Staging Invisibility in English Early Modern Drama

  • Barbara D. Palmer University of Mary Washington


Sometime after 3 April 1598 Philip Henslowe laid out part of a 3.10s sum on 'a robe for to goo invisibell'. Not withstanding his good fortune in locating this elusive garment, stage conventions of invisibility are earlier and more varied than the robe itself. This study draws its treatment of invisibility from such appropriate English 'cycle' pageants as the annunciation and resurrection as well as the several appearance, ascension, and assumption plays. Further, the piece explores Alan C. Dessen's and Leslie Thomson's Dictionary of Stage Directions in English Drama, 1580-1642 entries under 'invisible' and 'vanish'. Finally, some attention is paid to contemporary wardrobe inventories, images, and performance accounts in speculation about what 'a robe for to goo invisibell' might have looked like.