Shakespeare’s Insults for Everyday Situations

Have you ever found yourself stuck in a conversation with an insipid person? You can’t think of anything to say that’s clever or witty enough to put them in their place, so you simply stand there and nod, a smile pasted on your face as you secretly imagine beating them senselessly about the head and face with a dead trout? We’ve all been there.

At a loss for the perfect barb? Let the bard do the work for you! Shakespeare is more than just a collection of sonnets, tragedies and impossible romances. He coined many of the epic disses we still use today. Below, I’ve compiled a few of Shakespeare’s best verbal beatdowns for your use, should the need ever arise.

No matter who it is – a heavy-handed boss, a bitchy friend, the jerk in front of you in line at the grocery store, your spouse – Shakespeare has the perfect tell-off for you. The next time you have to get the last word in, why not try one of these timeless phrases?

– A pestilence upon thee!

– Leprosy o’ertake!

– If thou be’est not an ass, I am a youth of fourteen.

– Pray you stand farther from me.

– I do desire we may be better strangers.

– I think thou art an ass.

– You fusty plebians!

– You of basest function!

– Thou lump of foul deformity.

– O heavy ignorance!

– The red plague rid you!

– A burning devil take you!

– More of your conversation would infect my brain.

– You are pigeon-livered and lack gall.

– Your face is not worth sunburning.

– He’s a tried and valiant soldier. So is my horse.

– Your horrid image doth unfix my hair.

– Let vultures gripe thy guts!

– You crusty botch of nature!

– You speak an infinite deal of nothing!

– I do smell all horse piss; at which my nose is in great indignation.

– Let me deal coldly with you.

– Were I thee I would throw away myself.

– Out, dunghill!

There you have it. Timeless turns of phrase for the insult novice. Why not try one of them today? With the help of Shakespeare, you can stay classy while telling someone exactly where to shove it. Effortless, timeless snark for any occasion, courtesy of the master of English Literature.

Peace, thou lily-livered fools!

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Teri Drake-Floyd

An almost 30-something synestheste, foodie, genealogist and all around proud geek.

22 thoughts on “Shakespeare’s Insults for Everyday Situations”

  1. Well, I recently found out that a ‘nunnery’ is apparently also a brothel, and ordering someone to ‘get thee to a nunnery’ isn’t just a suggestion to don a habit. Whoever came up with that double meaning has a wicked sense of humor.

    Also shakespeare related: my younger sister (born via c-section) tried to convince my mother (a gynecologist) that she wasn’t born. She just read Macbeth in school, and the ensuing conversation was hilarious.

  2. I think my favorites are:

    “A pestilence upon thee!”

    “More of your conversation would infect my brain.”

    and

    “Were I thee I would throw away myself.”

    Don’t know if I’ll remember to use them on anyone though.

  3. When I was in high school I memorized the wonderful, albeit lengthy, insult from King Lear. (“[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 mungril bitch.”) Since I never had a chance to use it, and have since forgotten it (had to look it up), thanks for these. They’re much more useful and fun!

    1. I didn’t include a few of my favorites from Romeo and Juliet just because I thought I’d include some lesser known ones, but I love to say “I bite my thumb at thee” to people. And “A Plague on Both Your Houses” is also a gem.

  4. I loved this!  I believe I recognize a couple of these from my favorite play of all time - Much Ado About Nothing.  Best lines (IMO):

    – I do desire we may be better strangers.
    – Your horrid image doth unfix my hair.

    How classy and timely. LOVE.

  5. I am completely tickled at the thought of using these … I may almost try to find an opportunity just so I can try out one of these lines.

    ETA: pickle may be an entertaining addition. Also, thinking further on it, I’m not sure I could prevent myself from cracking up while delivering the line.

  6. Personally, I think all of these sound better when the word “pickle” or some variant is added. More absurdist. More fun. I mean, not to say that I can improve on the bard, but come on, I totally can. For instance:

    “I do desire we may be better strangers, pickle-face.”

    or

    “Pickle-butt, a burning devil take you!”

    Shakespeare wouldn’t know a good gherkin if it smacked him in the face.

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