out-Herod Herod

out-Herod Herod

To be excessively cruel or tyrannical. Herod was the King of Judea who according to the New Testament ordered the deaths of all male babies in an attempt to kill Jesus. That dictator could out-Herod Herod with his fits of violence.

out-Herod Herod

behave with extreme cruelty or tyranny.
Herod, the ruler of Judaea at the time of Jesus's birth and the man responsible for ordering the massacre of boy babies in his realm, was portrayed in medieval miracle plays as a blustering tyrant. The phrase is from Shakespeare's Hamlet : ‘I would have such a fellow whipp'd for o'erdoing Termagant; it out-herods Herod’.
References in classic literature ?
Noah's wife, for example, came regularly to be presented as a shrew, who would not enter the ark until she had been beaten into submission; and Herod always appears as a blustering tyrant, whose fame still survives in a proverb of Shakspere's coinage--'to out-Herod Herod.
When first he joined us and saw our mark upon the foreheads of our dead, wishing to out-Herod Herod, he marked the living which fell into his hands with a red hot iron, branding a great P upon each cheek and burning out the right eye completely.
Draper noted that the supposedly choleric Petruchio's strategy for subduing the equally volatile Katherine "is to out-Herod Herod.
Given the volume that the speech demands of the player, John Draper may have been far closer to the mark than he realized in claiming that Petruchio's "method is to out-Herod Herod.