Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of English

Content Description

1 online resource (vi, 168 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Ineke Murakami

Committee Members

Lana Cable, Helene Scheck


Cosmetics, English Literature, Theater, Whiteness, Theatrical makeup, Face painting

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


This study examines cosmetic practice, discourse, and material to explore the ways in which face paint, often made from a mixture of foreign and domestic ingredients, challenges the emergent notion of a pure English identity. Within a broader discourse found in recipe books, anti-cosmetic treatises, public and private documents, and plays for public spectacle—as well as court masques—I examine how early modern performances use cosmetic mixtures as theatrical devices to stage, represent, and negotiate anxieties about England’s increased engagement with the nascent global economy. Worn on the permeable surface of the skin, cosmetic material, such as alum, mercury, and mummia, penetrates both the national economy and the individual body; I thus interpret the spectacle of the cosmeticized face as a site of incorporation, a site that represents, and produces, individual and cultural hybridities. I posit, therefore, that the early modern cosmeticized body exists in a state of flux, continuously reconstituted by foreign materials of adornment and beautification. Reading cosmetics through a range of source materials and contexts, I reveal not one or even a few isolated types, but multiple overlapping and sometimes conflicting signifying functions of the early modern cosmeticized face, which becomes, then, a face that both stabilizes and undoes the construction of English whiteness.