A Most-Notable Bevy of Scurvy-Laden Shakespearean Insults

When it comes to upper body strength, athletic ability, and eyesight, this writer was born in the shallow end of the gene pool. Since scrawny, awkward kids with thick glasses are prime targets for bullies, one can only imagine what my junior high years were like. Things began to change one day when my biggest nemesis (“biggest” in terms of size and in frequency of abuse) had me pinned against my locker. This happened just as one of the cutest girls in the school was walking by — the one who didn’t even know I existed. I didn’t want her to view me as a weakling, but I also lacked any ability to break free from King Kong’s ugly stepchild. Instead, using the only weapon at my disposal, I glared at my adversary and said, “Those are pretty bold words from someone who sleeps with a Tweety Bird nightlight!”

Later, after regaining consciousness in the nurse’s office, curled in a fetal position and spitting up more blood than a bulimic vampire, I learned that my well-chosen words had achieved the desired effect. The cute girl had noticed me. Overnight, I was transformed from being a nobody into “that scrawny, awkward boy with thick glasses who says funny things.”

History is silent about whether William Shakespeare had to deal with bullies when he was in school. If, as a boy, he combed his hair back and wore awkward stiff lace collars that figure so prominently in most of his portraits, it’s safe to assume his early teen years were not exceptionally kind. Perhaps that is why the Bard developed such a remarkable gift for insults.

In addition to inventing the knock-knock joke and adding 1,700 words to the English language, Shakespeare used his remarkable way with words to create some truly memorable zingers. The next time you find yourself in need of a well-crafted put-down, consider using one of his many disparagements. How can anyone object to a spontaneous recitation of some of the greatest literature ever written?

