Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …


The Journal of Linguaculture Centre for (Inter)cultural and (Inter)lingual Research, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi

2 Issues per year

Open Access
See all formats and pricing
More options …

Beautiful Scars: Jewels in English Renaissance Drama

Lisa Hopkins
Published Online: 2013-02-12 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/v10318-012-0015-5


In An Englis[h[ expositor[:] teaching the in[ter]pretation of the harde[st] words [vsed] in our language, John Bullokar notes that the word carbuncle ‘hath two significations, namely a precious stone, and a dangerous sore’.(sig. D2r) Generally speaking Renaissance texts keep these two meanings separate: in ways which are inevitably conditioned by the nature of their subject matter, Renaissance authors tend to be interested in exploring either the idea of carbuncle as jewel or the idea of carbuncle as tumour without ever registering the possibility of the alternative meeting for the word. Nevertheless the ambiguity is there: a jewel, a thing of beauty intended for the adornment of the body, is also in some sense potentially a disfiguring mark, a scar on the body marking the site of a trauma. In A Cyborg Manifesto, Donna Haraway asks “Why should our bodies end at the skin?” (online); in this essay, I shall argue that as far as Renaissance jewels are concerned, bodies do not in fact end at the skin, for jewels mark not the end of the body but an edge, a hinge between body and mind as much as between body and dress, in ways which activate fears about permeability, boundary blurring and the monstrous. One of the rare instances of evoking both senses of carbuncle comes in The Comedy of Errors, where Dromio of Syracuse, having defined the kitchen-maid Nell as “spherical, like a globe”, says that “America, the Indies” are located in her nose, because it is ‘all o’er embellished with rubies, carbuncles, sapphires, declining their rich aspect to the hot breath of Spain’ (III.ii.120, 140-3). To varying extent, the horror of the gross, the extreme and the unnatural which is implicit here can be seen as potentially lurking in all Renaissance descriptions of jewellery.

Keywords: Renaissance drama; Renaissance art; jewels; human body

  • Anglicus, Bartholomaeus. Batman vppon Bartholome his booke De proprietaribusrerum. Trans. Stephen Bateman. London: Thomas East, 1582.Google Scholar

  • B[ullokar, I[ohn]. An Englis[h[ expositor[:] teaching the in[ter]pretation of theharde[st] words [vsed] in our languag. London: Printed by John Legatt, 1621.Google Scholar

  • Bagnoli, Martina. “The Stuff of Heaven: Materials and Craftsmanship in Medieval Reliquaries”. Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in MedievalEurope. Eds. Martina Bagnoli, Holger A. Klein, C. Griffith Mann and James Robinson. London: The British Museum Press, 2011. pp. 137-147.Google Scholar

  • Boiastuau, Pierre. Certaine secrete wonders of nature. London: Henry Bynneman, 1569.Google Scholar

  • De la Primaudaye, Pierre, The French academie Fully discoursed and finished in foureBookes. London: Printed [by John Legat] for Thomas Adams, 1618..Google Scholar

  • Evans, Joan. A History of Jewellery 1100-1870. New York: Dover, 1970, [1953].Google Scholar

  • Findlay, Alison. Women in Shakespeare: A Dictionary. London: Continuum, 2010.Google Scholar

  • Ford, John. Fames Memoriall. The Nondramatic Works of John Ford. Eds. L. E, Stock, Gilles D. Monsarrat, Judith M. Kennedy and Dennis Danielson. Binghampton: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1991.Google Scholar

  • Ford, John. Love’s Sacrifice. Ed. A. T. Moore. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002.Google Scholar

  • Ford, John. The Broken Heart. Ed. T. J. B. Spencer. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1980).Google Scholar

  • Golz, David. “Diamonds, Maidens, Widow Dido, and Cock-a-diddle dow”. ComparativeDrama, 43.2 (summer 2008):167-196.Google Scholar

  • Haraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century”. (1985). Online: http://www.stanford.edu/dept/HPS/Haraway/CyborgManifesto.html Hopkins, Lisa. “The representation of narrative: what happens in Othello”. Journal X 1:2 (spring, 1997): 159-174.Google Scholar

  • Hopkins, Lisa. John Ford’s Political Theatre. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994.Google Scholar

  • Jones, William. History and Mystery of Precious Stone. London: Richard Bentley and son, 1880.Google Scholar

  • Jonson, Ben. Sejanus. Ed. Philip Ayres. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990.Google Scholar

  • Kunz, G. F. and C. H. Stevenson. The Book of the Pearl: its History, Art, Science andIndustry. Mineola: Dover, 2001, [1908].Google Scholar

  • Kunz, G. F.. Shakespeare and Precious Stones. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1916.Google Scholar

