Jonson’s Cosmetic Ritual

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:
Jonson’s Cosmetic Ritual

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This chapter clarifies that although Ben Jonson is morally opposed to women who paint their faces, he too appropriates the materials and metaphors of cosmetic adornment to serve his own dramatic purposes. Additionally, it argues that in Jonson's two comedies, painted faces, cosmetic recipes and prosthetic women are not only the objects contained within, but are also the subjects of the dramatic action, because cosmetics are crucial to the satire of Epicoene and to the staging of Wittipol's trick in The Devil is an Ass. Jonson's incorporation of the cosmetics debate into his drama has a classical precedence. Jonson's linguistic inclusion of cosmetic ingredients into his dramatic language and his requirement for cosmetic materiality on the stage, though satirically motivated, celebrates, paradoxically, the cultural diversity of the cosmetics industry, its geographical pervasiveness and its usefulness to the industry of playing.

Keywords: cosmetics; Ben Jonson; Epicoene; Devil; dramatic language; painted faces; cosmetic recipes; prosthetic women

Chapter.  8967 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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