The makers of Neutrogena may have Shakespeare to thank for their success: The influence of his work has left us grossed out by pimples and other skin conditions. So say dermatologists in a new study that notes how much his plays focus on bad skin, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Characters wish for "poxes" on each other and hurl insults like "thou art a boil, a plague sore, an embossed carbuncle," the Telegraph notes, pointing out that Elizabethan society was particularly fond of clear skin.
"Many of the diseases of the time involved lesions or sores on the skin, so skin imperfections were seen as a warning sign for contagious disease," says a researcher. "This was not limited to signs of infection, but to any blemishes or moles, which were considered ugly and signs of witchcraft or devilry." The popularity of Shakespeare's work may have caused the "perpetuation" of such reactions, the study says. But other experts aren't so sure. "Has any writer in history ever suggested that the symptoms of skin disease are attractive?" one asks the Independent. Shakespeare's gross factor certainly persists in some form: One of his plays recently made London audience members faint. (Read more William Shakespeare stories.)