An investigation into modes of early modern English literary 'indirection,' this study could also be considered a detective work on a pseudonym attached to some late sixteenth-century works. In the course of unmasking 'R.L.', McCarthy scrutinizes devices employed by writers in the Sidney coterie: punning, often across languages; repetitio-insistence on a sound, or hiding two persons 'under one hood'; disingenuous juxtaposition; evocation of original context; differential spelling (intended and significant). Among McCarthy's stunning-but solidly underpinned-conclusions are: Shakespeare used the pseudonym 'R.L.' among other pseudonyms; one, 'William Smith', was also his 'alias' in life; Shakespeare was at the heart of the Sidney circle, whose literary programme was hostile to Elizabeth I; and his work, composed mainly from the late 1570s to the early 90s, occasionally 'embedded' in the work of others, was covertly alluded to more often than has been recognized.
'Penny McCarthy conducts an intriguing hunt for the hitherto unsuspected sources of literary motivation in intricate relations of patronage and coterie. After her brilliant and resourceful investigation, the Elizabethan literary scene will never look the same again.' Alan Sinfield, Professor of English, University of Sussex, UK ’McCarthy's enthusiasm is admirable; like some detective novels, which is the author's own comparison, her book was a fun read.’ Comparative Drama
Contents: Preface; Introduction - highways and labyrinths; First candidate - Robert Langham, ’El Prencipe Negro’; Supposes; Second candidate - Dom Diego; More supposes; Third candidate - friend of Richard Barnfield; Further supposes; Fourth candidate - Dick of Lichfield; Last supposes; R.L.’s biography; Envoi; Bibliography; Index.