Disappearing Acts interrogates the concept of Petrarchism and the role of the Petrarchan mistress in early modern England. Critics from the early modern period onward have viewed Petrarchism as limiting to women, arguing that it obstructs female agency. This view stems from a long history of trying to establish the parameters of Petrarchism itself, a body of literature whose inchoate nature makes it difficult to define. Disappearing Acts takes as its starting point the instability of Petrarchism, embracing the ways in which it functions as a discourse without boundaries, whose outlines are further blurred by its engagement with other genres, forms, and contexts. Examining the intersections between Petrarchism and other early modern discourses—religious, political, theatrical, humanist, romantic—illuminates the varied ways in which the role of the mistress is deployed in early modern literature and suggests that, as a term, the “Petrarchan mistress” loses the coherence that critics often impose on it. Rarely ever entirely there or entirely missing, the figure of the mistress instead signifies an unstable, liminal role that results in far more complex representations of women. This project emphasizes the complexities of the Petrarchan mistress and examines this figure as a performative role that is negotiated rather than simply inhabited as a prison. Each chapter traces the intersections between Petrarchism and another early modern discourse in England. Chapter One examines the overlap between Reformist language and Petrarchan language, particularly in the “absent presence” of the Eucharist and the female beloved. I argue that the elusive persona of the Protestant martyr Anne Askew is produced by the conjunction of Petrarchan and Reformist discourses. Chapter Two interrogates the relationship between the theory of the king’s two bodies and the concept of the Petrarchan female double, pairing Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene with the writings of Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. I suggest that female queens of the sixteenth century both secured and imperiled their authenticity by comparing themselves to a false version. Chapter Three examines the relationship between Petrarchism and the figure of the ghost in early modern England. I consider Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale in relation to the female complaint, a popular genre appended to sonnet sequences in which a ghost complains about her fate, and I argue that Shakespeare’s evocation of ghostliness enables Hermione to return from her immobilized position to perform a Pertrarchan role in which she can speak her own desires. Chapter Four reexamines Mary Wroth’s character, Pamphilia, as two different characters produced by two different genres: one by the prose romance The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania and one by the sonnet sequence Pamphilia to Amphilanthus. While the Pamphilia of the sonnets proclaims her constancy, the Pamphilia of the romance exposes the tensions produced by the varied historical uses of the term in discourses from martyrology to stoicism.