  • “A most notable coward, an infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise breaker, the owner of no one good quality.” — All’s Well That Ends Well (Act 3, Scene 6)
  • “Away, you starvelling, you elf-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish!” — Henry IV Part 1 (Act 2, Scene 4)
  • “Away, you three-inch fool!” — The Taming of the Shrew (Act 4, Scene 1)
  • “Come, come, you froward and unable worms!” — The Taming Of The Shrew (Act 5, Scene 2)
  • “Go, prick thy face, and over-red thy fear, Thou lily-liver’d boy.” — Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 3)
  • “He’s a disease that must be cut away.” —Coriolanus (Act 3, Scene 1)
  • “His wit’s as thick as a Tewkesbury mustard.” — Henry IV Part 2 (Act 2, Scene 4)
  • “I am pigeon-liver’d and lack gall.” — Hamlet (Act 2, Scene 2)
  • “I am sick when I do look on thee” — A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Act 2, Scene 1)
  • “I do wish thou wert a dog, That I might love thee something.” — Timon of Athens (Act 4, Scene 3)
  • “I must tell you friendly in your ear, sell when you can, you are not for all markets.” — As You Like It (Act 3 Scene 5)
  • “If thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool; for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them.” — Hamlet (Act 3, Scene 1)
  • “I’ll beat thee, but I would infect my hands.” — Timon of Athens (Act 4, Scene 3)
  • “I scorn you, scurvy companion. What, you poor, base, rascally, cheating lack-linen mate!” — Henry IV Part II (Act 2, Scene 4)
  • “It is certain that when he makes water, his urine is congealed ice.” — Measure for Measure (Act 3, Scene 2)
  • “Methink’st thou art a general offence and every man should beat thee.” — All’s Well That Ends Well (Act 2, Scene 3)
  • “More of your conversation would infect my brain.” — Coriolanus (Act 2, Scene 1)
  • “My wife’s a hobby horse!” — The Winter’s Tale (Act 2, Scene 1)
Watch a student turn Shakespearean insults upon her teacher.
  • “Peace, ye fat guts!” — Henry IV Part 1 (Act 2, Scene 2)
  • “Aroint thee: go away, rump-fed runion: slut” — Macbeth (Act 1 Scene 3)
  • “The rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended nostril” — The Merry Wives of Windsor (Act 3, Scene 5)
  • “The tartness of his face sours ripe grapes.” — The Comedy of Errors (Act 5, Scene 4)
  • “There’s no more faith in thee than in a stewed prune.” — Henry IV Part 1 (Act 3, Scene 3)
  • “Thine forward voice, now, is to speak well of thine friend; thine backward voice is to utter foul speeches and to detract.” — The Tempest (Act 2, Scene 2)
  • “That trunk of humours, that bolting-hutch of beastliness, that swollen parcel of dropsies, that huge bombard of sack, that stuffed cloak-bag of guts, that roasted Manningtree ox with pudding in his belly, that reverend vice, that grey Iniquity, that father ruffian, that vanity in years?” — Henry IV Part 1 (Act 2, Scene 4)
  • “Thine face is not worth sunburning.” — Henry V (Act 5, Scene 2)
  • “This woman’s an easy glove, my lord, she goes off and on at pleasure.” — All’s Well That Ends Well (Act 5, Scene 3)
  • “Thou art a boil, a plague sore” — King Lear (Act 2, Scene 2)
  • “Was the Duke a flesh-monger, a fool and a coward?” — Measure For Measure (Act 5, Scene 1)
  • “Thou art as fat as butter.” — Henry IV Part 1 (Act 2, Scene 4)
  • “Here is the babe, as loathsome as a toad.” — Titus Andronicus (Act 4, Scene 3)
  • “Like the toad; ugly and venomous.” — As You Like It (Act 2, Scene 1`)
  • “Thou art unfit for any place but hell.” — Richard III (Act 1 Scene 2)
  • “Thou cream faced loon” — Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 3)
  • “Thou clay-brained guts, thou knotty-pated fool, thou whoreson obscene greasy tallow-catch!” — Henry IV Part 1 (Act 2, Scene 4 )
  • “Thou damned and luxurious mountain goat.” — Henry V (Act 4, Scene 4)
  • “Thou elvish-mark’d, abortive, rooting hog!” — Richard III (Act 1, Scene 3 )
  • “Thou leathern-jerkin, crystal-button, knot-pated, agatering, puke-stocking, caddis-garter, smooth-tongue, Spanish pouch!” — Henry IV Part 1 (Act 2, Scene 4)
  • “Thou lump of foul deformity” — Richard III (Act 1, Scene 2)
  • “That poisonous bunch-back’d toad!” — Richard III (Act 1, Scene 3)
  • “Thou sodden-witted lord! Thou hast no more brain than I have in mine elbows.” — Troilus and Cressida (Act 2, Scene 1)
  • “Thou subtle, perjur’d, false, disloyal man!” — The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Act 4, Scene 2)
  • “Thou whoreson zed, thou unnecessary letter!” — King Lear (Act 2, Scene 2 )
  • “Thy sin’s not accidental, but a trade.” Measure For Measure (Act 3, Scene 1)
  • “Thy tongue outvenoms all the worms of Nile.” — Cymbeline (Act 3, Scene 4)
  • “Would thou wert clean enough to spit upon.” — Timon of Athens (Act 4, Scene 3)
  • “Would thou wouldst burst!” — Timon of Athens (Act 4, Scene 3)
  • “You are as a candle, the better burnt out.” — Henry IV Part 2 (Act 1, Scene 2)
  • “You scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe!” — Henry IV Part 2 (Act 2, Scene 1)
  • “You starvelling, you eel-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, you bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish–O for breath to utter what is like thee! You tailor’s-yard, you sheath, you bow-case, you vile standing tuck!” — Henry IV Part 1 (Act 2, Scene 4)
  • “Your brain is as dry as the remainder biscuit after voyage.” — As You Like It (Act 2, Scene 7)
  • “Heaven truly knows that thou art false as hell.” — Othello (Act 4, Scene 2)
  • “Out of my sight! Thou dost infect mine eyes.” — Richard III (Act 1, Scene 2)
  • “No longer from head to foot than from hip to hip, she is spherical, like a globe; I could find countries in her.” — The Comedy of Errors (Act 3, Scene 2)
  • “You have such a February face, So full of frost, of storm, and cloudiness.” — Much Ado About Nothing (Act 5, Scene 4)

Alternatively, you can develop your own Shakespearean insult with the assistance of this Shakespeare Insult Generator.

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