The first time I read my favorite Shakespeare insult, in The Tempest, I had to put the book down, I was laughing so hard.
Monster, you do smell all horse-piss.
I’d already fallen in love with Shakespeare before finding that little land-mine, but I think his insults are a fantastic intro to what I love so much about Shakespeare: His language. His words are treasures that you can share with a dude who was born 451 years ago (today!). Just read that sentence again. It’s like a string of fireworks going off. Monster – smell – horse-piss. BAM.
Shakespeare’s insults are highly meme-able on the net these days, and rightly so. Reigning insult champ for centuries, Shakespeare is the one to beat. And while many of his insults are heavily dated and obscure, others are so shockingly modern, you have to bow to the Bard. In the English language, who can touch his longevity (as it were)?
Like this exchange from Othello, an insult that might have been written this morning:
Brabantio: Thou art a villain!
Iago: And you are a senator.
Since it’s the rancidy old crusty-blotched wool-sack’s birthday, I thought I’d record some of my favorite insults out of the William Shakespeare arsenal.
Chiron: Thou hast undone our mother.
Aaron: Villain, I have done thy mother.
This one is vicious:
She’s the kitchen wench, and all grease ; and I know not what use to put her but to make a lamp of her and run her from her own light. I warrant, her rags and the tallow in them will burn a Poland winter. If she lives till doomsday, she’ll burn a week longer than the whole world.
–Comedy of Errors
Would the fountain of your mind were clear again that I might water an ass at it.
You ruinous butt, you whoreson indistinguishable cur.
–Troilus & Cressida
Never hung poison on a fouler toad.
Thou elvish-mark’d, abortive, rooting hog!
France is a dog hole.
This woman’s an easy glove, my lord, she goes off and on at pleasure.
–All’s Well That Ends Well
Most of my favorite Shakespearean insults are in As You Like It but the best toe-to-toe mockery is in in Henry IV, Part 2, between master-insultor Falstaff and Prince Henry. Enjoy (or get the definitions of all these insults here):
I’ll be no longer guilty of this sin [my friendship with Falstaff]; this sanguine
coward, this bed-presser, this horseback-breaker,
this huge hill of flesh,–
‘Sblood, you starveling, you elf-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 bowcase; you vile
Well, breathe awhile, and then to it again…
(Compare the above with this great video of the 100 Best Insults in Movies. A lot of the modern Hollywood insults sound familiar, eh? Henry IV has clearly set the template for the “Insult-Rant,” to be used in scripts 400+ years later).