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Shakespeare Connected - ‘The natural gates and alleys of the body’ (Hamlet, 1.5.67): Physicality, Hygiene and Bodily Waste in Shakespeare’s World

Elizabethan Nail Pick

As well as medical reasons for interfering with the body, another motivation was simple vanity. This beautifully turned, silver nail pick provided a well-to-do courtier or fine lady with the means to administer a manicure.

The French Princess is eager to learn the names of those parts of the body which display her courtly sophistication: ‘Comment appelez-vous les ongles?’ Alice answers, ‘Les ongles? Nous les appelons de nails’ (Henry V, 3.4.13-14). On the other hand, Snug’s leonine role requires him to grow his nails: ‘let not him that plays the lion pare his nails, for they shall hang out for the lion’s claws’ (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 4.2.36).


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