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November 14, 2010

Insults From Shakespeare; "You Tread Upon My Patience"

Want to expand your vocabulary, explore some literature and have some fun?

Take a look at Shakespeare's insults. You also might want to...

...take a look at the context of each statement and try to figure out how - or if - any meanings have changed.

If you or your students have been looking at a particular play, you might want to look at insults from each play at -

Most of the Bards best insults are aimed at that favored villain - Falstaff. Consider just a few of these;
"What a disgrace it is to me that I should remember your name"
"What a maidenly man at arms you have become"
"I say the gentlemen had drunk himself out of his five senses".

How about this one?
"As I told you always, her beauty and her brain go not together"
Or this;
"Were I like thee, I would throw away myself".

It might be fun - and even instructive - to have students use these with different emphasis or even accents to explore and express all kinds of moods or intentions.

Your students will notice very quickly that these insults are deeply embedded in the relationships developed in Shakespeare's plays. Some are serious and some are ironic. Shakespeare, as always, leads us into nuances with his insults that we may not notice immediately.

I have to admit that this one is among my favorites - "There's many a man hath more hair than wit".

And for insults directed at Shakespeare, take a look at - http://www.insults.net/html/shakespeare/critics.html.

For all purpose Elizabethan-era insults, take a look at - http://www.elizabethan-era.org.uk/elizabethan-insults.htm.

To piece together your own specialized Shakespearean comment, take a look here - http://www.pangloss.com/seidel/shake_rule.html.

To generate insults in general, take a look here - http://www.insults.net/html/odd/random.html.

If it ever seems appropriate to insult someone, at least do it with a touch of elegance.

Let us know what it is about English that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf prefers international and independent films, foods he can't pronounce, music no one else has heard of and riding his bicycle in foreign cities. Morf is currently a radio host (tacoma.fm) and a newspaper columnist http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/columnists/morf_morford/.

Posted by mmorf at November 14, 2010 10:18 PM

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