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Beauty's Poisonous Properties.

IN THE FOURTH ACT of The Devil's Charter (1606), Barnabe Barnes portrays Lucretia Borgia entering "richly attired with a Phyal in her hand." In the midst of painting her face, she suddenly cries out in dismay at a burning sensation. The cosmetics contained in her vial have proven treacherous: "rancke poyson / Is ministred to bring me to my death, / I feele the venime boyling in my veines."(1) Reduced through death to an object, a receptacle for paints, Lucretia's body becomes twinned with the cosmetic vial that caused her demise. These poisoned props--paint, vial, and corpse--disrupt material and immaterial boundaries alike, giving physical form to the threat of moral and epistemological contamination associated with both cosmetics and the theater.(2) Spilling out of its rightful space to seep into consumers and spectators, infiltrating and tainting both body and soul, poisonous face-paint offers a disturbingly literal image of the vulnerability of the body to the invasive force of the theater.

A recurring threat in early modern plays, the idea that face-paints could poison offered a particularly vivid focal point for broader cultural fears of cosmetics.(3) Amid intensifying curiosity and concern about chemical technology, testimony from doctors as to the corrosive nature of cosmetic ingredients offered scientifically authorized support, as well as a distinctively material vocabulary, for moral diatribes against artificial beauty.(4) In A Tracte Containing the Artes of Curious Paintinge Caruinge & buildinge, Paolo Lomazzo warns women against face-painting by noting that sublimate, the primary cosmetic foundation, is "very offensiue to mans flesh" and "is called dead tier; because of his malignant, and biting nature"; in A Treatise Against Painting and Tincturing of Men and Women, Thomas Tuke chides that "a vertuouis woman needs no borrowed, no bought complexion, none of these poysons."(5) In a magical conflation of immaterial and material threats, moral, medical, and theatrical writings alike represented the semiotic disorder and sexual impurity associated with cosmetics as "poysonous to the body, and pernicious to the soul."(6)

As the multiple stagings of this threat suggest, anxieties about the dangers of cosmetics reflect as well on early modern concerns about theatricality.(7) In the light of pervasive and insistent identifications between face-paints and the theater, playwrights who depict cosmetics as fatal poisons can be seen as indicting their own medium, suggesting that fears about the contaminating force of art were not limited to the theater's opponents.(8) Also routinely described as poisonous by its detractors, the theater, like face-paints, is understood as both duplicitous and corrosive, unsettling the relationship between interior and exterior. The link between artistic dissimulation and harmful effects on the body and soul points to magical ideas about the dangerous efficacy of signs. In the case of poison, epistemological havoc--the unreliability of appearances as indicators of reality--can translate directly into bodily vulnerability, and even death. Embodying and fusing together various levels of contamination, anxieties about cosmetics and painted bodies call attention to early modern assumptions about the inseparability of external from internal, of material from immaterial, with implications for the powers and perils of the theater.(9)

Beauty's Poisons

Rarely attended to by readers or critics, The Devil's Charter offers an intriguing setting for a vivid depiction of murder by poisonous cosmetics.(10) Although arguably lacking in many literary merits, the play offers an exemplary representative of popular Jacobean revenge tragedy; in its relentless accumulation of vendettas and corpses, it displays its generic conventions so ostentatiously as to verge on parody; forming a virtual catalog of some of the more spectacularly ingenious and morbid forms of murder on the Jacobean stage. Based on a melange of contemporary rumors and historical details from Guicciardini, The Devil's Charter dramatizes Roderigo Borgia allegedly making a bargain with the devil in order to become Pope Alexander VI, involving, among multiple other murders, that of his daughter, Lucretia. Corrupt and duplicitous in every possible way--Italian, Catholic, female, adulterous, murderous, from a bad family--Lucretia meets her fitting end through the corrosion of poisoned face-paints.

In the scene with which this essay opened, Lucretia is in the midst of having her face made up when she interrupts with a sudden cry:

I feele a foule stincke in my nostrells,

Some stinke is vehement and hurts my braine,

My cheekes both burne and sting; give me my glasse.

Out out for shame I see the blood it selfe,

Dispersed and inflamed, give me some water.

Motticilla rubbeth her cheekes with a cloth.

Lucretia looketh in the glasse.

My braines intoxicate my face is scalded.

Hence with the glasse: coole coole my face, rancke poyson

Is ministred to bring me to my death,

I feele the venime boyling in my veines.


Cosmetics, in this passage, create a crisis of permeability, penetration, and contagion. Lucretia's paints refuse to sit on the surface of her skin: they invade and pervade her body, entering her nostrils, seeping through her skin, coursing through her veins. Her description of the poisons calls attention to an invasive and corrosive heat: her cheeks "both burne and sting," her face is "scalded," her blood is "inflamed," and she feels "the venim boyling" in her veins. Just after this speech, she similarly cries, "I burne I burne ... / My braines are seard up with some fatall fire" (2265-66), and later reports that "a boyling heat / Suppes up the lively spirit in my lungs" (2276-77). Starting at the surface--cheeks, face--this pervasive fire works its way into progressively more interior sites--into her blood and veins, then her brain, and eventually her "lively spirit" itself. Faced with this corrosive heat, the skin loses its integrity as bodily boundary and barrier: a clear differentiation between external surface and internal substance dissolves. Lucretia's death suggests that cosmetics go beyond the superficial--in fact, by erasing the line that separates the inner and outer, they call into question the category of the superficial, suggesting that artifice can never be only skin deep.

Paints are not only invasive in this model, but uncontainable and irrevocable: their effects can be neither halted nor undone. Motticilla, Lucretia's wonderfully named maid, queries, "Ah me deere Lady; what strange leoprosie? / The more I wash the more spreads on your face" (2258-59). The physician, when called, confirms that "This poyson spreads and is incurable" (2278). His futile offer of "one precious antidote" (2279) has no hope of efficacy; from the first moment of application, the paint's force is irreversible. While other contemporary fears about the transformative effects of external trappings, such as clothing, suggest that changes can be undone by removing the threat, the chemical properties of face-paints evoke an uneasy sense of permanence.(11) Like original sin, or the mark of Cain, to which cosmetics were often compared, their taint was perceived as impossible to cleanse.(12)

As improbable as this scene may seem, the traits it attributes to face-paints closely recall nonfictional depictions of cosmetics at the time. Whereas Barnes portrays Lucretia's face-paints as vehicles for externally imbued poisons, other Renaissance writers asserted that cosmetics themselves were innately poisonous. A glance at their chemical ingredients suggests that these claims were, for the most part, not unfounded. Most cosmetic foundations were made of mercury sublimate and ceruse, or white lead: a typical recipe for face-paint directs the reader to "Incorporate with a wooden pestle & in a wooden mortar with great labour foure ounces of sublimate, and one ounce of crude Mercurie." Giambattista della Porta speaks for many in his claim that there is "nothing better than quick-silver for womens paints, and to cleanse their faces, and make them shine."(13) Not only were these substances known to be toxic, but contemporary medical authorities classified them as hot and dry poisons which operated by burning, in contrast with poisons such as hemlock, nightshade, and henbane, which were understood to kill by coldness, through numbing and dulling of feeling.(14) Describing the effect of sublimate, for example, Ambroise Pare writes that victims will suffer from "the devouring and fierie furie of the poyson, rending or eating into the guts and stomacke, as if they were seared with an hot iron."(15) In context, the corrosive heat of Lucretia's paints in The Devil's Charter appears less a result of villainous adulteration of paints than an exaggerated confirmation of their inherent, and medically established, effects. The 1598 arrest of Barnabe Barnes, the play's author, for an attempted poisoning with mercury sublimate he had purchased at a grocer's, suggests that the link may not have been entirely coincidental.(16)

