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