15 Fantastic and Filthy Shakespearean Insults

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Whether he was coining new ones or stretching their meanings with double entendres, Shakespeare had a way with words. And sometimes—in fact, fairly often—the Bard applied that verbal flair to pithy put-downs. There are enough Shakespearean insults to fill a whole book (literally) on all matter of subjects, but we went through and picked a few favorites.

1. The back-handed compliment

If I can remember thee I will think of thee at court.

All's Well That Ends Well, 1.1.184-185

2. The polite insult

Pray you stand farther from me.

Antony and Cleopatra, 1.2.18

3. The solicitory brush-off

Let's meet as little as we can.

As You Like It, 3.2.253

4. The direct attack

I think thou art an ass.

The Comedy of Errors, 3.2.15

5. The politically incorrect body-shaming

No longer from head to foot than from hip to hip, she is spherical, like a globe; I could find countries in her.

The Comedy of Errors, 3.2.111-113 

6. How dumb was he?

[He was] a fool, an empty purse. There was no money in't: not Hercules Could have knock'd out his brains, for he had none.

Cymbeline, 4.2.113-115

7. The almost sad

Were't not for laughing I should pity him.

Henry IV, part 1, 2.2.105

8. The unflattering comparison

Thou art neither like thy sire nor dam. But like a foul misshapen stigmatic, Mark'd by the Destinies to be avoided, As venom toads, or lizards' dreadful stings.

Henry VI, Part 3, 2.2.135-138

9. The regretful

I do repent the tedious minutes I with [you] have spent.

A Midsummer Night's Dream, 2.2.110-111

10. The beautifully said, but still harsh

You have such a February face, So full of frost, of storm, and cloudiness.

Much Ado About Nothing, 5.4.41-42

11. The lascivious

[You are] an index and prologue to the history of lust and foul thoughts.

Othello, 2.1.254-255

12. The cringe-worthy

That my nails were anchor'd in thine eyes!

Richard III, 4.4.232

13. Damning with faint praise

You kiss by th' book.

Romeo and Juliet 1.5.109

14. The unflattering comparison, part 2

Asses are made to bear, and so are you.

The Taming of the Shrew, 2.1.199

15. The gross


The Tempest, 4.1.219