In the clip below from King Lear, what does "an eater of broken meats" mean, what does he mean by that. I know it is derogatory and is most likely meant to refer to an awful person. Literally, would this imply someone who eats rotten meat?

A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-livered, action-taking knave, a whoreson, glass-gazing, super-serviceable finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd, in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pandar, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch: one whom I will beat into clamorous whining, if thou deniest the least syllable of thy addition.

― William Shakespeare, King Lear


1 Answer 1


Broken meats refers to the leftovers from a rich people's meal, which were eaten by the servants or given to the poor. ('Meat' in the sense 'food', not just flesh.) In Renaissance times a 'course' would consist of a selection of dishes, like a buffet, and diners weren't expected to have some of everything, so there would be lots left over. See this

  • Thanks for the useful information and link.
    – Ross Bush
    Dec 26, 2023 at 22:07
  • Kate Bunting - With the above answer in mind, would it be correct to infer that "broken" means a past tense form of "break" as in to "to break bread"?
    – Ross Bush
    Dec 26, 2023 at 23:59
  • Yes, I expect so; e.g. pies and cakes that had had slices cut out. Dec 27, 2023 at 9:22

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