When it comes to insults, no one does it quite like William Shakespeare. What, you thought all he did was write tragic romances and a lot of vaguely problematic comedies? Well, in between writing about dead lovers and women with terrible taste in men (fun fact, these two overlapped a lot), Shakespeare found time to write some really sick burns into his plays.
You might be thinking, "What good does any of this do me? It's not like I can use Shakespearean insults in my normal life." WRONG. SO WRONG. Not only can you use Shakespearean insults, but you should use them, and regularly. Will wrote some real zingers, and he's not afraid to hit below the belt. Plus, just think of how impressed (and confused) your enemies will be when you refer to them as a greasy tallow-catch. You can shut down a fight and sound super cultured at the same time! Or really crazy. Whatever.
Below are 10 of my favorite Shakespearean insults. A lot of them come from his comedies, but surprisingly his tragedies and even a few histories had some really snarky insults to choose from (Prince Hal and Falstaff are particularly imaginative with them). Try to work them into your fights with your siblings or significant other.
1"For shame, thou hilding of a devilish spirit..."
— The Taming of the Shrew
I'm going to start exclusively referring to my sister as a "hilding of a devilish spirit" when I'm mad at her.
2"If her breath were as terrible as her terminations, there were no living near her, she would infect to the North Star."
— Much Ado About Nothing
That seems like a bit of an exaggeration, but I get where you're going with that.
3"You, mistress, that have the office opposite to Saint Peter and keep the gate of hell!"
AKA what you want to shout at your boss when you're having a bad day at work.
4"Why, thou clay-brained guts, thou knotty-pated fool, thou whoreson obscene greasy tallow-catch — "
— Henry IV, Part I
Only to be used when you're really, really mad at someone.
5"A whoreson, beetle-headed, flap-eared knave."
— Taming of the Shrew
I don't know what it means to be beetle-headed, but it can't be good.
6"I will sooner have a beard grow in the palm of my hand than he shall get one off his cheek."
— Henry IV, Part II
Ooooh, need some cream for that burn?
7"I do bite my thumb, sir."
— Romeo and Juliet
Obviously you should actually bite your thumb as well to really drive home the insult.
8"O villain, thy lips are scarce wiped since thou drunkest last."
— Henry IV, Part I
Shakespearean for "you drunk bitch."
9"Get thee to a nunnery."
You know "nunnery" can also mean whorehouse, right? And while I don't condone slut-shaming anyone, please feel free to use this the next time your friend asks if her outfit is too risqué.
10"He's 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
OK, but tell us how you really feel.