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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: January ::
Re: Skin Deep
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0177  Friday, 25 January 2002

[1]     From:   Robert Peters <
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        Date:   Thursday, 24 Jan 2002 18:44:12 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0162 Skin Deep

[2]     From:   Geralyn Horton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 24 Jan 2002 13:04:17 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0162 Skin Deep

[3]     From:   Todd Pettigrew <
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        Date:   Thursday, 24 Jan 2002 13:22:27 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0162 Skin Deep

[4]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Thursday, 24 Jan 2002 13:59:06 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0162 Skin Deep

[5]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Thursday, 24 Jan 2002 17:33:55 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0162 Skin Deep

[6]     From:   Michael Friedman <
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        Date:   Friday, 25 Jan 2002 08:50:35 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0162 Skin Deep


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert Peters <
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Date:           Thursday, 24 Jan 2002 18:44:12 +0100
Subject: 13.0162 Skin Deep
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0162 Skin Deep

Dana Shilling schrieb:

> Is any male character in any play specifically described as
> good-looking? Juliet, Rosalind, and Viola are quite attracted to Romeo,
> Orlando, and Orsino (respectively!) but that's not quite the same thing.

Now who do you want to believe? In a play everything said is subjective
unless the author gives us an objective stage direction.

> I was surprised to agree with Charles Weinstein about anything, but I,
> too, think Derek Jacobi was a terrific Hamlet in the BBC series.
> Especially for a short pudgy gay guy.

I never thought of Hamlet as necessarily slender or good-looking. I
would prefer a stuffy roly-poly Hamlet. Suits someone who reads too
much.

Robert

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Geralyn Horton <
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Date:           Thursday, 24 Jan 2002 13:04:17 -0500
Subject: 13.0162 Skin Deep
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0162 Skin Deep

Speaking of accomplished classic actors who are short and pudgy, there's
a John Lahr profile of Judi Dench in the Jan 21 New Yorker, "The Player
Queen".

Geralyn Horton
http://www.stagepage.org

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[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Todd Pettigrew <
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Date:           Thursday, 24 Jan 2002 13:22:27 -0800
Subject: 13.0162 Skin Deep
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0162 Skin Deep

A question with fascinating implications. Are men's looks ever an issue,
and, I wonder, does a man's physical appearance connect to his moral
goodness?

One handsome character in Shakespeare is Michael Cassio in Othello whose
good looks make him a more believable suspect when it comes to
adultery.  Iago delights in how suited Cassio's good looks are for
Iago's plot against the Moor. He notes that "Cassio's a proper man" who
"hath a person and a smooth dispose/ To be suspected, framed to make
women false." (1.3)

Then there's the County Paris in R&J who, says the nurse, is very
handsome, and much more handsome than Romeo . But earlier in the play
she claimed that Romeo was the most handsome of all men. But it's hard
to know how much of what the Nurse says are things she actually
believes. Juliet seems to think Romeo is good-looking when she hopes
that one day he will be cut out "in little stars" that will make the
night sky so beautiful "That all the world will be in love with night"
(3.2)

In Merchant, a non-character called Falconbridge is mentioned as a
suitor to Portia and is described as "proper" (ie handsome) but dully
monolingual.  In the same scene Bassanio is described in terms that
imply he is good-looking (the most "deserving" man that Nerissa's
"foolish eyes" have seen).

In Much Ado, Hero implies that Benedick is "rarely featured" (3.1) and
suggests that he is the second-best looking man in Italy with Claudio
being the best, and Ursula agrees that Benedick is a "rare" gentleman.
All of these, though, are suspect, given they are said for Beatrice to
overhear and it's not always clear whether they are talking mainly about
looks per se or virtue in general.

In The Tempest, Miranda is struck by the physical attractiveness of
Ferdinand (he has, she says, "a brave form") and Prospero agrees that
except for his grief (which is "beauty's canker") Ferdinand is "a goodly
person".

I think we might tentatively say that for men (as for women) in
Shakespeare, physical beauty is generally an indication of good
character (Richard III vs Ferdinand) but, counter-examples are available
too.  Othello's dark skin is taken as ugly by those who still see him as
virtuous (as the Duke does early on).

t.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Thursday, 24 Jan 2002 13:59:06 -0500
Subject: 13.0162 Skin Deep
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0162 Skin Deep

> Is any male character in any play specifically described as
> good-looking?

