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16 Ubiquitously Famous Shakespearean Insults and Their Meanings

16 Famous Shakespearean Insults With Their Meanings
Forget about Sonnet 18, and all the saccharine "compare thee to a summer's day". We're looking for a William Shakespeare who was bitter, angry, and super-duper-whopper caustic. Penlighten has compiled a list of the best Shakespearean insults to replace your run-of-the-mill ones. Unleash these on your enemies, and simply watch 'em b-u-r-n.
Renuka Savant
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2018
So you'd think with his soft and pellucid declarations of love, the great William Shakespeare would like the epitaph on his headstone to be more or less along the same lines. Here's what it actually says:

Good frend for Iesvs sake forbeare,
To digg the dvst encloased heare.
Bleste be the man that spares thes stones,
And cvrst be he that moves my bones.
Hold thee horses, we've got a translation―Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear, | To dig the dust enclosed here. | Blessed be the man that spares these stones, | And cursed be he that moves my bones.

The whole point of this exercise is this: If you believe Shakespeare to be the romantic of all romantics, the one who gave us the "a rose by any other name..." of Romeo and Juliet, the "to thine ownself be true" of Hamlet―you're going to be in for a shock. We're taking Bardolatry to a whole new high with a comprehensive list of classic Shakespearean insults.

Bard-style bad-assery, all for you. Read on, thou cream-faced loon!
As You Like It
"Let's meet as little as we can."

I can totally imagine a Blair Waldorf-ish character pulling off this insult like she owns it. Subtle, saucy, and worth a million bucks, this one just drives the point home, without so much as making a scene.

Use it on...
Mean in-laws, gossipy colleagues, nosy neighbors―the field is wide open, my friend. Slip this line in as you bid goodbye, and the thrill is sure to last for a long, long time.
As You Like It
"I do desire we may be better strangers."

We all possess this innate urge to obliterate certain individuals from our life. And this Shakespearean gem teaches us how to give someone the old-fashioned heave-ho.

Use it on...
When rank strangers try to strike up a conversation during a long bus ride home, and before you know it, you actually end up knowing way too much about them. It works as a fabulous break up line as well.
Shakespearean insult from Hamlet
If calling someone a "bloody, bawdy villain" isn't self-explanatory enough, you've got 'remorseless', 'treacherous', 'lecherous', and 'kindless' to spice it up. Insult like a pro.

Use it on...
Shoo away the most annoying Internet troll by hurling this at him. Unless, of course you're arguing on something even remotely Shakespearean. In which case, the troll may as well retaliate with...
Titus Andronicus
"Villain, I have done thy mother."

This is an unabashed yo mama joke, penned in inimitable Shakespearean. It is also below-the-belt nasty, with an adults-only rating. It's better to file this in the brain as an interesting read.

Use it on...
Well, you'd rather not use it, unless you're actually rehearsing for the part of Aaron in Titus Andronicus.
Shakespearean insult from Anthony and Cleopatra
So there's this little thing called karma, and it's known to be quite the *lady dog*. Therefore, when you encounter someone who is foolish enough to cause his own undoing, just leave him to his sinking.

Use it on...
Witless revenge-seekers are a worthy target. As are teenagers who make you sick with their "YOLO" rantings. And the Rich Kids of Instagram too.
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
"thy food is such
As hath been belch'd on by infected lungs."

Okay, I certainly don't need to explain this one. In fact, this insult is way too comical to even qualify as caustic. 'Belch'd on by infected lungs' ... who even thinks of that? Except the Bard, that is.

Use it on...
The next time you're dining at In-N-Out, and there's just not enough 'animal' in your animal-style fries, you can unleash gastronomical hell.
The Tragedy of Coriolanus
"The tartness of his face sours ripe grapes."

"Hey mister, you ugly!"

Use it on...
Wow. Just wow. I mean, you'd think that having gone through endless Shakespearean insults as a part of my research, nothing would surprise me anymore. But then I land up reading this, and it blows me away―a face so tart that it sours ripe grapes? For the sake of this priceless insult, I hope you do encounter someone to merit it in your lifetime.
Richard III
Shakespearean insult from Richard III
I'll keep it short. This line is Elizabethan talk for "scram, you bag of dirt!".

