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Cosmetics in Shakespearean and Renaissance Drama$
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Farah Karim-Cooper

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780748619931

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748619931.001.0001

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‘Flattering Unction’: Cosmetics in Hamlet

‘Flattering Unction’: Cosmetics in Hamlet

(p.176) Chapter 8 ‘Flattering Unction’: Cosmetics in Hamlet
Cosmetics in Shakespearean and Renaissance Drama

Farah Karim-Cooper

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter argues that the use of cosmetic signifiers in Hamlet ironically help to uncover the play's preoccupation with the deceptive visibility of power while it demonstrates their meta-theatrical utility. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, cosmetics are deemed valuable because of their poetic and theatrical uses; cosmetic language is often used ironically, recalling, but not necessarily reinforcing, the contemporary arguments condemning women and their technology of beauty. Hamlet combined theatricality, cosmetics and traps to attempt to draw out and extinguish corruption from the court. Cosmetics come into play when considering the Tudor court: Shakespeare – like Thomas Middleton, John Webster and Ben Jonson – recognised the magnificent effect painted faces had on audiences, and therefore demonstrated through his own art that performance necessitates cosmetic materiality.

Keywords:   cosmetic signifiers, Hamlet, Shakespeare, cosmetics, cosmetic language, beauty, Thomas Middleton, John Webster, Ben Jonson

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