Disguise devices figure in many early modern English plays, and an examination of them clearly affords an important reflection on the growth of early theatre as well as on important aspects of the developing nation. In this study Peter Hyland considers a range of practical issues related to the performance of disguise. He goes on to examine various conceptual issues that provide a background to theatrical disguise (the relation of self and "other", the meaning of mask and performance). He looks at many disguise plays under three broad headings. He considers moral issues (the almost universal association of disguise with "evil"); social issues (sumptuary legislation, clothing, and the theatre, and constructions of class, gender and national or racial identity); and aesthetic issues (disguise as an emblem of theatre, and the significance of disguise for the dramatic artist). The study serves to examine the significant ways in which disguise devices have been used in early modern drama in England.
'Disguise on the Early Modern Stage is a brisk and rewarding read that fully delivers on its promise to undertake a "serious and sustained exploration" of those early modern plays "that have been relegated to the margins." Showing a comprehensive grasp of disguise devices and plots from Clyomon and Clamydes to Shirley's The Sisters, Hyland fearlessly and authoritatively discusses such unheralded gems as Look About You, The Night Walker, and A Knack to Know an Honest Man, and shows them to be important for our understanding of early modern drama in general.' Jeremy Lopez, University of Toronto, Canada 'Hyland’s book contributes to ’a serious and sustained exploration and mapping of those plays that have been relegated to the margins’ (p. 14). In doing so, he reinforces the value of attending to the theatrical as much as to the literary elements in the plays and adds to our understanding of early modern drama.' Parergon '… in [Hyland’s] comprehensive framing of the issues, and in his widening of the focus on disguise to include the technical aspects of putting performers young and old, well-known and obscure (if uniformly male), in adopted identities, he persuades that there are important aspects of disguise yet to be revealed.' Renaissance Quarterly '… this book expertly lays out the case that disguises - no matter how obviously hoary or unconvincing, as they sometimes were - greatly enriched the visual field of the early modern stage, delighting spectators and giving actors opportunities both to display their skills and to comment in a myriad of ways on theatricality itself.' Shakespeare Bulletin
Contents: Introduction; Disguise on the early modern stage; The performance of disguise; ''Tis I': revelations; Disguise and genre; Disguise as metatheatre; The reception of disguise; 'Now am I most like myself': disguise and identity; Bibliography; Index.