‘Charactered in my brow’
Deciphering ugly faces
in Plain ugly
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This chapter answers a question: Does an ugly face reveal a corrupt soul? The belief that ugliness reaches beyond the physical order, representing a spiritual and moral malaise made tangible in the unattractive object, nevertheless proves remarkably persistent. Ugliness has a long tradition of being identified as a deviation from a natural, divinely created order and thus being linked with sin. Contradictory interpretations of ugly bodies are particularly evident in contemporary discussions of the mark of Cain. The association of ugly bodies with evil in early modern English culture is rooted in Christian doctrines of the Fall. Following the Fall, nature is marked by 'uggly deformitie'. Thrown into new perspectives by natural philosophy and by dualistic models of the self, ugly faces, disturbingly, are emptied of legible meaning. Bussy D'Ambois captures the anxiety generated by such developments.

Plain ugly

The unattractive body in early modern culture



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