquet she shall surfeit on;

I’ve adapted Titus’ recipe into this creepy recipe card below:

Now when Titus says coffin he’s actually referring to a pie crust, (though ironically this coffin will also be a tomb for two human bodies). Ancient Romans did in fact make meat pies, so Tamara wouldn’t have immediately been suspicious It also was not unheard of for the ancient Romans to actually eat brains! According to DE RE COQUINARIA, one of the oldest surviving Roman cookbooks, there was a recipe called Patina frisilis, a pudding made of fresh vegetables, wine, and calf brains:

Take vegetables, clean and wash, shred and cook them cool them off and drain them. Take 4 calf’s brains, remove the skin and strings and cook them4 in the mortar put 6 scruples of pepper, moisten with broth and crush fine; then add the brains, rub again and meanwhile add the vegetables, rubbing all the while, and make a fine paste of it. Thereupon break and add 8 eggs. Now add a glassful of broth, a glassful of wine, a glassful of raisin wine, taste this preparation. Oil the baking dish thoroughly put the mixture in the dish and place it in the hot plate, (that is above the hot ashes) and when it is done unmould it sprinkle with pepper and serve.

APICIUS- DE RE COQUINARIA (c. 1st century CE).
Medieval edition of De Re Coquinaria

My research suggests that the coffin was mainly just flour and oil and was not actually intended to be eaten. It would be similar to a modern salt crust pie that seals in juices and helps preserve the pie in the absence of refrigerators.

Thankfully Apicius has another recipe for a Roman pie that I find much more appetizing

Elderberry Custard or PiePatina de sambuco

A dish of elderberries, either hot or cold, is made in this manner: take elderberries, wash them; cook in water, skim and strain. Prepare a dish in which to cook the custard; crush 6 scruples of pepper with a little broth; add this to the elderberry pulp with another glass of broth, a glass of wine, a glass of raisin wine and as much as 4 ounces of oil. Put the dish in the hot bath and stir the contents. As soon as it is getting warm, quickly break 6 eggs and whipping them, incorporate them, in order to thicken the fluid. When thick enough sprinkle with pepper and serve up.

A modern recipe for Elderberry pie 🥧

While I’m at it, here’s another historical pie recipe that was a favorite of Shakespeare’s Richard II:

Shakespeare Week Is Coming at Outschool.com

Outschool.com will be honoring the contributions of Shakespeare during the very first Shakespeare Week on March 21-27th.

I’m honored to take part in this celebration, and I’m offering several aclasses which relate to Shakespeare in an engaging way. Here’s the schedule below:

If you want to sign up for one of my classes, please visit my Outschool page:

https://outschool.com/teachers/The-Shakespearean-Student

https://outschool.com/teachers/The-Shakespearean-Student

Hope to see you during Shakespeare Week!

THe Fashion Is the Fashion: Ancient Roman Fashion and Beauty

http://www.historyofclothing.com/clothing-history/roman-clothing/#:~:text=Roman%20clothing%20consisted%20of%20toga,in%20water%20and%20then%20aired.

Roman Fashion 101:

Roman clothing Myths!

  1. Myth 1: Everyone wore togas! The toga was a formal garment that was worn by male citizens, usually on business, therefore women and slaves couldn’t wear them. Basically, think of a toga as like a 3 piece suit, (which is probably how it felt to those men in the hot Mediterranean sun). Togas were very hot because they were made of wool. As the video below shows, many Romans couldn’t wait to get out of their togas and wear a simple tunic.

Myth 2: All Togas were white

In most movies, and pictures set in Rome, we see rooms full of men wearing white togas, especially in the Senate. However, togas gradually evolved into a variety of styles and colors and helped indicate a Roman man’s status and maturity.

Types of Togas and how to wear them:

Shakespeare makes reference to a specific type of toga called a Toga candida: "Bright toga"; a toga rubbed with white chalk to make it appear bright white. In Titus Andronicus, the title character is offered a toga candida by his brother Marcus, when the Senate nominates him for emperor:

Marcus: Titus Andronicus, the people of Rome,
Whose friend in justice thou hast ever been,
Send thee by me, their tribune and their trust,
This palliament of white and spotless hue;
And name thee in election for the empire,
With these our late-deceased emperor's sons:
Be candidatus then, and put it on- Titus Andronicus, Act I, Scene i.

There were many other types of togas for different occasions:
- Dark colors were for funerals
- Red and purple sleeves were for magistrates and senators
- Purple togas with gold embroidery were for victorious generals, and later emperors

Manly garb: Toga virillis

A Toga virilis ("toga of manhood") also known as toga alba or toga pura was A plain white toga, worn on formal occasions by adult male commoners, and by senators not having a curule magistracy. It was a right of passage for young men to put on their toga virilis and assume adult male citizenship and its attendant rights, freedoms and responsibilities.

Women’s fashion

Like men, women most commonly wore tunics, especially when they were unmarried. When women married, they would don a long, elaborate garment called a Stola . The stola was a long dress held on by belts. Sometimes women decorated their Stolas with ribbons and they came in many colors. In the statue below, note how the belts below the breast drape the fabric into elaborate folds, and how the sleeves are slightly slashed on this sumptuous 1st century stola.

