"Miles Gloriosus" redirects here. For the Plautus play, see Miles Gloriosus (play).

Alazṓn (Ancient Greek: ἀλαζών) is one of three stock characters in comedy of the theatre of ancient Greece.[1] He is the opponent of the eirôn. The alazṓn is an impostor that sees himself as greater than he actually is. The senex iratus (the angry father) and the miles gloriosus (the glorious soldier) are two types of alazṓn.[2]

Miles Gloriosus

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Miles Gloriosus (literally, "braggart-soldier", in Latin) is a stock character of a boastful soldier from the comic theatre of ancient Rome, and variations on this character have appeared in drama and fiction ever since.[2] The character derives from the alazṓn or "braggart" of the Greek Old Comedy (e.g. Aristophanes). The term "Miles Gloriosus" is occasionally applied in a contemporary context to refer to a posturing and self-deceiving boaster or bully.

Literary instances

In the play Miles Gloriosus by Plautus, the term applies to the main character Pyrgopolynices. This foolish Miles Gloriosus brags openly and often about his supposed greatness, while the rest of the characters feign their admiration and secretly plot against him. Heavily borrowing from Plautus, the Stephen Sondheim-Burt Shevelove-Larry Gelbart musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum features a warrior named Miles Gloriosus.

Shakespeare uses the type most notably with the bombastic and self-glorifying ensign Ancient Pistol in Henry IV, Part 2, The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry V.[3] Other examples are "fashion's own knight", the Spaniard Armardo, in Love's Labour's Lost, the worthless Captain Parolles in All's Well That Ends Well, and Falstaff in Henry IV, Part 1 and Part 2, and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Baron Munchausen is a braggart soldier.

In Commedia dell'arte, the figure of Il Capitano is a miles gloriosus.[4]

In music, the title role of Háry János by Kodály is an example of the character.

In PC game The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, there is a non-playable character named Miles Gloriosus, willing to brag about his accomplishments as soldier.

Senex iratus

The senex iratus or heavy father figure is a comic archetype character who belongs to the alazon or impostor group in theater, manifesting himself through his rages and threats, his obsessions and his gullibility.

His usual function is to impede the love of the hero and heroine, and his power to do so stems from his greater social position and his increased control of cash. In the New Comedy, he was often the father of the hero and so his rival. More frequently since, he has been the father of the heroine who insists on her union with the bad fiancé; as such, he appears in both A Midsummer's Night Dream, where he fails and so the play is a comedy, and Romeo and Juliet, where his acts are successful enough to render the play a tragedy.

Pantalone in Commedia dell'arte acts as a senex iratus.

In his Anatomy of Criticism, Northrop Frye considered all blocking humors in comedy to be variations on the basic function of the senex iratus.

See also


  1. Carlson (1993, 23) and Janko (1987, 45, 170).
  2. 1 2 Frye, Northrop. 1957. Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays. London: Penguin, 1990. ISBN 0-14-012480-2.
  3. Victor L. Cahn, Shakespeare the Playwright: A Companion to the Complete Tragedies, Histories, Comedies, and Romances, Praeger, Westport, 1996. p.468.
  4. John Rudlin, Commedia dell'Arte: An Actor's Handbook, p. 120, ISBN 0-415-04770-6.

Further reading

External links

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