The chemical properties of paint were of considerable interest to writers opposed to cosmetics. "The excellencie of this Mercurie Sublimate," Andreas de Laguna writes,

is such that the women who often paint themselves with it, though they be

very young, they presently turne old with withered and wrinkeled faces like

an Ape, and before age can come upon them, they tremble (poore wretches) as

if they were sicke of the staggers, reeling, and full of quick-silver, for

so are they.(17)

Extending this line of grotesque imagery, Paolo Lomazzo describes in even more elaborate and morbid detail "the natures and qualities of the ingredients"(18) of face-paints. On mercury sublimate, he writes:

This the Chirurgions call a corrosiue. Because if it bee put vpon mans

flesh it burneth it in a short space, mortifying the place, not without

great paine to the patient. Wherfore such women as vse it about their face,

haue alwaies black teeth, standing far out of their gums like a Spanish

mule; an offensiue breath, with a face halfe scorched, and an vncleane

complexion. All which proceede from the nature of Sublimate. So that simple

women thinking to grow more beautifull, become disfigured, hastening olde

age before the time, and giving occasion to their husbandes to seeke

strangers insteede of their wiues; with diuers other inconveniences.(19)

To Lomazzo, paint is a medium that not only fails, but actively undermines, all of its own goals--it mortifies where it should enliven, blackens where it should whiten, and disfigures where it should beautify--with diverse other inconveniences, left to the reader's imagination. Cosmetics, according to this model, carry in them the seeds of their own destruction: like sirens, their seductive promises of beauty mask an underlying ugliness and death.(20) Lomazzo's portrait of sublimate emphasizes the same dangerous bodily infiltration dramatized in The Devil's Charter. Beginning at the skin and moving towards increasingly interior arenas--teeth, breath, marital relations--his catalog of consequences points to a similarly progressive deepening of impact, not only from external to internal, but from physiological to social threats.

As Lomazzo's example suggests, writers opposed to cosmetics argue that the corrosive effects of paints play on, and intensify, the fragility of an already too permeable body(21) In Instruction of a Christian Woman, Juan Vives writes of face painting,

The tender skynne wyl reuyll the more sone, and all the fauour of the face

waxeth olde, and the breth stynketh, and the tethe rusten, and an yuell

ayre all the bodye ouer, bothe by the reason of the ceruse, and quick

siluer.... Wherfore Ouyde called these doynges venomes, and not without a


Echoing Lomazzo's emphasis on bodily corrosion, Vives dwells on the same triplicate blazon of skin, breath, and teeth, liminal zones where external surfaces bear the visible marks of their adjacent interior degeneration.(23) The signs of this erosion offer visible proof of the idea that paints are "venomes," literally as well as figuratively contaminating their wearer. Contemporary scientific accounts of the physiological effects of face-paints offer an authoritative material underpinning to fears about cosmetic corrosion and bodily vulnerability.

The idea of cosmetics as invasive poisons, reinforced by the material properties of their chemical ingredients, offered a forceful way to articulate links between face-paints and less tangible forms of transgression and contamination. Socially and politically, for example, the idea of cosmetic infiltration came to be aligned with concerns about the contamination of national and class identity.(24) More explicitly, cosmetics were associated with moral impurity. The most common complaint against cosmetics was that they sinned against truth: concealing true faces behind false, they undermined the trustworthiness of bodily signs, leading to a general epistemological disarray.(25) Recurrent metaphors of forgery and counterfeiting emphasize the disparity between appealing surfaces and empty or corrupt substances: Tuke likens painted faces to "ill cloth of a good die; or to a Letter fairely written, and with good inke, but not without some false English, or ill contents."(26) Similarly, cosmetic deception was seen as "a tricke of a wanton";(27) motivated by the desire to seduce, it revealed a lascivious and impure soul. Tuke writes of the face-painting women,

A good Bed-friend shee's commonly, delighting in sheetes more, then in

shooes, making long nights, and short daies. All her infections are but to

gaine affections, for she had rather die, then liue & not please. Her lips

she laies with so fresh a red, as if she sang, Iohn come kisse me now.(28)

The wayward sexuality of the face-painting woman was seen as fundamentally linked to the physical impurity of face-painting. Philip Stubbes cites biblical authorities to argue that painting is a form of whoredom:

S. Ciprian amongst the rest, saith, a woman, through painting and dying of

her face, sheweth her selfe to be more then whorish. For (saith he) she

hath corrupted and defaced (like a filthie strumpet or brothel) the

workmanship of God in her, what is this els but to turne truth into

falshoode, with painting and slibbersauces?(29)

Stubbes's argument almost appears to be tautological--painting is whorish, because to paint is to be like a whore--but his explanation suggests a more complex association. The concealing and remaking of true faces with paint, he argues, suggests an inevitable disregard for purity, which, for a woman, translates directly into a lack of chastity.

The conjunction of sexual impropriety and cosmetic impurity was made most explicit in reference to the threat of adultery. Drawing on the etymological identification between corrupting a substance and a marriage with a foreign and inferior supplement, Downame cites Saint Augustine describing face-painting as "a fault which in some respects matcheth whoredome, for (saith he) Ibi pudicitia, hic natura adulteratur: In that chastity, in this nature it self is adulterated."(30) Commonly described as "adulterate beauty," or "adulterate and counterfeit Colours," cosmetic contamination was seen as inherently linked to marital infidelity.(31) Strikingly, face-painting was described as the more serious of the two sins: Vives warns the face-painter, "For though thou be nat an adulterar towarde man yet whan thou corruptest and marrest that whiche is goddis doyng thou art a worse adulterar"(32); similarly, the anti-cosmetic interlocutor in A Discourse of Auxiliary Beauty charges that "all painting the face, or adding to our handsomenesse, in point of Complexion, is directly against the 7th Commandment; ... [not] to commit adultery with others," because "if all Adultery and adulterating arts ... are forbidden to us, how much more any such plots and practises, as tend to a Self adulterating."(33) As a dangerous external manifestation of the pollution associated with paints, adultery was understood as both a parallel and an inevitable accompaniment to poison, the most extreme and dangerous form of pollution: during the trial for the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, Sir Edward Coke commented that adultery was responsible for the vast majority of poisoning cases.(34) In a self-perpetuating cycle, the figurative poison of adultery was seen as both cause and effect of the presence of literal poisons, cosmetic and otherwise.

The moral taint of face-paints was seen as undermining not only marital, but religious fidelity. Tuke writes that "hee loues not God with all his heart, that would haue that affection or commendation, giuen to a picture, or a peece of art, which is due to the worke of God."(35) Lest his Protestant readers miss the implications of this statement, Tuke elsewhere asserts directly that "a painted face is not much vnlike an Idoll."(36) Face-painting women were depicted as actively proselytizing for amorous idolaters; Downame writes that "they inueagle others with carnall loue and fleshly lust, making them adore with their chiefe deuotions, a painted idoll, and a liuing image."(37) They were also, moreover, seen as idolaters themselves: "A good face is her god," Tuke claims of the painted woman, "and her cheeke well died, is the idoll she doth so much adore."(38) In a curious act of self-division, the woman who paints is subjugated by the independent power of her own face; she is simultaneously altar and worshipper, object and subject.(39) The association between face-paints and idolatry both heightens the idea of paint as spiritually poisonous, and offers a link between idolatry and actual material poisons. Disillusioned to discover that "My glorious idoll, I did so adore, / Is but a vizard newly varnished ore," Dubartas describes Jezebel's face-paints as "poisons one would lothe to kisse"; similarly, he accuses her of bringing "Idol-Sin: / Painting, and Poysning" to the land of Samaria.(40) Borrowing from the vocabulary of paint's chemical properties, references to idolatry reinforce beliefs about the link between material and spiritual contamination.

