If there’s one thing that you can say about ol’ Shakey boy*, it’s that he certainly knows how to dish out the cold, hard one liners.
Look at him. The neck-ruff, the carefully coiffed mullet. That’s a man that you’d want in your corner should you enter a verbal sparring match; he can spit lines and bust rhymes with the best of ‘em.
Sadly, Shakespeare’s not always available to serve as your wingman, and should you venture onto the mean streets of literary put-downs and scathing remarks about scurvy, it always pays to be prepared. So, inspired by the king of the roast, Billy Shakes himself, here’s how to insult your peers – bard style.**
1. ‘Villain, I have done thy mother.’
This baby is from Titus Andronicus (Act IV, Scene 2). I’m not sure what more needs to be said. If you don’t whip out a yo’ mamma joke when trading insults, then frankly you’ve underutilised the fight’s potential.
2. ‘Thine face is not worth sunburning.’
Oof. This banger from Henry V (Act V, Scene 2) can make even the hardest of nuts crack. The key is in its simplicity I think – a jibe straight to the face is great for keeping a rascally ego in check.
3. ‘You Banbury cheese!’
As well as being wildly amusing, this insult from The Merry Wives of Windsor(Act I, Scene 1) now has another layer to it, as the cheese in question declined from popularity and eventually disappeared. So, they’re not just cheese – they’re irrelevant cheese.
4. ‘Your brain is as dry as the remainder biscuit after voyage.’
As You Like It has really hit the nail on the head with this devil from Act II, Scene 7. It’s how I feel every time I sit down to write an essay, or whenever I convince myself that I have sufficient enough general knowledge to attend a pub quiz.
5. ‘You whoreson cullionly, barber-monger!’
I’ll er, just leave this here. Kent from King Lear (Act 2, scene 2) really did not have time for old Oswald.
6. ‘You, minion, are too saucy.’
Appropriate for when your minion is just being too damn saucy. As Julia can attest in Act I, Scene 2 of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, the word saucy should be used more in general conversation. Keep this one in your back-pocket for when the moment calls.
7. ‘Thou cream faced loon.’
Sometimes, as Macbeth demonstrates in Act V, Scene 3 of (you guessed it) Macbeth, you’ve just gotta call a guy out for being a cream faced loon. What better way to do that than by calling them a cream faced loon?
8. ‘Out of my sight! Thou dost infect my eyes.’
Lady Anne gets straight to the point in Act 1, Scene 2 of Richard III. If you really want to verbally thwart your challenger in wits, then what better way than telling them to get lost – they’re hurting your eyes.
9. ‘Away, you three-inch fool!’
However you interpret this line from The Taming of the Shrew (Act III, Scene 3), it’s not big (ayy), it’s not clever, but it’s certainly effective. Sometimes you’ve just got to cut your opponent down to size (ayy again).
10. ‘Thou damned and luxurious mountain goat.’
Finally, here’s another big hitter from Henry V (this time from Act IV, Scene 4). While perhaps not the most cutting of affronts, there’s something wildly satisfying about referring to your arch-nemesis as a luxurious mountain goat.
Now you’ve got the bard’s arsenal of wit behind you, you just need to practice on the delivery. Try it in the bathroom mirror, throw in a cheeky wink or an unexpected smirk. Or, if you’re going the whole hog, you could furiously storm out on yourself mid-session to really make a lasting impact.
*an affectionate nickname **none of these are meant to offend! Here at 3LF we advocate being kind to your peers – it makes the best theatre! However, should you find yourself in an innocuous Shakespearean rap battle, or rampantly bored, you can put these to good use.