Costume and Cosmetics at the Globe Delivered in partnership with…

Costume and Cosmetics at the Globe 

Delivered in partnership with King’s College London, our MA in Shakespeare Studies offers exciting and unparalleled opportunities for Shakespeare students. Drawing on the joint expertise of Shakespeare’s Globe and King’s, students learn about the texts, companies and theatre spaces of early modern playhouses, just a stone’s throw from where Shakespeare’s plays were originally performed.

Current MA student Kate Bauer reflects on discovering how costume and cosmetics are used at the Globe.


Even as the sun begins to linger a little longer in the evenings, our classes with the Shakespeare’s Globe have finally walked off into the sunset.

Well, it certainly sounds like I’ve been reading too many sonnets recently.

Moving over from Ireland to study this course has been one of the best decisions of my life and has expanded my mind in all things Shakespearean whilst making some wonderful connections along the way! Even after finding out we Irish ‘savages’ are not so nicely referenced in most sixteenth-century drama, I found this to be a wonderfully welcoming experience delving into the world of Shakespeare.

Costumes and clothes have always been an integral part of staging Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Having worked on some of the very first Globe productions, costume designer Hattie Barsby allowed us quite literally to step into the garments of the past in her session on Dressing Shakespeare’s Actors! She showed our class the exceptional design and craftsmanship that goes into each item, and who doesn’t love a good dress-up?

We ended our wonderful term on Staging Shakespeare in Early Modern Playhouses with a seminar on cosmetics in the early modern period. Dr Farah Karim Cooper, Head of Higher Education and Research, began with an insightful lecture followed by a make-up demonstration given by Pam Humpage. She showed us how to apply the cosmetics used in ‘Original Practices’ productions at the Globe which aim to only use products available at the time. Their research of the period is coupled with their creative handiwork to manufacture a possible glimpse into the past.

Farah highlighted the constant debate surrounding make-up in the period; Elizabethans loved a natural, glowing complexion but often looked down upon a woman making use of products, such as crushed pearl or even deadly ingredients like lead, to achieve such an appearance. My personal favourite trick was how women painted blue veins on to their necks – make-up enthusiasts please take note!

Feeding this workshop into our research was hugely supportive as we studied the early modern attitude to how ‘the clothes doth make the man’ and how your clothes designated your social position.

Carrying on into the new summer season, this notion of the clothes making the man is even more exciting when we consider the current productions of Hamlet and As You Like It.

Michelle Terry, the Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe, leads the cast of Hamlet in the titular role, playing the Prince of Elsinore himself. A male actor, Shubham Saraf steps into the watery shoes of Hamlet’s love, the fair Ophelia. Many of the great roles in the two productions are similarly ‘cross-cast’ which creates an exciting opportunity for the audience to see a fresh side to this iconic play.

Deaf actor, Nadia Nadarajah, speaking of taking on the role of Hamlet’s pal Guildenstern, says there is ‘Shakespearean English and British Sign Language wrestling to find a fit’ in this production. This inclusion of a wider area of communicative methods reflects the growing concern for representation on the Shakespearean stage.

For further reading on cosmetics and clothing in the early modern period see:

Ann Rosalind Jones and Peter Stallybrass, Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory (Cambridge University Press, 2000)

Farah Karim-Cooper, Cosmetics in Shakespearean and Renaissance Drama (Edinburgh University Press, 2006)

Applications for the MA in Shakespeare Studies starting in September 2018 are now open. Read more and make your application.