The perceived correlation between outer impurity (painted faces) and inner impurity (tainted souls) was understood in two ways. Cosmetics were seen simultaneously as symtom and cause of this internal corruption.(41) Philip Stubbes argues that bodily adornment sinks beyond the skin to contaminate the soul, lamenting the use of "certaine oyles, liquors, vnguentes, and waters ..., whereby they thinke their beautie is greatly decored; but who seeth not that their soules are thereby deformed?"(42) John Downame echoes this idea: "so doe they by this outward decking deforme and defile their owne soules, and bring vpon themselues sinne and condemnation."(43) If the physical corrosion of cosmetics was understood as bringing about a spiritual pollution, that pollution, in turn, was represented as a kind of poison, simultaneously metaphorical and literal, which would spread its contagion to others. Citing Saint Jerome, Downame goes on to write:

If any wantonly deck themselues, to prouoke others in a wanton manner to

gaze vpon them, though no hurt follow vpon it, yet they shall be liable to

eternall iudgement, because they prepared a poyson, if there had beene any

who would haue tasted of it.(44)

Poisonous Props

The fatal powers of cosmetics are linked not only to the material nature of the paints themselves, but also to the bodies and objects associated with them. Lucretia's death in The Devil's Charter is heralded by the uneasy identification between her own elaborately painted body and the array of objects related to her beautification. The fatal "Phyal" that contains her poisoned paints is linked to a catalogue of related props; a stage direction reads: "Enter two Pages with a Table, two looking glasses, a box with Combes and instruments, a rich bowie" (IV.iii.2186). The unusual specificity of these directions is echoed by Lucretia's explicit reference to the role of these objects in her preparations: "Giue me some blanching water in this boule, / Wash my face Motticilla with this cloth" (2231-32). Another stage direction notes of Lucretia, "She looketh into two g/asses" (2236), and she announces that she will "correct these arches with this mullet" (2244). The artificial beauty that will poison her is shown to be inseparable from the props that embody and facilitate it.(45)

Associated with vanity and luxury, these objects--particularly the vial and "rich bowle"--evoke an image from the play's prologue. After a brief opening catalogue of the various sins to be dramatized, the prologue concludes with an image of the Whore of Babylon:

Behold the Strumpet of proud Babylon,

Her Cup with fornication foaming full

Of Gods high wrath and vengeance for that evill,

Which was imposd upon her by the Divill.

(Prologue, 5-8)

Through direct iconographic links, Lucretia's face-painting scene is closely aligned with this moment: already proven a whore by the play, she enters the stage holding a cup filled with seductive poisons.(46) In the context of the close visual and thematic parallels, the fatal cosmetics in Lucretia's vial become a physical transmutation of the sexual and religious fornication associated with her Catholicism: the original image in Revelations describes a woman "arrayd in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold, and precious stone & pearls, hauing a golden cup in her hand, full of abominations and filthinesse of her fornication."(47) As the only boundary between these women and the poisons they carry, the cups themselves occupy a crucially liminal position in the transmission of these polluting materials. Perennially open containers, they not only allow, but enforce, the transfer of their contents to any with whom they come into contact. As receptacles of poisons, they embody the contaminating nature of what they contain.

In their inability to keep their cosmetic contents within bounds, these vessels become uneasily interchangeable with the painted female bodies--or, in the case of the stage, male bodies painted as female--which become their new containers and display cases.(48) Under the corrosive force of paint, women are transformed not only into inanimate objects, but into troublingly open and contagious objects. Just as cosmetic vials fail to safeguard their internal pollutions, women are depicted as leaky vessels containing poison.(49)

The idea of the female body as perilously open, both to absorption and to spillage, was rooted in the dominant Renaissance medical tradition, inherited from ancient Greece and associated primarily with Galen, that identified the body's uneasy permeability particularly with women. Through the tenuousness attributed to its boundaries, the female body was viewed as acutely vulnerable to the sort of bodily infiltration represented by cosmetic corrosion.(50) According to a Galenic understanding of the body, "a woman's flesh is more spongelike and softer than a man's," more easily absorbent, just as women's bodies and souls are more susceptible to overthrow in general: "The passive condition of womankind is subject unto more diseases and of other sortes and natures then men are."(51) Medical critiques of cosmetics similarly emphasized women's particular fragility: "those paintings and embellishings which are made with minerals, and corrosiues, are very dangerous," Lomazzo writes, "... especially on the face of a woman, which is very tender & delicate by nature."(52) Because of this delicate nature, the female body was understood to be both more vulnerable to contamination than a man's and, when polluted, more contagious.(53)

Medical accounts of this two-way permeability support literary depictions of women as dangerously open receptacles, whose unboundedness puts men at risk as well.(54) This idea is morbidly literalized in a number of revenge tragedy scenes in which men die from kissing a painted female corpse.(55) In Massinger's The Duke of Milan, for example, the female body is explicitly described as a vessel filled with poison. After watching Sforza kiss his dead wife Marcelia, whose face has been painted with poisoned cosmetics, Francisco gloats, "Thou art mark'd for the grave, I've given thee poison / In this cup."(56) Mirroring the cosmetic containers that were used to adorn her, Marcelia becomes a prop, a contaminated and contaminating object used to effect revenge.

The use of the female body--or, more particularly, the female corpse--as a poisonous prop is something of a revenge tragedy convention.(57) In The Revenger's Tragedy, Vindice maintains and cherishes the skull of his former love, Gloriana, for years before putting it to use as a weapon of murder.(58) "This very skull," he vaunts,

Whose mistress the Duke poisoned, with this drug

The mortal curse of the earth, shall be reveng'd

In the like strain, and kiss his lips to death.(59)

Having been poisoned by the Duke, Gloriana's body (or the remnants thereof) becomes a contagious medium, reflecting his own poison back to him. Similarly, if less famously, the aptly named Tyrant in The Second Maiden's Tragedy turns to paint to maintain the illusion of life in the corpse of the women he desires, who has killed herself rather than give in to his lust. "Let but thy art hide death upon her face," he tells the painter he has hired, "That now looks fearfully on us, and but strive / To give our eye delight."(60) But in the hands of the painter--the Lady's actual lover, Govianus, in disguise--her painted corpse becomes a weapon of revenge. After kissing the body in delight, the Tyrant exclaims in dismay:


I talk so long to death, I'm sick myself.

Methinks an evil scent still follows me.

Govanius. Maybe 'tis nothing but the colour, sir,

That I laid on.

Tyrant. Is that so strong?

Govanius. Yes, faith, sir,

'Twas the best poison I could get for money.

[Throws off his disguise./


The Tyrant dies poisoned by a double dissimulation. Just as paint conceals the Lady's death (and deadliness); so, too, the painter's robes conceal a vengeful murderer, pointing to an ongoing association between poison and treacherously deceptive appearances.

