Ugliness in the Elizabethan Age

Philip Sidney, The Countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia (London: Iohn Windet for William Ponsonbie, 1593):

What length of verse can serue braue Mopsas good to show?
Whose vertues strange, & beuties such, as no ma them may know
Thus shrewdly burdned them, how can my Muse escape?
The gods must help, and pretious things must serue to shew her shape.
Like great god Saturn faire, and like faire Venus chaste:
As smothe as Pan, as Iuno milde, like goddesse Iris faste.
With Cupid she fore-sees, and goes god Vulcans pace:
And for a tast of all these gifts, she steales god Momus grace.
Her forhead iacinth like, her cheekes of opall hue,
Her twinkling eies bedeckt with pearle, her lips as Saphir blew:
Her haire like Craple-stone; her mouth O heauenly wyde;
Her skin like burnisht gold, her hands like siluer vre vntryde.
As for her parts vnknowne, which hidden sure are best:
happie be they which well beleeue, & neuer seeke the rest. (12)

John Lyly, Endimion, the Man in the Moone (London: I. Charlewood for the Widdowe Broome, 1591):

  [Tophas]  O what a fine thin hayre hath Dipsas, what a prettie low forehead? What a tale & state|lie nose? What little hollowe eyes? What great and goodly lyppes? Howe harmelesse shee is beeing toothlesse, her fingers fatte and short, adorned with long nayles like a Bytter. In howe sweete a proportion her cheekes hang downe to her brests like dugges, and her pappes to her waste like bagges. What a lowe sta|ture shee is, and yet what a great foote shee carryeth? Howe thrifty must she be in whom there is no waste? Howe vertuous is shee like to be, ouer whom no man can be ielous? (E2-3)

Charles Estienne, “That it is Better to be Fowle than Faire,” in The Defence of Contraries: Paradoxes Against Common Opinion (1553), trans. Anthony Munday (London: Iohn Windet for Simon Waterson, 1593):

Who knoweth not, how much the deformitie of body and hard fauoured face is to bee esteemed, principally in women (for in men it was neuer in so great request:) hath neuer considered, how many amorous sparks is dayly to be seen, vnder an il-fauoured countenance and badde composed body, choicely hid and couered: which in a faire face finely polished, giues often occasion of ceaselesse flames and cruell passions. But the strong and inuincible bulwarke, which the fowle face (not onely of olde, but likewise in these times) hath erec|ted for it selfe, will encounter the fires of loue that are so damageable. (17-18)

Note the good and profit ensuing by deformitie, when all they in generall, that of olde time haue beene, & yet at this day are studious in chastitie, doe openly con|fesse, as nothing hath like force in them, to tame and check the pricks of the flesh, neither long watchings, greeuous disciplines, or continuall fastinges; as one only looke vpon an il-fauoured and counterfeit per|son. Hence ensueth that, which is vsed as a common prouerbe, concerning a very fowle deformed wo|man: that shee serueth as a good receipt and soue|raigne remedy, against fleshly tentations. (20)

Neuer was I of any other minde, since the time I had power of reason, to discerne and knowe truth from falshood, but that deformed people de|serued more praise then the beawtifull, nor is it with|out cause, or disagreeing with best sense, considering such as are hard fauoured, are commonly chast, hum|ble, ingenious, holy, and haue euer some sweete ap|pearance of most commendable grace. (22)

William Shakespeare, Sonnets (1593-1609):

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
     And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
     As any she belied with false compare. (130)