  • Lodge,Thomas. A Margarite of America. London: John Busbie, 1596.Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Lorenzi, Rossella. ‘Shakespeare’s eye betrays rare cancer’. Online: http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2006/03/02/1582326.htm Magnus, Albertus. The boke of secretes of Albertus Magnus of the vertues of herbes,stones, and certayne beasts. London: 1560.Google Scholar

  • Marlowe, Christopher. Dido, Queen of Carthage. Christopher Marlowe: The CompletePlays. Ed. Mark Thornton Burnett. London: Everyman, 1999..Google Scholar

  • Marlowe, Christopher. Tamburlaine the Great, Part One. Christopher Marlowe: TheComplete Plays. Ed. Mark Thornton Burnett. London: Everyman, 1999.Google Scholar

  • Marlowe, Christopher. The Jew of Malta. Christopher Marlowe: The Complete Plays. Ed. Mark Thornton Burnett. London: J.M. Dent, 1999.Google Scholar

  • Marlowe. Christopher. Doctor Faustus, A text. The Complete Plays. Ed. Mark Thornton Burnett. London: J. M. Dent, 1999.Google Scholar

  • Martyr, Peter. The history of trauayle in the West and Easy Indies, and other countreyslying eyther way, towardes the fruitfull and ryche Moluccaes. Trans. Richard Eden. London, 1577.Google Scholar

  • Marvell, Andrew, “The Garden”. The Metaphysical Poets. Ed. Helen Gardner. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1957.Google Scholar

  • Massinger, Philip. The Renegado. Ed. Michael Neill. London: Methuen, 2010.Google Scholar

  • Robinson, James. “From Altar to Amulet: Relics, Portability, and Devotion”. Treasuresof Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe. Eds. Martina Bagnoli, Holger A. Klein, C. Griffith Mann and James Robinson. London: The British Museum Press, 2011.Google Scholar

  • Sale Holian, Heather L. “Family Jewels: The Gendered Marking of Medici Women in Court Portraits of the Late Renaissance”.Mediterranean Studies (2008), pp. 148-173.Google Scholar

  • Schuman, Samuel. “The Ring and the Jewel in Webster’s Tragedies”. Texas Studies inLanguage and Literature 14 (1972): 253-268.Google Scholar

  • Shakespeare, William. All’s Well That Ends Well. Ed. G. K. Hunter. London: Cengage Learning, 2007.Google Scholar

  • Shakespeare, William. As You Like It. Ed. Agnes Latham. London: Methuen, 1975.Google Scholar

  • Shakespeare, William. Henry VI, Part Three. Ed. Michael Hattaway. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.Google Scholar

  • Shakespeare, William. Henry VIII. Ed. A. R. Humphreys. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971.Google Scholar

  • Shakespeare, William. Othello. Ed. E. A. J. Honigmann. London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1997. 5.2.139-142 and 5.2.345-6.Google Scholar

  • Shakespeare, William. Richard III. Ed. E. A. J. Honigmann. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968.Google Scholar

  • Shakespeare, William. The Comedy of Errors. Ed. Stanley Wells. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972.Google Scholar

  • Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. Ed. M. Moelwyn Merchant. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1967.Google Scholar

  • Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. Eds.Virginia Mason Vaughan and Alden T. Vaughan. London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1999.Google Scholar

  • Shakespeare, William. The Winter’s Tale. Ed. J. H. Pafford. London: Methuen, 1963.Google Scholar

  • Sokol, B. J.. A Brave New World of Knowledge: Shakespeare’s The Tempest and EarlyModern Epistemology. London: Associated University Presses, 2003.Google Scholar

  • Strong, Roy. “Three Royal Jewels: The Three Brothers, the Mirror of Great Britain and the Feather”. The Burlington Magazine ,vol. 108, no. 760 (July, 1996): 350-333.Google Scholar

  • Thiselton Dyer, T. F.. Folk-lore of Shakespear.1883. Online: http://www.sacredtexts.com/sks/flos/flos17.htm Traub, Valerie. “Jewels, Statues, and Corpses: Containment of Female Erotic Power in Shakespeare’s Plays”. Shakespeare and Gender: A History. Eds. Deborah E. Barker and Ivo Kamps. London: Verso, 1995. pp. 120-141.Google Scholar

  • Webster, John. The Duchess of Malfi. Ed. John Russell Brown. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1974.Google Scholar

  • Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984. Google Scholar

About the article

Published Online: 2013-02-12

Published in Print: 2012-12-01

Citation Information: Linguaculture, Volume 2012, Issue 1, Pages 9–26, ISSN (Online) 2067-9696, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/v10318-012-0015-5.

Export Citation

This content is open access.

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in