Although the examples of Marcelia, Gloriana, and the Lady show the poisoned female corpse as an instrument in a competitive battle between men, at times the woman herself is the agent of her own objectification, and revenge.(61) In Kyd's Solyman and Perseda, Perseda dies to avoid Soliman's lust, but first paints her own lips with poison in a canny anticipation of what will follow. Agreeably conceding to his request--"A kisse I graunt thee, though I hate thee deadly"(62)--Perseda just has time to leave a catchy note: "Tyrant, my lips were sawst with deady poyson, to plague thy hart that is so full of poison" (V. ii. 117-18).

As the neat symmetry of Perseda's note suggests, these vessels of poison--Marcelia, Gloriana, the Lady, and Perseda herself--become the site of a literalization of preexisting spiritual poisons, the poisons of lust and tyranny in the men who pursue them to their deaths and beyond. Even women who originally were pure prove so permeable to contamination that they not only absorb these evils, but instead translate them from abstractions into fatal poisons and transmit them contagiously to other victims. Women may serve as representative models of the body's vulnerability to invasion, but they are not shown as the only, or even the primary, victims of poison. Instead, as vehicles for the materialization and transmission of spiritual and literal poisons, they become destabilizing properties that threaten, by chain reaction, to reduce men to objects as well. These scenes raise the possibility that what is at stake in anxieties about poisoned cosmetics may be not so much the problem of women's vulnerability as the corollary problem that it models: the vulnerability of men.(63) As the tranvestite stage suggests, the permeable body that presents itself as female may, in actuality, be male beneath its paint and costumes; femininity may be more significant as metaphor than as fact.

Properties of the Theater

Disconcertingly for audiences, the painted women dramatized and demonized in plays are often closely affiliated with theatricality itself. As a spectacle of monstrous femininity, Lucretia's demise in The Devil's Charter echoes and implicates other devious, duplicitous women of the revenge tragedy tradition. In preparing to murder her husband, she self-consciously and eagerly aligns herself with earlier "heroines": "If womanly thou melt then call to minde, / Impatient Medeas wrathfull furie, / And raging Clitemnestraes hideous fact" (586-88). Lucretia explicitly appeals to a theatrical tradition of women who carry out their revenge against their husbands by means of dissimulation and concealment: Medea and Clytemnestra famously lure their victims into the interior of their house under false pretenses in order to kill them. Her own Machiavellian schemes take on an explicitly theatrical vocabulary; having forced her husband to sign a will and statement clearing her name before she murders him, she muses: "So now that part is playd, what followes now?" (I.v.684). Lucretia's skills at dissimulation unite her face-painting and her theatricality, suggesting an essential link between the two.

Even as suspicions of cosmetics as poison draw on an array of chemical and moral associations, theatrical stagings of cosmetic poisonings point to another area of concerns. The significant role given face-paints and scenes of painting within plays calls attention to the painting, costuming, and self-metamorphosing that constitute theatrical productions. Both metonymically and metaphorically, face-paints come to stand for the theater itself; as crucial theatrical props, they represent the mechanics of the stage, and as a means of deceiving and seducing spectators they embody the spirit of theatrical illusion. Consistently linked by both critics and supporters, plays and face-painting were seen as embodying the same contaminating effect. In the context of these shared associations, representations of death by cosmetic exposure can be understood as taking on a metatheatrical significance. If women such as the dissembling Lucretia, who die from direct contact with face-paint, may be likened to the painted players of stage plays, the men who die from mediated poisons, through exposure to these painted women, seem to stand in for the audience, who absorb the contagious taint of the theater through the player. Due to its mimetic nature, the theater was understood as transmitting its contents into both actors and spectators; "Anglo-phile Eutheo," generally believed to be Anthony Mundy, claims that "al other euils pollute the doers onlie, not the beholders, or the hearers.... Onlie the filthines of plaies, and spectacles is such, as maketh both the actors & beholders giltie alike."(64) As passive spectators of painted faces and shows, men may occupy ultimately the most endangererd place in the equation, becoming invaded, effeminized, and objectified by the poisons on which they gaze.

As standard stage props, face-paints were a deeply entrenched part of theatrical production: early theater company records include accounts such as "Payd to the paynter for payntyng the players facys, lllj d," and "Item, paid to the paynter ffor peyntyng of ther fasses Viij d."(65) Renaissance folk-etymologists played on the association: In his An Apology for Actors, Thomas Heywood offers a derivation of the word tragedy from "[GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], a kinde of painting, which the Tragedians of the old time vsed to stayne their faces with" suggested that make-up was seen as the root of theater, both philologically and practically.(66) The two arts were understood as mutually reinforcing: Webster writes of the actor, "Hee is much affected to painting, and tis a question whether that make him an excellent Plaier, or his playing an exquisite painter."(67)

Critics of theater and face-painting--often the same in both cases and, for the most part, Puritans--saw the two as linked in their shared epistemological and ontological confusion: both are associated with disguise, duplicity, and chameleon-like fluidity of identity.(68) Likening painted women to the standard figure for the theater, Stubbes writes: "Proteus, that monster, could neuer change himselfe into so many formes and shapes as these women doe."(69) John Earle asserts that "A Player" is "like our painting gentlewomen, seldom in his own face,"(70) and Thomas Draiton writes of the face-painting woman, "shee'le please men in all places: / For she's a Mimique, and can make good faces."(71) The false faces common to both cosmetics and the theater threaten semiotic stability: William Prynne condemns "this common accursed hellish art of face-painting" because it, like stage players, perverts God's works "in putting a false glosse upon his creatures."(72) John Greene curtly summarizes the accusations of dishonesty:

A Comedy is not like vnto truth, because it is wholly composed of Fables

and Vanities: and Fables and Vanities, are lyes and deceipts: and lyes and

deceipts are cleane contrarie to truth, and altogether vnlike it, euen as

vertue is vnlike to vice.(73)

Along with their shared associations with dangerous dissembling, the theater is also linked to face-painting by ideas of lascivious, excessive self-adornment and display: Bulwer says of face-painting that "in adorning and setting forth the Body [it] differs nothing from the ostentation of Stage-plaies, and is no lesse indecent then fiction in manners."(74) Prynne castigates face-painters who "adorne themselves like comicall women, as if they were entring into a Play-house to act a part."(75) William Cave writes that "Christians should be "leaving fucus's and paintings, and living pictures, and fading beauty to those that belong to Playes and Theatres."(76)

As was the case with cosmetics, concerns about ostentation and seduction in complaints leveled at the theater merged with fears of infiltration and penetration. To moralist critics, theatergoing was inexorably associated with sexual vulnerability. Regardless of the play and its contents (although these generally were seen as adding to, rather than alleviating, the problem), exposure to spectacles and spectators in a public space was seen as in itself a threat to chastity, particularly for women. In an address "To the Gentlewomen Citizens of London," Stephen Gosson warns:

We walke in the Sun many times for pleasure, but our faces are taned before

we returne: though you go to theaters to see sport, Cupid may catche you

ere you departe. The litle God houereth aboute you, & fanneth you with his

wings to kindle fire: when you are set as fixed whites, Desire draweth his

arrow to the head, & sticketh it vppe to the fethers, and Fancy bestirreth

him to shed his poyson through euery vaine. If you doe but listen to the

voyce of the Fouler, or ioyne lookes with an amorous Gazer, you haue

already made your selues assaultable, & yelded your Cities to be


Gosson's vocabulary identifies the theater with a violently invasive sexuality, threatening the tenuous boundaries of the female body: women exposed to it become "assaultable," and yield their "Cities to be sacked," suggesting that the penetrating force of Cupid's arrow is in itself a sort of rape. His opening metaphor, of the effect of the sun on the faces of those who let themselves be publically exposed, links the dangerously invasive effects of the theater to both the "poyson" of desire and the perils of artificial color burnt into the faces.

