Word of the Day: Capon

March 5, 2010 in Texts, Word of the Day

Keeping with the food theme, today’s word is capon. Still a popular dish in France and elsewhere on the continent, it is no longer enjoyed as much in Britain as it was in Shakespeare’s time. To be precise, a capon, according to the OED, is a castrated cockerel, overfed,and served as a delicacy.

Hamlet, Comedy of Errors, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Cymbeline…all contain a capon. Falstaff is particularly fond of the dish: Poins finds a bill for ¬†two shillings and two pence worth of capon in Falstaff’s pocket, and Hal, teasing his old friend, rhetorically asks of him,

Wherein is he good, but to taste sack and drink it?
Wherein neat and cleanly, but to carve a capon and eat it?

Given Falstaff’s breezy relation with the law, it’s a little ironic that Jacques, in As You Like It, has capon down as a dish to be enjoyed in the fifth stage of a man’s life,

And then the Justice
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes a severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances…

That’s all for this week. More wise saws coming soon!

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