william shakespeare

Public domain (attributed to John Taylor)

Even 460 years later, Shakespeare's insults are zingers.

As history's most famous poet and playwright, William Shakespeare had a way with words. His sonnets have been memorized and recited by innumerable students—"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"—and his comedies and tragedies have been adapted and performed on stage and film countless times in the 460 years since his passing.

But one place Shakespeare's talent shines the most—or at least entertains the most—is in his insults. The colorful characters he created frequently throw verbal barbs across the stage at one another, and they're still epic zingers, even today.

Insults take many styles and forms, from friendly ribbing to subtle jabs to roundabout roasts to direct hits, and Shakespeare utilized them all. And the beauty of playing with The Bard's insults in the modern day is that you can use them to confound people you have a beef with as well as crack up your friends in playful banter.

Imagine telling the person who won't stop pestering you, "Away, you three-inch fool!" Or saying to your bestie who drank the soda you were saving, "You scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe!” Or calling to your slowpoke kiddos in your best English accent, “Come, come, you froward and unable worms!”

There's just loads of fun to be had with Shakespearean insults, so choose some favorites to commit to memory and whip out unexpectedly when the occasion arises:

1. "How now, thou crusty batch of nature!"

– Troilus and Cressida (Act 5, scene 1)

2. “I’ll beat thee, but I would infect my hands.”

Timon of Athens (Act 4, Scene 3)

3. "Thine face is not worth sunburning.”

Henry V (Act 5, Scene 2)

4. “Thou lump of foul deformity”

Richard III (Act 1, Scene 2)

5. “Thou subtle, perjur’d, false, disloyal man!”

The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Act 4, Scene 2)

6. “Thou whoreson zed, thou unnecessary letter!”

King Lear (Act 2, Scene 2 )

7. “That poisonous bunch-back’d toad!”

Richard III (Act 1, Scene 3)

8. “Thou damned and luxurious mountain goat.”

Henry V (Act 4, Scene 4)

9. “Thou elvish-mark’d, abortive, rooting hog!”

Richard III (Act 1, Scene 3 )

10. “Thou sodden-witted lord! Thou hast no more brain than I have in mine elbows “

Troilus and Cressida (Act 2, Scene 1)

11. "Would thou wert clean enough to spit upon."

Timon of Athens (Act 4, Scene 3)

12. "You, minion, are too saucy."

The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Act 1 Scene 2)

13. "I do desire we may be better strangers."

As You Like It (Act 3, Scene 2)

14. "I am sick when I do look on thee."

A Midsummer Night's Dream (Act 2, Scene 1)

15. "Thou damned and luxurious mountain goat."

Henry V (Act 4, Scene 4)

16. "His wit’s as thick as a Tewkesbury mustard."

Henry IV Part 2 (Act 2, Scene 4)

"Thou leathern-jerkin, crystal-button, knot-pated, agatering, puke-stocking, caddis-garter, smooth-tongue, Spanish pouch!"

Henry IV Part 1 (Act 2, Scene 4)

17. "Thy tongue outvenoms all the worms of Nile."

Cymbeline (Act 3, Scene 4)

18. "Let’s meet as little as we can."

As You Like It (Act 3, Scene 2)

19. "He has not so much brain as ear-wax."

Troilus and Cressida (Act 5, Scene 1)

20. "Thou art a boil, a plague sore, an embossed carbuncle in my corrupted blood."

King Lear (Act 2, Scene 2)

21. "I do wish thou were a dog, that I might love thee."

Timon of Athens (Act 4, Scene 4)

22. "That kiss is as comfortless as frozen water to a starved snake."

Titus Andronicus (Act 3, Scene 1)

23. "Truly, thou are damned, like an ill-roasted egg, all on one side."

As You Like It (Act 3, Scene 2)

24. “You starvelling, you eel-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, you bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish–O for breath to utter what is like thee!-you tailor’s-yard, you sheath, you bow-case, you vile standing tuck!”

Henry IV Part 1 (Act 2, Scene 4)

25. “Heaven truly knows that thou art false as hell”

Othello (Act 4, Scene 2)

26. “Out of my sight! Thou dost infect mine eyes.”

Richard III (Act 1, Scene 2)

27. “Here is the babe, as loathsome as a toad.”

Titus Andronicus (Act 4, Scene 3)

28. “Like the toad; ugly and venomous.”

As You Like It (Act 2, Scene 1`)

29. “I must tell you friendly in your ear, sell when you can, you are not for all markets.”

As You Like It (Act 3 Scene 5)

30. “Thou art unfit for any place but hell.”

Richard III (Act 1 Scene 2)

31. “Methink’st thou art a general offence and every man should beat thee.”

All’s Well That Ends Well (Act 2, Scene 3)

32. "Villain, I have done thy mother."

Titus Andronicus (Act 4, Scene 2)

(Yes, Shakespeare really did a "yo mama" joke.)

33. “Away, you three-inch fool! “

The Taming of the Shrew (Act 4, Scene 1)

34. “Come, come, you froward and unable worms!”

The Taming Of The Shrew (Act 5, Scene 2)

35. “You scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe!”

Henry IV Part 2 (Act 2, Scene 1)