As the metaphors of sunbeams, arrows, and poison suggest, attacks against the theater, like critiques of face-painting, understand its sexual and semiotic transgressions as taking the form of an invasive contamination. Like the force of cosmetics, this pollution was envisioned, in a magical conflation of the material and immaterial, as seeping physically through the body in order to enter the soul. In Playes Confuted in Five Actions, Gosson warns,

yf we be carefull that no polution of idoles enter by the mouth into our

bodies, how diligent, how circumspect, how wary ought we to be, that no

corruption of idols, enter by the passage of our eyes & eares into the

soule? We know that whatsoeuer goeth into the mouth defileth not but

passeth away by course of nature; but that which entreth into us by the

eyes and eares, muste be digested by the spirite, which is chiefly reserued

to honor God.(78)

The theater, like cosmetics, problematizes the relationship between surface and substance. Not only are its external trappings misleading signs of what lies within, but its exterior show penetrates the boundaries of the audience's body through ears, eyes, and all senses, to take control of what is inside, the mind and soul.

In a further analogy with face-painting that takes us back to the starting point of this essay, this strange synesthetic contamination was routinely understood in terms of poison by its detractors: Gosson refers to plays as "ranke poyson" and "venemous arrows to the mind," and Greene claims they are "as bad Poyson to the Minde, as the byting of a Viper to the Flesh."(79) Downame similarly argues that plays "poyson the mind with effeminate lust."(80) Although in the case of face-paints the association was clearly catalyzed and reinforced by the fact of their chemical ingredients, the parallel example of theater seems to absorb the principle by analogy, transcending the need for a material explanation. The perceived power of theater to infiltrate and corrupt the spectator lent itself naturally to the literalizing rhetoric of poison, even in the absence of literal poisons.

While accusations of art as poison may be unsurprising in the context of antitheatricalist condemnations of the stage, for plays themselves to stage scenes that contribute to arguments condemning their effects and existence is more striking.(81) Literary representations of the invasive poisons of paint suggest that, despite ordinarily opposing perspectives, both critics of the theater and voices from within it shared foundational assumptions about the power of immaterial images to exert a material effect--and vice versa--on both players and spectators. Although this synesthetic power can be perceived as operating for better as well as for worse,(82) the invasive and transformative powers it attributes to art have threatening implications for the vulnerability of both body and mind. Aligned with, and authorized by, fears about the invasive nature of paint's chemical properties, anti-cosmetic and anti-theatrical rhetoric draws on concerns about the reliability of boundaries at large, pointing to corollaries in the distinct but intertwining discourses of medical, moral, and theatrical authors. As overdetermined symbols for this contaminating force, poisonous cosmetics and painted bodies point to vivid magical beliefs about the power of surfaces to seep into substances, of appearances to alter and endanger bodies and souls.


I would like to thank Jesse Gale, Matthew Greenfield, Sarah Knott, David Quint, Eric Wilson, and Susan Zimmerman for their advice at the various stages of writing this essay.

(1.) Barnes, The Devil's Charter, ed. Jim C. Pogue, IV:iii (New York and London: Garland, 1980): 2255-57; further citations will be in the text.

(2.) Any work on anxieties about contamination and the transgression of boundaries is necessarily indebted to Mary Douglas; see her Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1966). Much intelligent work on contamination has taken ancient Greece as its model; see Louis Moulinier, Le pur et l'impur dans la pensee et la sensibilite des Grecs (Paris: Universite de Paris, 1950); Robert Parker, Miasma: Pollution and Purification in Early Greek Religion (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1983); and JeanPierre Vernant, "The Pure and the Impure," in Myth and Society in Ancient Greece (New York, Zone Books, 1988).

(3.) Plays featuring poisonous cosmetics include Soliman and Perseda (1592), Jack Drum's Entertainment (1600), The History of the Tryall of Cheualry (1601, The Gentleman Usher (1602), The Devil's Charter (1606), The Revenger's Tragedy (1607), The Second Maiden's Tragedy (1611), and The Duke of Milan (1622); relatedly, cosmetics are closely juxtaposed with poisons in Sejanus (1603) and numerous other plays. Thoughtful studies of early modern discomfort with face-paint include Frances Dolan, "Taking the Pencil Out of God's Hand: Art, Nature, and the Face-Painting Debate in Early Modern England," PMLA 108 (1993), 224-39; Annette Drew-Bear, Painted Faces on the Renaissance Stage: The Moral Significance of Face-Painting Conventions (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1994); Laurie Finke, "Painting Women: Images of Femininity in Jacobean Tragedy," Theatre Journal 36 (1984), 357-70; and Jacqueline Lichtenstein, "Making Up Representation: The Risks of Femininity," Representations 20 (1987): 77-87. For useful accounts of these concerns in neighboring periods, see R. Howard Bloch, "Medieval Misogyny," Representations 20 (1987): 1-24; and Tassie Gwilliam, "Cosmetic Poetics: Coloring Faces in the Eighteenth Century," in Body and Text in the Eighteenth Century, ed. Veronica Kelly and Dorothea Yon Mucke (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), 144-59. Taking a transhistorical perspective, Katherine Stern sees hostility to cosmetics as a manifestation of discomfort toward femininity; see her "What Is Femme? The Phenomenology of the Powder Room," Women: A cultural Review 8: 2 (1997): 183-96. While building on arguments from these essays regarding the identification between cosmetics, femininity, and art, this essay departs from prior scholarship in situating anti-cosmetic attitudes in the context of early modern fears about chemical technology, bodily security, and magical effects attributed to the theater.

(4.) On the changing place of chemicals in English society, see, for example, Allen Debus, The Chemical Dream of the Renaissance (Cambridge: Heifer, 1968). The most crucial figure in chemical innovation was Paracelsus: see esp. Walter Pagel, Paracelsus (Basel, 1958); Charles Webster, From Paracelsus to Newton: Magic and the making of modern science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982); and Henry Pachter, Paracelsus: Magic into Science (New York: Henry Schuman, 1951). On the impact of Paracelsus in England, see Allen Debus, The English Paracelsans (London: Oldbourne, 1965); and Paul Kocher, "Paracelsan Medicine in England," Journal of the History of Medicine 2 (1947): 451-80.

(5.) Paolo Lomazzo, A Tracte Containing the Artes of Curious Paintinge Caruinge & buildinge, trans. Richard Haydocke (London, 1598), 130; and Thomas Tuke, A Treatise Against Painting and Tincturing of Men and Women: Against Murther and Poysoning: Pride and Ambition: Adulterie and Witchcraft. And the Roote of all these, Disobedience to the Ministery of the Word (London, 1616), 21.

