Posted in Writing Ideas

Can You Be As Rude As William Shakespeare?

As well as being known for enriching English Literature with his fantastic plays and sonnets, William Shakespeare also contributed something else to the world – he coined and used some absolutely excellent insults throughout his work.

Here are just a few:
“Thou cream faced loon.” Macbeth
“You starveling, you eel-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue …” Henry IV Part 1
“Thou knotty-pated fool.” Henry IV Part 1
“A most pathetical nit.” Love’s Labour’s Lost
“Poisonous bunch backed toad.” Richard III
“A thin faced knave and gull.” Twelfth Night

A ‘neat’, by the way, is a bovine animal!

Make Your Own Shakespearean Insults!

Here we have a William Shakespeare Insult Generator.

Get the children to use it by taking a word from each panel to create an insult. So, you might get:

scurvy clay-brained rampaging fool
scurvy greasy pigeon-egg

William Shakespeare Insult Generator

Make Your Own Shakespearean Compliments

Here we have a William Shakespeare Compliment Generator.

Get the children to use it by taking a word from each panel to create a compliment. So, you might get:

sweet honey-tongued gentlewoman
rare fair-faced divineness

William Shakespeare Compliment Generator

10  Ways To Use Your Insults and Compliments

  • Hold a straight-face-keeping competition. Competitors face each other and trade insults from the list as dramatically as they can. Even better if they have learned their insults in advance. First to giggle is eliminated.
  • Make posters showing a selection of compliments and insults in speech bubbles around the bard’s head.
  • The lists can be the basis for some improvised drama – using the old words in a contemporary setting. For example, a child uses the compliments to flatter a parent while trying to get a pocket money raise; two motorists trade insults over who saw a parking space first.
How To Write Shakespearean Insults
  • From the improvised scenes, youngsters write their own play scripts to become 21st Century Shakespeares.
  • Write short story scenes, in which two characters trade insults and/or compliments. Include ‘Thou’ and ‘Thou art’, whenever possible! An excellent way to revise the correct use of speech punctuation.
  • Use thesauruses to invent more Elizabethan-esque compliments and insults. Keep the basic model of adjective – hyphenated adjective – noun, as in: Poisonous, bunch-backed toad (Richard III) Cheating, lack-linen mate (Henry 1V, Pt 2)
  • There’s an African poem from the Igbo people of Nigeria, called simply ‘You!’ it starts: You! Your head is like a hollow drum. And after more insults, it ends: You!Your backside is like a mountain top. Ask for Poems to a Worst Enemy, using insults from the list.
  • Ask also for Poems to a Best Friend, using compliments from the list. Resulting poems can be also included in greetings cards.
  • The class members choose their favourite compliments from the lists. Use these as the basis for your class award scheme, with particular compliments being granted for certain achievements.
  • If particular insults were monsters, what might they look like? Make a Rogues Gallery of the titled cartoon drawings.

Have fun thou rascally mingle-brained lumpish varlets!

David and Mike from Goodeyedeers.


A writer of short stories.

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