Did Shakespeare Eat Birthday Cake 🎂?

Happy Birthday Shakespeare!

With Shakespeare’s birthday coming up, I got to wondering if Shakespeare and other Elizabethans celebrated birthdays, and if so, did they use birthday cakes covered with lit candles?

Shakespeare’s plays make it clear that they did at least mark birthdays- Cassius in Julius Caesar and Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra do mention birthdays and several other plays mention cake.

One passage from Troilus and Cressida, (a comedy set in Ancient Greece) is practically a recipe for an Elizabethan cake:

Pandarus. Well, I have told you enough of this: for my part,
I'll not meddle nor make no further. He that will
have a cake out of the wheat must needs tarry the grinding.
Troilus: Have I not tarried?
Pandarus. Ay, the grinding; but you must tarry
the bolting.
Troilus. Have I not tarried?
Pandarus. Ay, the bolting, but you must tarry the leavening.
Troilus. Still have I tarried.
Pandarus. Ay, to the leavening; but here's yet in the word
'hereafter' the kneading, the making of the cake, the
heating of the oven and the baking; nay, you must
stay the cooling too, or you may chance to burn your lips.

You might think Shakespeare is being anachronistic, but according to Food and Wine Magazine, the Ancient Greeks invented the practice of putting candles on cake, because Greek cakes were offerings to the Moon goddess Artemis, and the pious worshippers wanted their cakes to shine like the Moon!

There are also stories from Greco-Roman myths about a special honey cake that was so good, it even appeased Cerberus, the three-headed dog of the underworld!

It was the Romans who had the first birthday parties with cake, though their parties were strictly for the aristocracy, not common people. The first children’s birthday cakes with candles came to be in Germany in the 18th century.

So we know birthday cakes were a thing in Shakespeare’s Day, and that he was aware of them. The question is whether Christian Elizabethans chose to continue the practice of birthday cakes, and if common men like Shakespeare partook in them.

Sadly, the research I’ve gathered suggests that common men like Shakespeare probably didn’t eat cakes to celebrate their birthdays, (though, as I have discussed in other posts, Shakespeare might have eaten cakes at Halloween, Christmas, and Twelfth Night).

Twelfth Night Cake recipe from 1604, when Shakespeare was still alive.

Although the concept of a birthday cake with frosting and candles wasn’t really a thing in Shakespeare’s Day and not available to people of his social class, we can still celebrate his birthday in plenty of fun and delicious ways! Below is a video from the Utah Shakespeare festival that features a young girl making an Elizabethan cake from The Complete Cook in Shakespeare’s honor, in front of a special guest!

An Elizabethan cake recipe, Utah Shakespeare Festival.

You’ll notice that the recipe doesn’t have leavening agents like baking powder except for yeast, so like Pandarus warns Troilus, an Elizabethan cake requires kneading, more time, and will produce a smaller and less fluffy result, (much like Troilus’ relationship with Cressida, but I will get into that later). I encourage you to try this and other Shakespearean recipes and stay tuned to my blog, YouTube page, etc, for lots of fun posts in honor of Shakespeare’s Birthday!

References

https://www.bigsmall.in/blogs/unique-gifts/the-history-behind-cutting-a-birthday-cake

https://www.thevintagenews.com/2016/11/30/the-history-of-celebrating-birthdays-and-putting-candles-on-cakes/

Special Discounts on my Outschool Classes!

I'm teaching two great classes today. Spaces are available!

From now to January 13th, I’m offering a $5 discount for any class that is $10 or more! You can take my Shakespeare classes for as little as $4! Go to my Outschool.com class and enter the coupon code: HTHESNIF6B5 at checkout!

https://outschool.com/teachers/c9bc565b-71e9-44c9-894a-921c472f4a37#usMaRDyJ13

If you’re new to Outschool, use the referral code below when you sign up. You’ll automatically get $20 USD off  as a thank you to use on future classes! My referral code is: MaRDyJ13

Hope to see you on my Outschool page!

Activities For Kids for Shakespeare’s Birthday 🎂

I’m stuck at home with the kids for Shakespeare’s Birthday, so I thought I’d come up with some fun activities for my kids to do today:

I hid the quote from “Hamlet” in the bathtub 🛁 and had my kids find the bath letters “2” and “B.”