(6.) John Downame, cited in A Discourse of Auxiliary Beauty (London, 1656), 106. On the conflation of signs with things characteristic of magical thinking, see Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971); Thomas Greene, "Language, Signs and Magic," in Envisioning Magic, ed. Peter Schafer and Hans. G. Kippenberg (Brill: Leiden, 1997), 255-72; and Brian Vickers, "Analogy vs. Identity: The Rejection of Occult Symbolism, 1580-1680," in Brian Vickers, ed., Occult and Scientific Mentalities in the Renaissance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 95-163.

(7.) On Renaissance uneasiness toward the theater, see esp. Jonas Barish, The Antitheatrical Prejudice (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1981); Laura Levine, Men in Women's Clothing: Anti-theatricality and Effeminization, 1579-1642 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994); and Ramie Targoff, "The Performance of Prayer: Sincerity and Theatricality in Early Modern England," Representations 60 (Fall 1997): 49-69.

(8.) Asking "why a playwright would rehearse and even heighten or embody the arguments of his attackers," Levine argues that early modern playwrights "are both contaminated by the anxieties of the attacks they defend against and obsessively bent on coming to terms with them"; Men in Women's Clothing, 3.

(9.) In emphasizing the pervasiveness and significance of these beliefs, this essay confirms Targoff's account of "the commitment among certain early modern thinkers to the direct correspondence between outward behavior and inward thought," in contrast to some current critical emphases on the gap between outer show and interiority; Targoff, "Performance of Prayer," 50.

(10.) The appearance of the first critical text edition of The Devil's Charter, in the Globe Quartos series, ed. Nick Somagyi (London: Nick Hern Books, 1999) may both indicate and facilitate a growth of interest in the play.

(11.) On fears about the power of garments to alter the body's gender, see Levine, Men in Women's Clothing.

(12.) Andreas de Laguna, for example, writes that "this infamy is like to original sinne, and goes from generation to generation, when as the child borne of them, before it be able to gee, doth shed his teeth one after another, as being corrupted and rotten, not through his fault, but by reason of the vitiousnesse and taint of the mother that painted her selfe"; The Invective of Doctor Andreas de Laguna, a Spaniard and Physition to Pope Iulius the third, against the painting of women, trans. Elizabeth Arnold, printed in Tuke, Treatise, B4.

(13.) See Sir Hugh Platt, Delights for Ladies (London, 1609; repr. ed. G. E. Fussell and Kathleen Rosemary Fussell [London: Crosby Lockwood & Son Ltd, 1948]), 92; and Natural Magick by John Baptista Porta, a Neapolitane (London, 1658), 242. Other examples of popular Renaissance cosmetic recipes and ingredients can be found in The Secretes of the Reverende Maister Alexis of Piemount (London, 1558) and John Jeans Wecker, Cosmeticks Or, The Beautifying Part of Physick, trans. Nicholas Culpeper (London, 1660). For discussions of toxic ingredients in cosmetics, see, for example, Maggie Angeloglou, A History of Make-up (London: Macmillan, 1970), 48; Elizabeth Burton, The Pageant of Stuart England (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1962), 335-337; and Drew-Bear, Painted Faces, 22-23.

(14.) See, for example, Petrus Abbonus, De Venenis, trans. Horance M. Brown, Annals of Medical History 6 (1924), 40; also Ambroise Pare, "Of Poysons," The Workes of that famous Chirurgion Ambroise Parey, trans. Thomas Johnson (London, 1634), 775-815. Despite being a medieval text, De Venenis was regularly reprinted throughout the Renaissance and remained the primary toxicological authority.

(15.) Pare, "Of Poysons," 810.

(16.) See Mark Eccles, "Barnabe Barnes," in Thomas Lodge and other Elizabethans, ed. Charles J. Sisson (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1933), esp. 175-92.

(17.) de Laguna, Invective, B3.

(18.) Lomazzo, Tracte, 129.

(19.) Ibid., 130.

(20.) Like many feminist critics, Finke echoes these arguments, identifying the "life-denying tendencies" of cosmetics with patriarchal poetic ideals of female beauty: "by attempting to kill herself into art, to realize in her own flesh the idealizations of the lyricists, [the] painted woman literally kills herself" ("Painting Women," 358 and 364). Though acknowledging the literal dangers of early modern chemical make-up, I align myself with Stern's argument that feminist support for attacks on cosmetics suggests complicity with an entrenched antagonism towards the seductive adornment and proteanism often associated with both art and "femininity"; "What Is Femme?"

(21.) Also alert to the problem of the body's fragility, beauty-marketers argue that cosmetics can cure rather than exacerbate the problem: "The Body, that weak and moving mansion of mortality, is exposed to the treacherous underminings of so many Sicknesses and Distempers, that its own frailty seems petitioner for some artificial Enamel, which might be a fixation to Natures inconstancy, and a help to its variating infirmities"; Artificial Embellishments (Oxford: 1665), 5.

(22.) Vires, Instruction of a Christian Woman, trans. Richard Hyrde (London, 1541), G3.

(23.) Teeth were widely identified as a protective barrier to the body's interior; a beauty writer notes: "Least the Microcosme might by supprized by any treacherous invader, the teeth are set as ivory Portcullis's to guard its entrance" (Artificiall Embellishments, 142). These guards, however, were notoriously vulnerable to the effects of mercury: della Porta complains of women's "rugged, rusty, and spotted Teeth", noting that "they all almost, by using Mercury sublimate, have their Teeth black or yellow" (Natural Magick, 250).

(24.) The relationship between cosmetics, expanded trade, and English attitudes toward foreign nations is a large and separate topic which cannot adequately be developed in the context of this essay. Briefly, fears of paint's corrosive power to penetrate the skin were paralleled by the threat of exotic and morally suspect foreign imports infiltrating English markets and identity: Bulwer complained that "Our English Ladies ... seeme to have borrowed some of their Cosmeticall conceits from Barbarous Nations"; and Westfield writes of painted women, "Complexion speaks you Mungrels, and your Blood / Part Europe, part America, mixtbrood; / From Britains and from Negroes sprung, your cheeks / Display both colours, each their own there seeks" (John Bulwer, Anthropometamorphosis: Man Transform'd: or, The Artificial Changling [London, 1653], 260-61; and E. Westfield, printed in Misosphilus, A Wonder of Words: or, A Metamorphosis of Fair Faces voluntarily transformed into foul visages [London, 1662], A2iii). On the impact of foreign trade on cosmetic practices, see Neville Williams, Powder and Paint: A History of the Englishwoman's Toilet, Elizabeth I--Elizabeth II (London: Longmans, 1957), 17-18; and Angeloglou, History of Make-up, 42-44. On the representations of foreigners as poisonous threats to the English body, see Jonathan Gil Harris, Foreign Bodies and the Body Politic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

(25.) To early modern thinkers, the skin was understood as the sign through which one could read the body; see, for example, Margaret Pelling, "Medicine and Sanitation," in William Shakespeare: His World, His Work, His Influence, ed. John F. Andrews (New York: Scribner's, 1985), 1:79; and Carroll Camden, "The Mind's Construction in the Face," in Renaissance Studies in Honor of Hardin Craig, ed. Baldwin Maxwell, W. D. Briggs, Francis R. Johnson, E. N. S. Thompson (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1941). On the desire to find epistemological proof in the body, see especially Stanley Cavell, Disowning Knowledge in Six Plays of Shakespeare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979); also, David Hillman, "Visceral Knowledge: Shakespeare, Skepticism, and the Interior of the Early Modern Body," in The Body in Parts: Fantasies of Corporeality in Early Modern Europe (London: Routledge, 1997), ed. David Hillman and Carla Mazzio, 81-105.

