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Insult Your Foes Like a Montague

From biting thumbs at enemies to implying that slippery foes were stinking fishmongering pimps, Shakespeare manages to insult with a bit of class, wit and plenty of imagination

“Do you bite your thumb at me, sir?” Photo: TED-Ed

Ever get tired of the same old plebeian insults tossed around these days? Idiot, moron and dummy just don’t have the thrust of the creative insults of yesteryear. If anyone was the crowning master of insulting with a flourish, it was William Shakespeare. From biting thumbs at enemies to implying that slippery foes were stinking fishmongering pimps, Shakespeare manages to insult with a bit of class, wit and plenty of imagination.

As TED-Ed explains, some of Shakespeare’s fame may be attributed to this particular talent for concocting titillating insults. Regardless of whether you were a member of the royal family or a lowly laborer, Shakespeare’s jokes and sharp insults united the entire crowd in laughter.

Now, you too can insult like a Shakespearian mastermind.  Use this simple chart, borrowed from Writers Write Creative Blog. Chose a phrase from column one, mix it up with a jab from column two, and crown it off with a jewel from column three. Stick “thou” in front of the trio and you’ve got a golden grenade of offensiveness ready to be tossed at the next guy who cuts you off in traffic or dares bite his thumb at you. Thou mewling, common-kissing pumpion!

More from Smithsonian.com:

Shakespeare Plays 

William Shakespeare, Gangster 

 

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