‘Deceived with ornament’: Shakespeare’s Venice

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:
‘Deceived with ornament’: Shakespeare’s Venice

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Venice was an influential centre for trade, due primarily to its fortunate global positioning. The cosmetics industry of Venice signified for English dramatists the alluring captivation of the world's gaze. Cosmetics were significant in the formation of English perceptions of Venetian women, courtesans and the stage presence of Venice itself. Shakespeare's use of cosmetic signifiers in The Merchant of Venice and Othello is described. The handkerchief in Othello registered female chastity, sexuality, beauty and history. Thus far on the Shakespearean stage, boys paint to play ladies and twins; rude mechanicals paint to play walls; cosmetic ingredients appear in the form of caskets; and blackness is given a moral value through the contradictory image of two boy actors – one white, one black – who turn out to be equally tragic figures.

Keywords: Venice; Shakespeare; cosmetic signifiers; Merchant of Venice; Othello; cosmetics

Chapter.  9404 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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