Article Title

Disorder in the House of God: Disrupted Worship in Shakespeare and Others


Bruce Boehrer


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Let’s start with two famous disturbances in church. The first of these appears in The Taming of the Shrew (c.1592), where the aged Gremio describes Petruchio’s nuptials in a horrified monologue:

[W]hen the priest Should ask if Katherine should be his wife, “Ay, by gogs-wouns,” quoth he, and swore so loud, That all amaz’d the priest let fall the book, And as he stoop’d again to take it up, This mad-brain’d bridegroom took him such a cuff, That down fell priest and book, and book and priest … But after many ceremonies done, He [Petruchio] calls for wine, “A health!” quoth he, as if He had been aboard, carousing to his mates After a storm, quaff’d off the muscadel, And threw the sops all in the sexton’s face.… … This done, he took the bride about the neck, And kiss’d her lips with such a clamorous smack That at the parting all the church did echo.1

This behavior goes far to establish Petruchio’s reputation for mercuriality. As Gremio comments at the outset of his narrative, Katherine is “a lamb, a dove, a fool” compared to her new husband (3.2.157), whose actions in church provide an ominous foretaste of domestic tyranny to come. Note 1The Taming of the Shrew, 3.2.158–64, 169–73, 177–79, in William Shakespeare, The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans, et al. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997). Further references to Shakespeare’s work will be to this edition.

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