You may think that reading Shakespeare is high brow, but these Shakespearean insults will change your mind. Turns out Shakespeare was pretty badass.

We have a huge amount to thank Shakespeare for; his beautiful poetic lines, his tragic masterpieces, the words and phrases we use every day. But you might not know that we owe the great man an additional debt. He also coined some of the most insulting phrases in the English language.

You might want to learn a few Shakespearean insults off by heart for those times when a modern swear word just won’t do.

Shakespeare has insults for every occasion from the colleague at the office with less than sweet body odor to the rowdy and ignorant drunk at the bar on Saturday night. Read on to be astounded by Shakespeare’s wit and venom. Prepare to be shocked from the very outset!

1. “Villain, I have done thy mother” -Titus Andronicus

Yes, you heard that right. We tend to think that ‘mum’ jokes are a modern phenomenon. It turn’s out we are all just copying the bard. Somehow, hearing it in such an oldy-worldy phrase makes it both more insulting and more cultured. Who knew?

2. “I do desire that we may be better strangers.” -As You Like It

Ouch, that is one sick burn. You can just imagine the confusion on your enemies face when you let that one fly. They will be mortally offended, but they can hardly complain to HR.

3. “You have such a February face, so full of frost, of storm and cloudiness.” -Much Ado About Nothing

What a descriptive insult. We all know people like that, of course, they go around with a face like thunder and give you a look that could freeze hell over, but I’ve never heard it put quite so poetically. I half wish I come across someone in a foul mood today just so I can use it!

4. “Would thou wert clean enough to spit upon” -Timon of Athens

Wow, imagine saying someone was too dirty to spit on. That’s one cutting insult and not a single swear word required. Shakespeare, you were one sassy dude!

5. “The rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended nostril” -The Merry Wives of Windsor

So there’s a person at work that seems not to know what a shower is and you have to sit next to them at a meeting. You’ve hinted before, but they just don’t get it.

Well, Shakespeare’s got your back. Try this phrase on them and see if you can finally encourage them to take a bath.

6. “Thou sodden-witted lord! Thou hast no more brain than I have in mine elbows” -Troilus and Cressida

Ever wanted to call someone drunk and stupid with one neat phrase? Well, I doubt you could put it more eloquently than this. A handy one to remember on Saturday night’s out.

7. “I’ll beat thee, but I should infect my hands” -Timon of Athens

Another one for Saturday night at the bar. If you ever need to get out of a physical fight, Shakespeare has given you the perfect excuse.

Wit over brute force often wins the day – but I don’t guarantee it so erm.. watch you back after you’ve said this one.

8. “I am sick when I do look on thee” -A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Wow, that is one hefty Shakespearean insult. Yet once again it sounds so much more cultured than a modern phrase.

You can leave the reason for your bout of nausea to your enemies’ imagination, which I think makes it even more effective. They’ll be dwelling on that for the rest of the day.

9. “Methink’st thou art a general offence and every man should beat thee” -All’s Well That Ends Well

So, not only do you think this person deserves a slap, you also think they deserve a slap from everyone they meet.

Yep, we all know someone we feel like that about, certain politicians and celebrities spring to mind. It’s harsh but true.

10. “More of your conversation would infect my brain.” -The Comedy of Errors

Well, this is one excellent way to get out of a pointless argument with someone you disagree with on just about every subject.

Closing thoughts

Reading some of these Shakespearean insults makes me think that we need to use a bit more imagination when we get into arguments these days. Swear words may be brutal and effective, but they lack the panache, wit and poetry of Shakespearean insults.

But don’t blame me if using these insults gets you into trouble. Though hopefully, by the time your enemy knows they have been insulted, you will be long gone.

What other Shakespearean insults do you find better than modern swear words? We’d love to hear them, so please share with us in the comments.

Copyright © 2012-2024 Learning Mind. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.

power of misfits book banner desktop

Like what you are reading? Subscribe to our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss new thought-provoking articles!

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Laura Palk

    I would challenge thee to a battle of wits but I see you are unarmed

  2. Donna Walls

    Your presence is the same pleasure it has always been.

  3. Beverly

    I love fairy lights too! I love the infected hands one for the Pandemic times!

  4. Dale Cohen

    You foul lump of deformity. King Lear

  5. Jaideep

    This reminded me of an unforgettable conversation from The Tempest that I read in High School

    A pox o’ your throat, you bawling, blasphemous, incharitable dog!
    Oh, go to hell, you loud-mouthed bastard!
    Work you, then.
    Well, get to work, then.
    Hang, cur! Hang, you whoreson insolent noisemaker! We are less afraid to be drowned than thou art.
    Just die, you lowlife! Go ahead and die, you nasty, rude bastard!You’re more scared of drowning than we are.
    I’ll warrant him for drowning though the ship were no stronger than a nutshell and as leaky as an unstanched wench.

  6. Edward Wittrock

    Hamlet suggesting that his present girlfriend become a whore “get thee to a Nunnery”

  7. Nell Rose

    I just had to comment and say I haven’t laughed so much in ages! I never thought much of Shakespeare, but now I will definitely be reading his work.

  8. Ann

    I have a whole book of his insults. You can find several editions on eBay.

Leave a Reply