At home I have a card game called “The Bard Game, which has several famous Shakespeare quotes printed on little cards. I hid the cards around the house and when they found them, I had them recite a short quote. Sometimes I hid them in funny locations like the bath tub or the fridge.

2. Romeo and Juliet For Kids. There’s a bunch of animated Shakespeare videos on YouTube and my daughter really likes this one: https://youtu.be/mMFE0IIHR6I

3. William Shakespeare and the Globe by Aliki. A fantastic book that introduces Shakespeare’s life and plays.

Romeo and juliet cookies

What’s a birthday party without treats? I had my kids decorate these Romeo and Juliet cookies. My daughter is only 5, so it was good practice writing ✍ the letters R and J.

If you like my ideas or want to suggest something, please leave a comment below!

New TV Adaptation Of Romeo and Juliet

PBS is going to show (and hopefully stream), the National Theater’s production of Romeo and Juliet Friday, to help celebrate William Shakespeare’s birthday.

The production stars Jessie Buckley as Juliet, and Josh O’Connor as Romeo, who recently won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of the young Prince Charles

After playing another doomed lover whose family won’t allow him to be with the woman he wants, I look forward to seeing him bring his passion and skill to Shakespeare.

Jessie Buckley as Juliet, and Josh O’Connor as Romeo. National Theater, 2021

Shakespeare plays to watch in Quarantine

Happy Shakespeare’s Birthday everyone!

While I am just as sad as everyone else that the theaters are closed due to coronavirus, I’m happy to report that a number of Shakespearean theaters are putting up recordings of their shows online for free! Give them a watch if you can:

1. Romeo and Juliet at the Globe: https://youtu.be/eSAlPJ0FG_0

2. Macbeth at the Folger Shakespeare Library: https://youtu.be/1OU0cuGuPSk

3. Taming Of the Shrew from the Show Must Go Online: https://youtu.be/EAMtHmeHzio

As the thumbnail shows, this is a staged reading of the play by actors over Zoom. I enjoy staged readings because you can hear Shakespeare’s words and use your imagination to create the show in your head.

4. The Tempest from the Royal Shakespeare Company: https://youtu.be/slvIfbCWcS0

Happy birthday Bill!

Scavenger Hunt For Shakespeare’s Birthday!

https://gsch.se/game/99ef58a585e547cf9120f602970dfc20/share/

I designed this on an app called “GooseChase”, appropriate since Shakespeare invented the term!

If you click on the link, you can do a great scavenger hunt where you upload pictures or answer trivia questions for points, and of course they are all related to Shakespeare. If you have the app on your phone, search for Shakespeare Birthday Scavenger Hunt and enter the code: 2BON2B (Get it, to be or not to be)! You can also use the code NLEGVM. Let me know if you like it or if you cannot access the link.

Happy Hunting!

Happy Birthday Juliet!

Hi Folks,

Not only is it the first day of this month, it’s also a Shakespearean holiday! According to this passage from “Romeo and Juliet,” today is Juliet’s Birthday!

NURSE: Even or odd, of all days in the year,
Come Lammas Eve at night shall she be fourteen.
Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Scene ii.
Lammas Eve, is a pagan holiday, also known as Lughnasa, a Celtic holiday traditionally held on August 1st, or the midway point between the summer solstice and the Equinox. It was a day celebrating harvests and the beginning of fall, and was celebrated through eating wheat, drinking wine and burning a giant wicker man in effigy, (the inspiration of the film of the same name, and the festival of Burning Man). By the way, not everyone appreciates this holiday, click here to see what I mean.
There is also another significance to Juliet’s birthday. It makes her a Leo, a star sign traditionally associated with the Sun. So, when Romeo calls her “The Sun,” there is a literal connection to her birth. Shakespeare makes many allusions to astrology in Romeo and Juliet, as a metaphor for fate.
In the next few days I’ll be talking about what these allusions mean and how they help people understand the play.
Enjoy Juliet’s Birthday everyone!
By the way, here’s a link to a fun website: Juliet’s Blog: http://julietisthesun.blogspot.com/