10 times Shakespeare proved he was the king of insults

The 23rd of April is none other than the original word nerd, William Shakespeare’s birthday. Thus, a day has been named in his honour. April 23rd is National Talk Like Shakespeare Day. Yes, it’s a real day. The horror.

Shakespeare in his life invented more than 1,700 words, many by changing nouns into verbs. He wrote some of the most well-known plays causing headaches for kids everywhere, including the lingering tale of King Lear to the heartbreaking tragedy of Othello. In fact, before the pantaloon wearing Shakespeare came about, the word ‘elbow’ wasn’t even a verb and simply meant that nobbly joint in the middle of your arm.

So, we’ve compiled some of his best insults from some of his major works that show why he was the ultimate Bard-ass.

1.“I do desire that we may be better as strangers.”

As You Like It – 1623.

For those who have turned someone down or had the horrible experience of being turned down, it seems you’re not the only one. Shakespeare had a quip or two about this topic in particular.

2. “Thy tongue outvenoms all the worms of Nile.”

Cymbeline – (1623)

This one is fairly self-explanatory and you may well be able to guess it without too much trepidation. It basically means that someone doesn’t have particularly favourable things to say about anybody. The worms of Nile? Think big snakes – cobras or pythons. Ssssss.

3. “You are not worth another word, else I’d call you knave.”

All’s Well That Ends Well (1598 – 1604)

Knave means a dishonest man, or a rascal. It basically means, your words aren’t worth anything and if you keep speaking you’re more likely to be called a liar.

4. “You are a fusty nut with no kernel.”

Troilus and Cressida –  (1609)

Has anyone ever told you you’re not the sharpest tool in the shed? A few sandwiches short of a picnic? You’re not the pointiest pencil in the pack? It’s not a good thing. This isn’t either.

5. “An infinite and 
endless liar, an hourly promise-breaker”

All’s Well That Ends Well (1598 – 1604)

Ol’ Will knows about mistrust, distrust and dishonesty. Many different phrases to do with hurt feelings and at times people going back on their promises. Someone give him a hug.

6. A most toad spotted traitor.

King Lear – (1606)

Toad by itself isn’t the most charming of insults and David Brent showed in the series ‘The Office’ ‘fatty fatty toad boy’ is pretty much the limit. However, toad-spotted means evil and the worst kind of traitor. Ouch.

7. “Dissembling harlot, thou art false in all.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595-1596)

Harlot, eh? Doesn’t sound great does it. Well, it’s not. Harlot is a pretty nasty word for a prostitute and to dissemble means to be dishonest or to disguise something. So, put the whole sentence together and what do you get? ‘Lying prostitute, you are fake in every way.’

8. Thou sodden-witted lord! Thou hast no more brain than I have in mine elbows!

Troilus and Cressida (1609)

Shakespeare loved personifying parts of the body and even managed to transform the noun ‘elbow’ into a verb. In this insult however, he hints that elbows don’t have any brains and that the receiver of this insult is the same as the joint in question. Sodden-witted means one with little wit or a dull demeanour.

9. A weasel hath not such a deal of spleen as you are toss’d with.
Henry IV, Part 1 (1597)

Pretty easy to guess this one. If you call someone a weasel it’s never going to be a good thing is it, really? Not that there’s anything wrong with weasels, but some people may not think being called one is very nice.

10. Thou art a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy worsted-stocking knave; a lily-liver’d, action-taking, whoreson, glass-gazing, superserviceable, finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pandar, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch.  

  1. King Lear (1606)

Quite a mouthful to remember, but if you can, there’s a likelihood you’ll leave the person on the receiving end of it absolutely speechless. There’s a couple of words in there that we all know, but a couple that perhaps we don’t. To give you an idea, “lily-liver’d” means cowardly, “bawd” means a woman in charge of a brothel and “pandar” is a female pimp. My goodness.

However you decide to spend the 23rd April, remember to “hark” at Shakespeare. The inventive and loquacious forefather of much of the English language, an incredible man who paved the way for many, many words. Thank him for words like hot-blooded, pageantry, eyeball, multitudinous, swagger, scuffle to name a few!

P.s we do not recommend using any of these insults lightly, so please do so with caution. But please do not blame The Book of Everyone for any broken relationships, family feuds or fist fights that occur as a result of reading this post.

1 Comment

  1. Foresooth, my education is sadly lacking! I shall swot up and learn some of these in order to astound my friends. Either that or they’ll think I’ve finally lost the plot and have me locked up ??

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