I think there are several.  One that comes to mind immediately is Romeo
-- see the Nurse's description in II.v.40f (Riverside).

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Thursday, 24 Jan 2002 17:33:55 -0500
Subject: 13.0162 Skin Deep
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0162 Skin Deep

Several characters are described as "handsome," but this adjective often
refers to well-dressed.  Gloucester refers to Henry IV as a handsome
stripling.  The Nurse refers to Paris as a handsome gentleman.  Iago
refers to Cassio as handsome. Lodovico is referred to by Emilia as very
handsome after Desdemona calls him proper, as does Iago Cassio.

"Proper" is often used to denote good looking, but interchangeably with
the modern sense. York in 1HVI calls the Dauphin a proper man but
possibly sarcastically. He says to La Pucelle: "No shape but his can
please your dainty eye." Richard begins to think of himself as proper
after the wooing of Anne.  The outlaws in Two Gentleman of Verona decide
to listen to the pleas of Valentine because he is a proper man. Grumio
refers to Lucentio as a proper stripling. Quince says that "Pyramus is a
sweet-faced man; a proper man, as one shall see in a summer's day; a
most lovely gentleman-like man." Portia calls her English suitor a
"proper man's picture."  Don John calls Claudio a "proper squire," while
when Claudio says that Benedick is a very proper man, Don Pedro agrees
that: "he hath indeed a good outward happiness." Le Beau refers to the
wrestlers as "three proper young men, of excellent growth and presence."
Later Phebe says of the disguised Rosalind:

        Think not I love him, though I ask for him:
        'Tis but a peevish boy; yet he talks well;
        But what care I for words? yet words do well
        When he that speaks them pleases those that hear.
        It is a pretty youth: not very pretty:
        But, sure, he's proud, and yet his pride becomes him:
        He'll make a proper man: the best thing in him
        Is his complexion; and faster than his tongue
        Did make offence his eye did heal it up.
        He is not very tall; yet for his years he's tall:
        His leg is but so so; and yet 'tis well:
        There was a pretty redness in his lip,
        A little riper and more lusty red
        Than that mix'd in his cheek; 'twas just the difference
        Between the constant red and mingled damask.
        There be some women, Silvius, had they mark'd him
        In parcels as I did, would have gone near
        To fall in love with him;

Pandarus, after praising Antenor for his judgment adds that he is a
"proper man of person ." Miranda, of course, says of Ferdinand:

                     There's nothing ill can dwell in such a temple:
                     If the ill spirit have so fair a house,
                     Good things will strive to dwell with't.

Prospero chides her with:

                     Thou think'st there is no more such shapes as he,
                     Having seen but him and Caliban: foolish wench!
                     To the most of men this is a Caliban
                     And they to him are angels.

But she has no ambition to see a goodlier man, and Prospero concedes
that: "but he's something stain'd with grief that's beauty's canker,
thou mightst call him a goodly person." Kent thinks Edgar is quite
proper.

"Goodly" is often used similarly to "proper" to denote appearance.
Falstaff refers to himself as "a goodly portly man, i' faith, and a
corpulent; of a cheerful look, a pleasing eye and a most noble
carriage." The First Outlaw tells Valentine he has a goodly shape in
addition to being a linguist (by his own report). Leontes thinks
Florizel is a goodly thing. Horatio says old Hamlet was a goodly king,
and Hamlet of course reminds Gertrude to:

                             See, what a grace was seated on this brow;
                             Hyperion's curls; the front of Jove
himself;
                             An eye like Mars, to threaten and command;
                             A station like the herald Mercury
                             New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill;
                             A combination and a form indeed,
                             Where every god did seem to set his seal,
                             To give the world assurance of a man:

And of course there is the sonnet cycle and Venus and Adonis.

Clifford

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Friedman <
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Date:           Friday, 25 Jan 2002 08:50:35 -0500
Subject: 13.0162 Skin Deep
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0162 Skin Deep

The first male character I think of who is "specifically described as
good-looking" is Bertram from All's Well.  Helena recalls that she would
"sit and draw / His arched brows, his hawking eye, his curls, / In our
heart's table--heart too capable / Of every line and trick of his sweet
favour" (1.1.91-94).

Michael D. Friedman
University of Scranton

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