This paper examines selected instances of disguise as a literary motif and as a literary strategy in English writing of the early modern period. The aim is to illuminate the nexus between shifting social, political, and religious faultlines on the one hand and varying forms of dissimulation on the other, and to document that from the Tudor period onwards, English literature tends to manifest at least as much self-effacing as self-fashioning.
It is further argued that this literary self-effacing and self-fashioning were two sides of the same coin, and that seen in their historical context, they appear as opposite poles of a paradoxical dialectic that was at the same time symptomatic and diagnostic. Examples cited range from English adaptations of Petrarchan poetic conventions to various forms of deceit, disguise, camouflage, and concealment in Tudor and Jacobean drama.
KEYWORDS: ambition, disguise, dissimulation, madness, malingering, self-fashioning