‘A Mad-Cap Ruffian and a Swearing Jack’: Braggart Courtship from Miles Gloriosus to The Taming of the Shrew


  • Philip D. Collington Niagara University




Elizabethan comedy, The Taming of the Shrew, genre, character types, Petruchio, Katherina, braggart soldier, Shakespeare


There is a generic skeleton in Petruchio’s closet. By comparing his outlandish behaviour in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew (ca 1592-94) to that of Pyrgopolinices in Plautus’s Miles Gloriosus (ca 200 BC), as well to that of English variants of the type found in Udall, Lyly, and Peele, I re-situate Petruchio as a braggart soldier. I also reconstruct a largely forgotten comic subgenre, braggart courtship, with distinctive poetic styles, subsidiary characters, narrative events, and thematic functions. Katherina’s marriage to a stranger who boasts of his abilities and bullies social inferiors raises key questions: What were the comic contexts and cultural valences of a match between a braggart and a shrew?

Author Biography

Philip D. Collington, Niagara University

Philip D. Collington (pdc@niagara.edu) is an associate professor in the department of English at Niagara University in Lewiston, NY. He has published articles on Shakespeare and his contemporaries in ELR, Comparative Drama, Shakespeare Quarterly, and Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England, and several book collections. He co-edited (with Kenneth Graham) a collection of essays entitled Shakespeare and Religious Change (2009), and his most recent publication is a Bakhtinian reading of Love's Labour's Lost (co-authored with Tara L. Collington) which appeared in Studies in Philology.