(26.) Tuke, Treatise, 14.

(27.) Ibid., 12.

(28.) Ibid., 58.

(29.) Philip Stubbes, Anatomy of Abuses, (London, 1583), 57-58.

(30.) John Downame, Foure Treatises, Tending to Disswade all Christians From Foure no less hainous than common sinnes; namely, the abuses of Swearing, Drunkennesse, Whoredome, and Bribery (London, 1613), 203.

(31.) Downame, Foure Treatises, 165; and Misospilus, Wonder of Words, 1. Painted women were routinely described as "polluted with counterfeit colours"; Tuke, Treatise, 5.

(32.) Vires, Instruction, [12.sub.v]-3.

(33.) Discourse, 33, 34.

(34.) See State Trials, ed. Howell, II, 911; cited in Fredson Bowers, "The Audience and the Poisoners of Elizabethan Tragedy," Journal of English and Germanic Philology 36 (1937), 491-504.

(35.) Tuke, Treatise, 41.

(36.) Ibid., 2. Anxiety about idols and icons was a central aspect of English Reformation thought; see, for example, "Against Perill of Idolatrie," in Certain Sermons or Homilies (London, 1623). Critical writings on literary preoccupations with the topic include Ernest Gilman, Iconoclasm and Poetry in the English Reformation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986); Kenneth Gross, The Dream of the Moving Statue (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992); and James Siemon, Shakespearean Iconoclasm (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985).

(37.) Downame, Foure Treatises, 203. He may not have been wrong, either; rather than refuting the charge, beauty guides appropriate the same rhetoric in making their appeal to cosmetic consumers: "Your Alabaster Armes and Hands Ladies, are the fleshie altars whereon your superstitious Inamorato's offer to you, as female Deities the first fruits of their devotion in zealous kisses. Your care should be to keep them in such a soul-inchanting symmetrie, that might confirm your Idolizing lovers in the opinion they have conceived, that you are more then mortal"; Artificiall Embellishments, 160.

(38.) Tuke, Treatise, 57. He similarly queries an imagined self-painter, "dost thou loue thy selfe artificiall, and like an Idoll ...?"; ibid., 8.

(39.) On idolatry and the precarious boundaries between subjects and their potential objectification, see "Introduction," Subject and Object in Renaissance Culture, ed. Margareta de Grazia, Maureen Quilligan, and Peter Stallybrass (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 1-13, esp. 3. On early modern beliefs about the autonomy of body parts, see David Hillman and Carla Mazzio, "Introduction: Individual Parts," in The Body in Parts, xi-xxix.

(40.) Guillaume Dubartas, Divine Weeks and Works, trans. Josuah Sylvester (London: 1608); "The Decay," 4th book of 4th day of 2nd week, 11. 153-54 and 173-75.

(41.) Intriguingly, some cosmetics recipes similarly assume spiritual effects from physical interventions, albeit in a more positive direction: a recipe from 1660 offers "A Lye to make the hair yellow, bright, and long; and to help the Memory"; Wecker, Cosmeticks, 45.

(42.) Stubbes, Anatomy of Abuses, 55-56.

(43.) Downame, Foure Treatises, 203.

(44.) Ibid., 203. Similarly, Downame describes harlots as "sweet, but poysonous potions, which delight in the taste, but kill in the digestion"; ibid., 166-67.

(45.) An edict from Elizabeth's reign explicitly describes the use of objects associated with artificial beauty as withcraft: "Any woman who through the use of false hair, Spanish hair-pads, make-up, false hips, steel busks, panniers, high-heeled shoes or other devices, leads a subject of her majesty into marriage, shall be punished with the penalty of witchcraft"; cited in Angeloglou, History of Makeup, 45.

(46.) Anonymous libels warn of Lucretia's whoredom: "For neuer was the shameless Fuluia, / Nor Lais noted for so many wooers, / Nor that vncast profuse Sempronia, / A common dealer with so many doers, / So proud, so faithlesse, and so voyd of shame, / As is new brodel bride Lucretia"; I.iii.296-301. Noting the link between these scenes, Drew-Bear comments that the whore of Babylon's "branded forehead provides the biblical source for using a marked face to symbolize lust and other sins"; Painted Faces, 51.

(47.) See Revelations 17:4. The image became a popular one for the sensual and spiritual temptations of Catholicism. John Downame writes with alarm of "that cup of carnall fornications, wherewith the great whore of Babylon allureth the Kings and inhabitants of the earth to drinke also of the cup of her spirituall whoredome, and as it were the great drag-net, whereby she catcheth and captiueth more in her idolatries and superstitions, then by almost any other meanes whatsoeuer"; Foure Treatises, 134.

(48.) A beauty marketer explicitly identifies both painted and unpainted women with vessels of differing qualities, promising the purchaser of his merchandise that "Other ladies in your company shall look like brown-bread sippers in a dish of snowie cream, or if you will, like blubberd juggs in a cupboard of Venice glasses, or earthen Chamberpots in a Goldsmiths shop"; Artificiall Embellishments, A5.

(49.) On women as a model of the troublingly unbounded body in the Renaissance, see Gail Kern Paster, The Body Embarassed: Drama and the Disciplines of Shame in the Renaissance (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994), and "Leaky Vessels: The Incontinent Women of City Comedy," Renaissance Drama, New Series XVIII, ed. Mary Beth Rose (1987), 43-65; also, Peter Stallybrass, "Patriarchal Territories: The Body Enclosed," in Rewriting the Renaissance: The Discourse of Sexual Difference in Early Modern Europe, ed. Margaret Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan, and Nancy Vickers (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), 123-42.

(50.) Ruth Padel explicates classical Greek beliefs about women's greater physical and spiritual susceptibility to invasion, in "Women: Model for Possession by Greek Daemons," Images of Women in Antiquity, ed. A. Cameron and A. Kuhrt (Worcester: Billings & Son, 1983).

(51.) Hippocrates, "Diseases of Women 1," trans. Anne Hanson, Signs 1 (1975), 572; and Edward Jorden, A Briefe Discourse of a Disease Called the Suffocation of the Mother (London, 1603), B1. On general medical beliefs about the female body in the early modern period, see Ian Maclean, The Renaissance Notion of Woman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980).

(52.) Lomazzo, Tracte, 132-33.

(53.) Heinrich yon Staden notes in early Greek culture "a recurrent, well-known tradition according to which women are exceptionally susceptible to impurity and dirt"; "Women and Dirt," Helios 19 (1992), 13. See also, Robert Parker, Miasma, 101-3.

(54.) Padel, similarly, finds in Greek medicine and literature a "general notion that women endanger men by being enterable"; "Women: Model for Possession," 11.

(55.) Similarly, but less directly, when Lucretia dies from exposure to her own paints, she is not their only victim; the duplicity and infidelity which her paints embody have already led her to kill her husband.

(56.) Massinger, The Duke of Milan, in The Plays and Poems of Philip Massinger, ed. Philip Edwards and Colin Gibson, vol. 1 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976): V.ii.239-40.

(57.) This striking topos can be seen as a gendered subset of a broader generic fascination with using bodies and body parts as props; Robert Watson comments on this macabre revenge tragedy motif in "Tragedy," in The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 319-34, esp. 319.

