Eating and Etiquette

Though not entirely done with the play, I find it to be witty and charming, and look forward to finding out how it all ends. I also think that the way in which this play relates to comestibles and to our course is pretty overt (at least so far as I have read). I am interested, in particular, in the scene where Marlow and Hastings arrive at the Hardcastles’ mansion (having been deceived into thinking it is an inn by Tony).  As Hardcastle attempts to welcome them and engage with them as a gentlemen, they counter his attempts at socializing with bold requests for food and drink.


I think that this scene brings up two really interesting aspects of eating and drinking in a Georgian context. Both have to do with how people use food and drink to establish their social identity.


On the one hand this scene shows how food and drink and the provision and service of comestibles can indicate and even define status or rank. The behavior of Marlowe and Hastings towards Hardcastle in regards to their reception at what they think is an inn, indicates that the provision of food belongs to a lower social status. This is why their behavior seems to brazen to Hardcastle’s one-sided knowledge of the situation. They seem to him to be intentionally degrading his position as a gentleman with their demands for the service of food and drink.   This shows an interesting aspect of one of the roles that food plays in the society being portrayed here.


The other thing that this scene does (besides show how food is a means of distinguishing/defining status,) is show how attitudes and customs surrounding food define people socially. As Hastings and Marlowe make their requests and demands for food, Mr. Hardcastle’s response shows how eating traditions reflect goodness/desirability of character. Their blatant requests for food and drink and their pickiness regarding the fare make Hardcastle believe that they are bad-mannered, ungentlemanly men. Of course he doesn’t know that they think he is an inn-keeper,  but this still shows how their behavior, particularly in the context of food and eating, is integral to the development/perception of their characters. 


2 thoughts on “Eating and Etiquette

  1. I liked your reading of this passage that I think many of us found interesting. I think you touched on an important aspect of what the food actually symbolizes. I focused more on the taste aspect but i can definitely see how important the role of food was here in respect to a social hierarchy. I wonder if this type of reaction to food is something that is still an aspect of society? I don’t see much of it but I am still a student so that doesn’t mean it isn’t still common.

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