Reading shakespeare with the grain: Sustainability and the hunger business

Jayne Elisabeth E. Archer, Howard Thomas, Richard Marggraf Turley

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Although scholars have begun to re-read Shakespeare’s poems and plays in the light of ecocritical theory and methods, the role of food supply in his works, life and career continues to be overlooked. In our essay, we employ the idea of sustainability to conceptualise Shakespeare’s literary career as a continuation of his business practices. We consider both his involvement in the public stage through his investment in a joint stock playing company and his management of natural resources – especially food and food-producing land – as commodities. The value of sustainability as a literary critical methodology is exemplified by a close reading of King Lear, using the early modern principle of œconomia as an analogue for the modern notion of sustainability. Œconomia, we argue, enables us to recover King Lear’s sophisticated portrayal of the politics of food supply and competing models of sustainable development in the household and state
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-20
Number of pages13
JournalGreen Letters: Studies in Ecocriticism
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 06 Jan 2015


  • Shakespeare
  • sustainability
  • food security
  • grain
  • King Lear
  • oeconomia
  • Food security
  • Grain
  • Sustainability
  • œconomia


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