Use it on...
You'd know better, of course. But methinks, this line could work fabulously well on someone using the lousiest pick-up line on you the next time you're out looking for some plain old bar-hopping.
The Winter's Tale
"Thou fresh piece of excellent witchcraft."

Trust the Bard to load a line with just the right amount of razor-sharp sarcasm. 'Fresh pieces of excellent witchcraft' are all around us these days, more so in the dog-eat-dog professional world. But as long as we have Shakespeare on our side, we'll make sure to burn those witches at the proverbial stake.

Use it on...
A colleague who has made it her mission to malign you. A co-worker who has mastered the art of stealing credit for your hard work. A team member who is yearning to strike a "special" equation with the boss. You get the drift.
Henry IV
"Alas, poor ape, how thou sweat'st."

Yes, I do pity you, you sweaty monkey. But then, if you find yourself at the receiving end of an insult like this, you do stand guilty of bringing it on.

Use it on...
In an ideal office, a back-stabbing, tattletale colleague described in the section above would get a deserving dressing down from the boss―following which you'd get to waltz in and hurl this gem at him. But poetic justice rarely occurs in a real office, so that just leaves us to be the sweaty apes.
Troilus and Cressida
Shakespearean insult from Troilus and Cressida
Basically means 'brainless dimwit'.

Use it on...
George W. Bush. Britney Spears. The Kardashian clan. And all the other insufferables who dwell in our times.
Henry IV
"Do thou amend thy face, and I'll amend my life."

Nothing explains this line better than the new-age abbreviation, STFU. It's a jaunty way to say "keep your mind off my business".

Use it on...
Really distant relatives that are encountered only at weddings and anniversaries, those who innocently claim to have only your best interests at heart. Those who always remind you how Cousin Rodney earns 72 cents more than you do. How Cousin Sheila is engaged to a hedge fund manager, whereas you neither have a hedge, nor a fund.
Lash away, my friend. Lash away.
Henry IV
"I scorn you, scurvy companion. What, you poor, base, rascally, cheating, lack-linen mate! Away, you mouldy rogue, away."

If the sheer spite dripping down these words isn't enough, here's an explanation. It's okay to associate 'scurvy' with 'diseased', as you're close enough―it's alternate meaning happens to be 'despicable'. The rest is a gorgeous word play that keeps getting better and better with 'rascally', 'cheating', and my personal favorite, 'mouldy rogue'.

Use it on...
Oh my lovelies, an insult this perfect needs to be reserved especially for that "mouldy rogue" of a boyfriend who cheats on you with your best mate.
King Lear
Shakespearean insult from King Lear
Ooooh, no one fancies being described as a boil. And not just a plain, old speck of acne―we're talking 'plague-sore-embossed-carbuncle' levels here. This one sure does score high on the meanness meter, which means that you need to reserve it for someone who's worthy of being an 'embossed carbuncle'.

Use it on...
Hmm... well who'd be more worthy than the above-mentioned best pal who though it was fine to score a romp with that mouldy rogue of a boyfriend.
The Merry Wives of Windsor
Shakespearean insult from The Merry Wives of Windsor
Now, this insult does not warrant a new-age translation, for obvious reasons. It may not even be as impressive at first glance, seeing as we are equipped with mightier and may I say, ruder options at hand. But just for a minute, picture Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley from Downton Abbey saying this, and you've got an insult to insult all insults.

Use it on...
Well, don't we all know that one annoying schmuck who seems to have the best of everything, and takes a perverse delight in rubbing it in your face? So the next time s/he complains about the bucket seat in their Porsche giving them a backache (while you're stuck with the smelly subway for eternity), give them these subtle yet firm directions to hell.
The Tragedy of Coriolanus
"They lie deadly that tell you you have good faces."

This one roughly translates to, "you've got that kind of a face only your mother could love". But since it is Shakespeare who has authored this line, it's got way more sass than you can ever imagine.

Use it on...
Those annoying public place selfie takers! Ugh! Yes, there are even some inconsiderate maggots who click pictures in a metro just as the doors close in on them. Here's hoping this stops them from spreading their #ugliness all over the Internet.
And finally, a neat round of applause for the original sass-master, William Shakespeare.