Presents and Their Packaging in Shakespeare’s Time

There is no doubt that there are many occasions that have to do with the giving of gifts and the wrapping of these gifts. People get creative with the gifts as well as the way they will be wrapped before given to the recipient. However, the tradition of gift wrapping can be traced back to centuries ago. Today, however, the tradition is much different than it was in the past.

The time of Shakespeare provides a window into how people used to prepare their presents before giving them to someone. The differences between the previous trends in gift wrapping and how it is done today are in the materials used and the reasons for wrapping the gift in the first place. With this in mind, it is worth taking a look into the history of gift wrapping to see how it has evolved throughout the years.

The History of Gift Wrapping

There is really not much documentation as to what old packaging consisted of or how it looked in the past. There were different tendencies to what role wrapping paper played in present giving and how it had to look as a consequence. While there’s little information on the topic, a little research can give you an idea as to who invented wrapping paper.

No single person is attributed to creating wrapping paper, but ancient Chinese documents credit their country with using bamboo fiber and rice straws to wrap gifts in the very beginning. As you can see, the beginning of the tradition can be traced back to centuries ago, and it changed throughout the years depending on the new materials and values of the society.

Presents During Shakespeare’s Time

Shakespeare was born in 1556. He went on to become one of the most productive writers of the time. Shakespeare’s Hamlet is still one of his most famous plays. Practically every student has to work on an essay about Hamlet for school with lots of examples. They have to provide an example of Shakespeare’s work as well as a free sample to illustrate any topic. With the work being so versatile in its interpretation, this author remains to be one of the most talented figures in the history of English literature.

Many people wonder what kind of presents were given during Shakespeare’s time and how were they packaged. Since this particular period in history is so interesting on its own, it’s not surprising that the aspect of gift giving has gained much attention.

Considering the matter of how gifts were wrapped during the time of Shakespeare’s life, there is little written. It’s no wonder that looking for an essay about Hamlet does not provide much information about the topic. At least, one can find some examples posted by Edusson.  

The Holiday Season

During Christmas time, which was the biggest time for gift giving, the presents that were passed out consisted of generous tokens. During holiday times, people who were wealthy gave to those who were less fortunate. Houses were heavily decorated, and the celebrations were overflowing with plenty to eat and drink as well as entertainment. The celebratory season actually ran more than 12 days.

Gift Wrapping

Upon researching what kind of presents were given during Shakespeare’s time and how they were gift wrapped, the gifts were nothing like what is given out today. Since a lot of people wanted to make their presents look richer, they used the wrapping paper to intensify the appearance of the presents. In such a way, the old packaging was a part of the gift, which made it more impressive to receive. Wallpaper, which emerged in the early 16th Century was used to wrap gifts, although, it cracked and tore easily when folded.

With the rise of the middle class, however, wrapping preferences began to change. Soon, the idea of wrapping gifts into expensive looking packaging became less appealing. The reason was that people did not want the passers-by to get the idea of what they had in their boxes. In addition, people wanted to conceal the expectation the recipient could be having regarding what was inside the present.

Eventually, the majority of people started to use old packaging to ensure that no one realizes what the present was until actually unwraps it. Interestingly, using wallpapers to wrap gifts was the trend for average people during the time of Shakespeare.  


As you can see, the old packaging for gifts was completely different from how it looks today. There’s not much information on why and who invented wrapping paper, but the idea of hiding presents in some kind of packaging originated centuries ago. Over time, the trends in gift wrapping have changed, yet the approach was the most interesting during the time of Shakespeare. Eventually, the packaging now looks different and is considered to be an essential part of any present.