‘This alters not thy beauty’: Face-paint, Gender, and Race in <em>The English Moor</em>


  • Farah Karim-Cooper King's College




Richard Brome’s The English Moor (1637) is treated traditionally as a play about race, since the crux of the play’s main plot relies upon the application and removal of black face paint. This article, however, repositions the play critically within a social discourse that is focused upon the management of the female body: the discourse of cosmetics. Creating a context for the social debate about cosmetics, the article suggests that the play is concerned more with the materiality of face paint and its relationship to the moral condition of the women (Millicent and Phyllis) wearing makeup. Without denying the play’s preoccupation with racial Otherness that blackness arouses, the article questions the centrality of race and locates at its centre instead the question of gender. Arguing that the white/black binary is a crucial dynamic in considerations of female chastity, this article suggests that the fear blackness expressed by Millicent has less to do with the transformation of her racial identity than with her sexual identity.






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