Physical Deformity in Shakespeare

William Shakespeare, 2 Henry VI (1590-91):

  Clif.  Heap of wrath, foul indigested lump,
As crooked in thy manners as thy shape! (5.1.157-58)

William Shakespeare, 3 Henry VI (1590-91):

  [Glou.]  Why, love forswore me in my mother’s womb;
And for I should not deal in her soft laws,
She did corrupt frail nature with some bribe,
To shrink mine arm up like a wither’d shrub,
To make an envious mountain on my back,
Where sits deformity to mock my body;
To shape my legs of an unequal size,
To disproportion me in every part,
Like to a chaos, or an unlick’d bear-whelp
That carries no impression like the dam.
And am I then a man to be belov’d?
O monstrous fault, to harbor such a thought!

Then since this earth affords no joy to me
But to command, to check, to o’erbear such
As are of better person than myself,
I’ll make my heaven to dream upon the crown,
And whiles I live, t’ account this world but hell,
Until my misshap’d trunk that bears this head
Be round impaled with a glorious crown. (3.2.153-71)

   K. Hen.  Hadst thou been kill’d when first thou didst presume
Thou hadst not liv’d to kill a son of mine….
The owl shriek’d at thy birth, an evil sign;
The night-crow cried, aboding luckless time;
Dogs howl’d, and hideous tempest shook down trees;
The raven rook’d her on the chimney’s top,
And chattering magpies in dismal discord sung;
Thy mother left more than a mother’s pain,
And yet brought forth less than a mother’s hope,
To wit, an indigested and deformed lump,
Not like the fruit of such a goodly tree
Teeth hadst thou in thy head when thou wast born,
To signify thou cams’t to bite the world.
And, if the rest be true which I have heard,
Thou camest – 
  Glou.  Die, prophet, in thy speech:  Stabs him.
For this, amongst the rest, was I ordain’d….
Indeed, 'tis true that Henry told me of;
For I have often heard my mother say
I came into the world with my legs forward:
Had I not reason, think ye, to make haste,
And seek their ruin that usurp'd our right?
The midwife wonder'd and the women cried
'O, Jesus bless us, he is born with teeth!'
And so I was; which plainly signified
That I should snarl and bite and play the dog.
Then, since the heavens have shaped my body so,
Let hell make crook'd my mind to answer it. (5.6.35-79) 

William Shakespeare, Richard III (1592-93):

  [Glou.]  But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deform’d, unfinish’d, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity.
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days. (1.1.12-31)

  Glou.  I pray you all, tell me what they deserve
That do conspire my death with devilish plots
Of damned witchcraft, and that have prevail’d
Upon my body with their hellish charms?
  Hast.  The tender love I bear your Grace, my lord,
Makes me most forward in this princely presence
To doom th’ offenders, whosoe’r they be:
I say, my lord, they have deserved death.
  Glou.  Then be your eyes the witness of their evil.
Look how I am bewitch’d; behold mine arm
Is like a blasted sapling, wither’d up;
And this is Edward’s wife, that monstrous witch,
Consorted with that harlot, strumpet Shore,
That by their witchcraft thus have marked me.
  Hast.  If they have done this deed, my noble lord –
  Glou.  If? Thou protector of this damned strumpet,
Talk’st thou to me of ‘ifs’? Thou art a traitor.
Off with his head! (3.4.59-76) 

William Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis (1592-93):

Were I hard-favor'd, foul, or wrinkled old,
Ill-nurtur’d, crooked, churlish, harsh in voice,
O'erworn, despised, rheumatic, and cold,
Thick-sighted, barren, lean, and lacking juice,
Then mightst thou pause, for then I were not for thee,
But having no defects, why dost abhor me? (133-38)

William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors (1592-94):

  [S. Ant.]  They say this town is full of cozenage,
As, nimble jugglers that deceive the eye,
Dark-working sorcerers that change the mind,
Soul-killing witches that deform the body,
Disguised cheaters, prating mountebanks,
And many such-like liberties of sin. (1.2.97-102)

[Adr.]  He is deformed, crooked, old, and sere,
Ill-fac’d, worse bodied, shapeless everywhere;
Vicious, ungentle, foolish, blunt, unkind;
Stigmatical in making, worse in mind. (4.2.19-22)

William Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece (1593-94):

Then, for thy husband and thy children's sake,
Tender my suit: bequeath not to their lot
The shame that from them no device can take,
The blemish that will never be forgot;
Worse than a slavish wipe or birth-hour's blot:
For marks descried in men's nativity
Are nature's faults, not their own infamy. (533-39)

William Shakespeare, King John (1594-96):

  Const.  If thou, that bid'st me be content, wert grim,
Ugly and slanderous to thy mother's womb,
Full of unpleasing blots and sightless stains,
Lame, foolish, crooked, swart, prodigious,
Patch'd with foul moles and eye-offending marks,
I would not care, I then would be content,
For then I should not love thee, no, nor thou
Become thy great birth nor deserve a crown.
But thou art fair, and at thy birth, dear boy,
Nature and Fortune join'd to make thee great. (3.1.43-52)

