Miles gloriosus is a standard character-type found in many plays. He first appeared in Greek comedy, where he was known as alazôn. He passed on into Roman theater, where he picked up his current name, and then into Renaissance plays. He is a well-know and oft used archetypal braggart-soldier. These days he is rarely given his Latin name, as few would recognize it, but he still appears.

He is a cowardly parasite, prone to bragging and swashbuckling, and may be victimized and mocked by the other characters.

You may have seen him as:
Ralph Roister Doister
Captain Bobadil
Sir John Falstaff
Don Armado de Adriano
Ancient Pistol
The Cowardly Lion
(Brave) Sir Robin (the one who ran away).

Play of "Character"
THE BRAGGART WARRIOR (Miles Gloriosus) - A crude farce based on the character of a braggart soldier written by T. Maccius Plautus. The two parts of the double plot are poorly connected. The play has been extraordinarily influential on Terence, Udall, Dolce, Baif, Mareschal, Gryphius, and Holberg.

Miles Gloriosus is a typical Plautine comedy: a young lover trying to be with the courtesan he loves, and a tricky slave who will arrange the union. The antagonist, a braggart warrior named Pyrgopolynices, is another stock character, and gives the play its title. Palaestrio, the tricky slave, manages to convince Pyrgopolynices to send the courtesan away by explaining that there is another woman who desires him even more. Palaestrio's little ruse works, leaving the audience with the desired happy ending.

Miles Gloriosus presents some interesting angles on areas of Roman society. Courtesans, or kept women, appear in this play as objects to be possessed, rather than our notions of prostitutes. Philocomasium (the courtesan) stays with Prygopolynices until he dismisses her, although he did not purchase her for a sum of money (he instead talked with her mother and "persuaded" her to let him take the girl) so he apparently does not own her. In the context of the play, Palaestrio arranges her "dismissal" so that she is allowed to keep the clothing and jewelry, etc. which she received from Pyrgopolynices while she was staying with him. Thus, one could argue that she remained with him for financial reasons. However, given her profession it is hardly unlikely that she would be unable to find another man to support her in a similar fashion.

Another issue raised in Miles Gloriosus is that of marriage and children. Periplectomenus, an old man who helps Pleusicles win back Philocomasium, spends an entire scene debating the merits of marriage versus bachelorhood. He complains that women spend too much money, that he does not need children because he has relatives. Perhaps Plautus is just pulling this out for some cheap jokes about the stereotypical spending habits of women, but this line of reasoning runs against the family bonds exhibited in Captivi. In a patriarchial society such as Rome, where the pater familias literally had the power of life and death over his family, one may see Periplectomenus's rantings simply as a counterpoint to Pleusicles constant statements of love and devotion (although the play never mentions that they will get married and have children). This contrast suggests to the audience that the best way to conduct one's personal affairs is not by falling in love with courtesans, nor by remaining a bachelor, but by getting married to a respectable woman and having children.

It is a great plague to be too handsome a man.
Nimia est miseria nimis pulchrum esse hominem.

- Miles Gloriosus (I, 1, 68)

Know not what you know, and see not what you see.
Etiam illud quod scies nesciveris;
Ne videris quod videris.

- Miles Gloriosus (II, 6, 89)

No man is wise enough by himself.
Nemo solus satis sapit.

- Miles Gloriosus (III, 3, 12)

No one can be so welcome a guest that he will not become an annoyance when he has stayed three continuous days in a friend's house.
Hospes nullus tam in amici hospitium diverti potest,
Quin ubi triduum continuum fuerit jam odiosus siet.

- Miles Gloriosus (III, 3, 12)

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