Read more at: https://www.ducksters.com/history/ancient_rome/clothing.php

Torso of a Roman woman wearing a Stoa (1st century)
Torso of a Roman woman wearing a Stoa (1st century)

Women’s Beauty Regimen

Since Roman women were not legally citizens and couldn’t hold employment, their hair, dress, and makeup were in a way, a celebration of idleness, especially in the case of upper-class women. Aristocratic Roman women had their hair done in elaborate shapes like the Flavian hairstyle and wore elaborate Stoas to indicate how they didn’t have to work or labor in the fields.

Major female Roman hairstyles, nationalclothing.org

In a production of Julius Caesar or Coriolanus, the director could exploit this concept of idleness by giving the more passive characters like Calpurnia or Fulvia more elaborate hairdos and elaborate brightly colored Stolas, while the more active characters like Portia or Valumnia could have a more austere or less fussy hairstyle and dress to show that they are more interested in engaging in politics or the military than sitting around and looking pretty.

References:

“The Romans – Clothing” History on the Net
© 2000-2022, Salem Media.
March 11, 2022 <https://www.historyonthenet.com/the-romans-clothing>

Ducksters. “Ancient Rome for Kids: Clothing and Fashion.” Ducksters, Technological Solutions, Inc. (TSI), http://www.ducksters.com/history/ancient_rome/clothing.php. Accessed 11 March 2022.

http://nationalclothing.org/565-traditional-clothing-in-ancient-rome-what-did-they-wear.html

Happy International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day! I would like to dedicate my posts today to my mother, who is undergoing surgery today. She taught me how resilient, courageous, and creative women can be and I can think of no better way to express my appreciation for the women in my life than the quote above.

Some of Shakespeare’s Best Female Characters

I’ve discussed Shakespeare’s best Mother characters before, and his Roman characters as well, but I thought I should include some of the ones who are not mothers and/or unmarried (at least for most of the play). I don’t want to rank these characters since I detest ranking women in general, so here are some of Shakespeare’s best characters, and some of their immortal speeches:

Beatrice

Character Packet Info: Beatrice
Page from a character packet I created for a production of “Much Ado About Nothing.”

https://sites.google.com/site/muchadodramaturgysite/classroom-pictures

Beatrice is one of the greatest characters in all of literature, and her scene with Benedick in Act IV is legendary: here’s a clip with Catherine Tate as Beatrice from the London’s Wydham’s Theatre production in 2012:

Lady Macbeth

A fascinating and electrifying character. She seduces her husband and makes him fully commit to murdering the king. If you read my Crafting a Character post, you can see that I actually made pleasing Lady Macbeth my entire motivation for the character. Her strength and energy is highly attractive and it was easy for me to see how a man might do anything to make her happy.

Isabella From “Measure For Measure”

I think Elizabethans would have seen the connection between the Virgin Queen who fought off assassination from the Pope, and Isabella, a virgin who fights off the advances of Angello, who seems pious, but who secretly is degenerate and cruel. Isabella even becomes a princess at the end of the play, (assuming she marries the Duke), which means she could literally become a Queen Elizabeth to English eyes.

https://www.rsc.org.uk/shakespeare-learning-zone/measure-for-measure/character/analysis

Stick figure version of Isabella from “Peace Good Tickle Brain.”

Joan of Arc

I have lots more to say about this heroine, but for now, let’s let her speak for herself:

auphin, I am by birth a shepherd's daughter,
My wit untrain'd in any kind of art.
Heaven and our Lady gracious hath it pleased
To shine on my contemptible estate:
Lo, whilst I waited on my tender lambs,
And to sun's parching heat display'd my cheeks,
God's mother deigned to appear to me
And in a vision full of majesty
Will'd me to leave my base vocation
And free my country from calamity:
Her aid she promised and assured success:
In complete glory she reveal'd herself;
And, whereas I was black and swart before,
With those clear rays which she infused on me
That beauty am I bless'd with which you see.
Ask me what question thou canst possible,
And I will answer unpremeditated:
My courage try by combat, if thou darest,
And thou shalt find that I exceed my sex.
- Joan of Arc, Henry VI, Part I, Act I, Scene ii.

Roman Women Week!

Since International Women’s Day is tomorrow, I’m devoting this week to talking about the awesome female characters in Shakespeare’s Roman plays: Titus, Andronicus, Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus

First, here’s my post and an accompanying podcast on Roman women, which includes an analysis of Lavinia, Portia, Valumnia, and Cleopatra:

Here’s a fascinating video about the lives of Roman girls:

And here’s a special section about Cleopatra:

Comedy sketches about Cleopatra from “Horrible Histories” BBC, 2015.
cleopatra facts infographics in 2021 | Cleopatra facts, Ancient history  facts, Cleopatra history
A Lady-Gaga-esque song about Cleopatra from “Horrible Histories,” 2014
Infographic from an article about Cleopatra’s beauty regimen. Source: http://socialdiary.pk/