  [K. John.]  Hadst not thou been by,
A fellow by the hand of nature mark'd,
Quoted and sign'd to do a deed of shame,
This murder had not come into my mind:
But taking note of thy abhorr'd aspect,
Finding thee fit for bloody villany,
Apt, liable to be employ'd in danger,
I faintly broke with thee of Arthur's death. (4.2.220-27) 

William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream (1595-96):

  Obe.  Now, until the break of day,
Through this house each fairy stray.
To the best bride-bed we,
Which by us shall blessed be;
And the issue, there create,
Ever shall be fortunate.
So shall all the couples three
Ever true in loving be;
And the blots of Nature's hand
Shall not in their issue stand;
Never mole, hare lip, nor scar,
Nor mark prodigious, such as are
Despised in nativity,
Shall upon their children be. (5.1.401-14) 

William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice (1596-97):

Launcelot Gobbo, a clown, servant to Shylock. (dramatis personae)

William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing (1598-99):

  Con.  Yes, the fashion is the fashion.
  Bora.  Tush! I may as well say the fool's the fool. But seest thou not what a deformed thief this fashion is?
  2. Watch.  [Aside]  I know that Deformed; a' has been a vile thief this seven year; a' goes up and down like a gentleman: I remember his name….
  Bora.  Seest thou not, I say, what a deformed thief this fashion is? how giddily a' turns about all the hot bloods between fourteen and five-and-thirty? sometimes fashioning them like Pharaoh's soldiers in the reeky painting, sometime like god Bel's priests in the old church-window, sometime like the shaven Hercules in the smirched worm-eaten tapestry, where his codpiece seems as massy as his club?...
  2. Watch.  We charge you, in the prince's name, stand!
  1. Watch.  Call up the right master constable. We have here recovered the most dangerous piece of lechery that ever was known in the commonwealth.
  2. Watch.  And one Deformed is one of them: I know him; a' wears a lock.
  Con.  Masters, masters –
  2. Watch.  You'll be made bring Deformed forth, I warrant you. (3.3.122-73)

[Dog.]  The watch heard them talk of one Deformed; they say he wears a key in his ear and a lock hanging by it, and borrows money in God's name, the which he hath used so long, and never paid, that now men grow hard-hearted and will lend nothing for God's sake. (5.1.308-12)

William Shakespeare, Hamlet (1600-01):

  [Ham.]  Oft it chances in particular men
That for some vicious mole of nature in them,
As in their birth, wherein they are not guilty
(Since nature cannot choose his origin),
By the o'ergrowth of some complexion,
Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason,
Or by some habit that too much o'erleavens
The form of plausive manners – that these men,
Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
Being nature’s livery, or fortune’s star,
Their virtues else (be they as pure as grace,
As infinite as man may undergo)
Shall in the general censure take corruption
From that particular fault. The dram of ev’l
Doth all the noble substance of a doubt
To his own scandal. (1.4.23-38)

William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night (1601-02):

  [Ant.]  Thou hast, Sebastian, done good feature shame.
In nature there's no blemish but the mind;
None can be call'd deform'd but the unkind:
Virtue is beauty, but the beauteous evil
Are empty trunks o'erflourish'd by the devil. (3.4.366-70)

William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida (1601-03):

  Ther.  The plague of Greece upon thee, thou mongrel beef-witted lord!
  Ajax.  Speak then, thou vinewedst leaven, speak: I will beat thee into handsomeness. (2.1.12-15)

Enter Thersites.
  Achil.  How now thou core of envy? Thou crusty batch of nature, what’s the news?
  Ther.  Why, thou picture of what thou seemest, and idol of idiot-worshippers, here’s a letter for thee.
  Achil.  From whence, fragment?...
  Patr.  Why thou damnable box of envy, thou, what mean you to curse thus?
  Ther.  Do I curse thee?
  Patr.  Why, no, you ruinous butt, you whoreson indistinguishable cur, no….
  Patr.  Out, gall!
  Ther.  Finch-egg! (5.1.4-36)

William Shakespeare, The Tempest (1611):

Caliban, a salvage and deformed slave. (dramatis personae)

  Mir.  Abhorred slave,
Which any print of goodness wilt not take,
Being capable of all ill! (1.2.351-53).

  Pros.  A devil, a born devil, on whose nature
Nurture can never stick; on whom my pains,
Humanely taken, all, all, lost, quite lostl
And as with age his body uglier grows,
So his mind cankers. (4.1.191-92).

  Pros.  This misshapen knave –
His mother was a witch, and one so strong
That could control the moon, make flows and ebs,
And deal in her command without her power,
These three have robb’d me, and this demi-devil
(For he’s a bastard one) had plotted with them
To take my life. Two of these fellows you
Must know and own, this thing of darkness I
Acknowledge mine. (5.1.268-76)

  Alon.  This is as strange a thing as e’er I look’d on.
  Pros.  He is as disproportion’d in his manners,
As in his shape. (5.1.290-91) 

John Heming and Henry Condell, “To the Great Variety of Readers” (1623):

Where (before) you were abus'd with diuerse stolne, and surreptitious copies, maimed, and deformed by the frauds and stealthes of iniurious impostors, that expos'd them: euen those, are now offer'd to your view cur'd, and perfect of their limbes; and all the rest, absolute in their numbers, as he conceiued them. (95)