BEST FAN EVER: This Peasant Watches Theatre and Doesn’t Physically Attack the Actors by Throwing Cabbages at Them
By Tavern Wench Catherine Weingarten
Swoon alert! Local peasant Yorick the Peasantly is capturing a fair lady's heart by attending the theatre and not throwing turnips and cabbages at the actors whomst suck.
What a devoted admirer of the arts!
“When I attended the theatre, I was shocked to see a handsome young peasant watching politely and not screaming ‘Ye suck! Off with thy head!’ at the actor who kept forgetting his lines and crying,” spake Lady Jacinda. “It truly was a turn on.”
When asked why he didn’t attack like the rest of the crowd, Yorick said he doth respect the art form and those whomst partake in it.
“That actor is trying, and I find that noble,” spake Yorick. “Although it seems fun to watch a pomegranate explode on his face and then laugh for five hours, I think I’m above that. I want to support the arts.”
Whilst Yorick is well below her noble station, Lady Jacinda stills finds his restraint in tossing cabbages august and debonair.
“‘Tis nice to meet a man who shows his emotions in ways other than edible projectiles,” spake Lady Jacinda. “So rare these days.”
At ye presse tyme, as the play ended and the executioner took the stage for his normal encore of post-play executions, Yorick forthwith began hurling cabbages and indignities at the prisoners.
Catherine Weingarten is a NYC-based tavern wench whose etchings have appeared in McSweeney’s. Catherineplaywright.ninja
Addendum: Throwing Turnips at the Emperor
In the year 63 AD a riot broke out in the Roman city of Hadrumetum in North Africa (modern-day Sousse, Tunisia). The Roman governor of Africa and future emperor of Rome, Vespasian, arrived to deal with the situation. The crowd promptly pelted him with turnips.
Thus began a long and storied tradition of crowds pelting people with foodstuffs.
For three days every February for Carnival, the town of Ivrea, Italy takes to the streets in the “Battle of the Oranges.” Legend has it that in the 12th century a local tyrant attempted to exercise his right to primae noctis on a miller’s daughter. The townspeople were outraged by his actions and stormed his palace. Then she turned the tables on him and cut off his head, thus freeing the town from tyranny. In the modern festival, each year one woman is chosen to represent the miller’s daughter. The townspeople divide themselves into warring teams of commoners, who move around on foot, and nobles, who ride through the streets in carriages. They proceed to pelt each other with oranges for three days. The use of oranges seems to be a product of the last couple centuries, since oranges don’t grow in the area. Beans and apples were used in the past. Some say the oranges represent the tyrant’s head. Others say they represent… another part of his anatomy.
The pillory was used as a form of punishment and public humiliation from at least the 13th century until the mid-19th century in Europe, and was not abolished as a form of punishment in the United States until the 20th century. Crowds would often hurl rotten food, dead animals, mud, and feces at the offenders.
While tomatoes are thought of as the staple food for throwing at actors throughout the ages, Europeans weren’t introduced to tomatoes until the 1500s. Even then, many thought they were poisonous, and they weren’t commonly eaten until the 1700s. So medieval and renaissance theatre goers wouldn’t have had tomatoes on hand. Possibly the commoners would have thrown oysters and dried figs, and the nobles would have thrown sturgeon steaks and crab.
The first recorded incident of a tomato being thrown at an actor was in 1883 in New York, when John Ritchie was, according to the New York Times, “An Actor Demoralized by Tomatoes.”
"[A] large tomato thrown from the gallery struck him square between the eyes and he fell to the stage floor just as several bad eggs dropped upon his head."
“The chance of the lot then gave him Africa, which he governed with great justice and high honour, save that in a riot at Hadrumetum he was pelted with turnips.” From Suetonius, The Lives of the Caesars: The Life of Vespasian, https://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/e/roman/texts/suetonius/12caesars/vespasian*.html.