(58.) A recent London production of the play used an actual complete skeleton, to brilliant effect. Unfortunately, the producer was investigated by police after a worried subway passenger noticed and reported his unusual parcel; apparently the Jacobean fondness for displays in corpses has not been inherited by contemporary Londoners.

(59.) The Revenger's Tragedy, ed. R. A. Foakes (Manchester: Manchester University Press [The Revels Plays], 1966): III.v.101. The play's attribution has long been controversial. Foakes's edition, like many, attributes the play to Tourneur, but current critical consensus suggests that the author is Middleton; see, for example, Roger Holdsworth, "The Revenger's Tragedy as a Middleton Play." The play will appear, edited by Macdonald P. Jackson, in The Collected Works of Thomas Middleton, gen. ed. Gary Taylor (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

(60.) The Second Maiden's Tragedy, ed. Anne Lancashire (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1978), V.ii.81-83. As with The Revenger's Tragedy, attribution has been debated, but critical consensus favors Middleton. See Lancashire's introduction, and the forthcoming edition (titled The Lady's Tragedy) by Julia Briggs, in The Collected Works of Thomas Middleton.

(61.) On these triangulated structures and their homoerotic overtones, see Rene Girard, Desire, Deceit, and the Novel, trans. Yvonne Freccero (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1966).

(62.) Thomas Kyd, The Tragedye of Solyman and Perseda, ed. John J. Murray (Garland Publishing: New York and London, 1991): V.ii.67.

(63.) While women tend to be at the center of discussions of the dangers of face-paints, ample evidence indicates that men were significant consumers of cosmetic products as well. Tuke, for example, refers in his title to Painting and Tincturing of Men and Women; and Platt, among others, offers recipes on "How to colour the head or beard" (Delights for Ladies, 102). Similarly, Bulwer writes of "the like prodigious affectation in the Faces of effeminate Gallants, a bare-headed Sect of amorous Idolaters, who of late have begun to rye patches and beauty-spots, nay, painting, with the most tender and phantasticall Ladies, and to returne by Art their queasie paine upon women, to the great reproach of Nature, and high dishonour and abasement of the glory of man's perfection. Painting is bad both in a foule and faire woman, but worst of all in a man" (Anthropometamorphosis, 263). For further examples and analysis, see Drew-Bear, Painted Faces, 28-31, 73-78, and 82-84. Scenes satirizing male face painting occur in comedies such as Marston's Antonio and Mellida, Glapthorne's The Lady Mother, Massinger's The Bashful Lover, and Ford's The Fancies Chaste and Noble.

(64.) Anglo-phile Eutheo, A second and third blast of retrait from plaies and Theaters (London, 1580; reprinted in The English Drama and Stage Under the Tudor and Stuart princes, 1543-1664, ed. W. C. Hazlitt [London, 1869]), 104.

(65.) From 1548 and 1499; see Coventry, in Records of Early English Drama, ed.R. W. Ingram (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981), 181, 193; also, Drew-Bear, for other references and discussion, Painted Faces, 32-33. On the use of blackface in productions of Othello, see Dympna Callaghan, "Othello Was a White Man," in Alternative Shakespeares II, ed. John Drakakis (London: Routledge, 1996), 192-215.

(66.) See Thomas Heywood, An Apology for Actors (London, 1612), ed. Richard H. Perkinson (New York: Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, 1941), D1v. Curiously, Heywood's adversary, John Greene, offers the same theory about "the Wine leese with which they besmeared their faces, (before that Aeschilus deuised vizors for them) called in Greek [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (I. G. [John Greene], A Refvtation of the Apology for Actors [London, 1615; printed in Perkinson's edition of Heywood], C3).

(67.) John Webster, "An excellent Actor", in New and Choise Characters, of seuer-all Authors (London, 1615), reprinted in The Complete Works of John Webster, ed. J. H. Lucas 4 (London: Chatto and Windus, 1966): 43.

(68.) Moralists who attacked both face-painting and the stage include Philip Stubbes, William Prynne, and Stephen Gosson. Gosson is a notable exception to the tendency to Puritanism; see William Ringler, Stephen Gosson: A Biographical and Critical Study (Princeton Studies in English, 25 [Princeton, 1942]), and Arthur F. Kinney, ed., Markets of Bawdrie: The Dramatic Criticism of Stephen Gosson (Salzburg: Salzburg Studies in English Literature, 1974).

(69.) Stubbes, Anatomy of Abuses, 67.

(70.) John Earle, Microcosmography (London, 1628), 57.

(71.) Draiton, "Of tincturing the face," printed in Tuke, Treatise, B2.

(72.) William Prynne, Histriomastix, or the Players Scourge (London, 1633), 159-60.

(73.) Greene, A Refvtation of the Apology for Actors (London, 1615; reprinted in Thomas Heywood, An Apology for Actors, ed. Richard H. Perkinson [New York: Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, 1941]),F1.

(74.) Bulwer, Anthropometamorphosis, B2v.

(75.) "Cut therefore from thee all this counterfeiting"; he continues: "circumcise from thee all this demeanour of the Stage and Players: for God is not mocked. These things are to be left to Players and Dancers, and to those who are conversant in the Play-house: no such thing is suitable to a chaste and sober woman"; Histriomastix, 219-20.

(76.) William Cave, Primitive Christianity (London, 1673), 66.

(77.) Gosson, The Schoole of Abuse, in Markets of Bawdrie: The Dramatic Criticism of Stephen Gosson, ed. Arthur F. Kinney (Salzburg: Salzburg Studies in English Literature, 1974), F2v.

(78.) Gosson, Playes Confuted, in Markets of Bawdrie, B8v. Gosson's comparison with the "polution of idoles' entering by the mouth suggests a parallel between theater and the Catholic eucharist.

(79.) Stephen Gosson, Apologie for Schoole of Abuse, in Markets of Bawdrie, L8v; Greene, Refutation, A3v.

(80.) Downame, Foure Treatises, 197. The term was invoked so regularly that defenders of the theater seem to have felt compelled to offer specific refutations of it: Richard Baker writes, "Indeed, it is not so much the Player, that makes the Obscenity, as the Spectatour himself: as it is not so much the Juyce of the Herb, that makes the Honey, or Poyson, as the Bee, or Spider, that sucks the Juyce. Let this man therefore bring a modest heart to a Play, and he shall never take hurt by immodest Speeches: but, if he come as a Spider to it, what marvel, if he suck Poyson, though the Herbs be never so sovereign" (Richard Baker, Theatrum Rediviyum, or the Theatre Vindicated. In Answer to M. Pryns Histriomastix [London, 1662], 30). Heywood's Apology for Actors opens with a verse from Richard Perkins expressing the same idea: "Giue me a play; that no distaste can breed, / Proue thou a Spider, and from flowers sucke gall, / Il'e like a Bee, take hony from a weed: / For I was neuer Puritannicall" (Apology for Actors, A3).

(81.) Again, Laura Levine addresses this topic insightfully in Men in Women's Clothing.

(82.) See, for example, Sidney on poetry's ability to model, and hence create, people and things "better than nature bringeth forth" (Philip Sidney, A Defence of Poetry, ed. J. A. Van Dorsten [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966], 23).

TANYA POLLARD is a doctoral candidate in Comparative Literature at Yale University. Her thesis "Dangerous Remedies: Poison and Representation in the Renaissance," examines links between dissimulation and the vulnerability of the body in early modern English plays and medical writings.
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Publication:Shakespeare Studies
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 1999
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