Chapter

Defining Beauty in Renaissance Culture

Farah Karim-Cooper

in Cosmetics in Shakespearean and Renaissance Drama

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2006 | ISBN: 9780748619931
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652204 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748619931.003.0001
Defining Beauty in Renaissance Culture

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This book investigates a wide range of early modern texts and the theatrical appropriation of cosmetic metaphors and materials. It also contends that the contemporary culture of cosmetics extended beyond practice and vanity and into the domains of theatre, art and poetry. The chapter argues that the early modern woman's drive to refashion herself cosmetically was a response to a particular standard inherited from classical and Italian models of female beauty. The classical paradigm of beauty requires proportion, symmetry and the visible synthesis of colour. Queen Elizabeth's feminine dissatisfaction with her physicality was fused with her conviction that power resides ultimately in beauty. Appropriated by dramatists and popularised by the stage, the cosmetic materials, language and face-painting scenes enraptured audiences, while plunging them into the thick of a cultural phenomenon that would gesture towards monarchy, death, art, poetry, race and gender.

Keywords: cosmetics; theatre; art; poetry; female beauty; Queen Elizabeth; monarchy; death; race

Chapter.  12051 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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