4 Answers | Add Yours
There is a famous insult in William Shakespeare's play 'Romeo and Juliet.' In the 'public place' mentioned in the city of Verona, two 'gangs' approach each other through a busy thoroughfare (perhaps a church square or market.) Each is loyal to a different important family of the city, and each enjoys a fight. One gang member wishes to pick a fight and thinks of an insult. He says 'I will bite my thumb at them,which is disgrace to them if they bear it.' He knows the other family will not want to lose face and that their young men will fight. In Shakespeare's time, biting one's thumb towards another person was a rude gesture. To tolerate this offence would bring shame on the insulted person or family, and so they will fight. This feuding has been going on in Verona for years and brings the Prince to say 'a plague on both your houses.'
Shakespeare is very alive in popular culture, especially when it comes to insults. Below are three links that will take you to different online resources that may have what you want. (The third resource, the "Shakespeare Insult Kit," doesn't contain actual quotations, of course.) One problem with these resources may be that they often don't identify where in the plays these insults can be found. You may be able to use an internet search, though -- putting the insult in quotation marks to find that exact match -- and quickly locate the acts, scenes, and lines that way.
There are lots of good places to find insults in Shakespeare. He has a lot of characters whose main function is to insult others. And a lot of characters who insult people even if that's not their job.
Characters whose job it is to insult include the clowns or fools in plays (like the fool in King Lear, or the Clown in 12th Night). Other characters who insult people a lot are Katharine in "Taming of the Shrew" and Kent in "King Lear."
For specific insults, look at any lines of Katharine (or those speaking to her) in the early parts of "Taming of the Shrew." For insults by a man, look at Act II, Scene 2 of King Lear -- look at how Kent insults Oswald from the beginning of the scene.
I agree with the other responses posted below - if you search for Shakespeare's insults, you will find many. Also, try doing a search for Elizabethan insults. I like the link below (which has already been listed) because I found that my students seemed to enjoy coining their own insults from the many combinations available.
We’ve answered 320,630 questions. We can answer yours, too.Ask a question