The Bard of Wit

Source: University of Essex

Source: University of Essex

You may have heard your English teachers talking about William Shakespeare. Chances are, you didn’t care. However, Shakespeare didn’t just rock the 16th century with his mad writing skills, but with his exceptional, first-rate insults as well. In this article, The Talon has compiled a list of some of his greatest insults. 

We know how much of a hassle it would be to have to decipher the quotes, which is why The Talon has decided to “modernize” them because this isn’t English class. Of course, we refrained from adding certain… inappropriate insults; Shakespeare’s language is simply too colorful for a school newspaper. Anyway, without further ado, here is a list of Shakespeare’s greatest quotes:

Ah yes, we start with Romeo and Juliet. Arguably the most famous of Shakespeare’s plays. At Graded, we are exposed to it in Freshman year, so you may remember Mercutio’s quick mouth:


ROMEO: I dreamt a dream tonight. 

MERCUTIO: And so did I. 

ROMEO: Well, what was yours?

MERCUTIO: That dreamers often lie.



ROMEO: Yoooo, I had craziest dream last night


ROMEO: Bro, what was it about?

MERCUTIO: That you’re full of it

(MERCUTIO puts on a pair of blue shades and exits)


Don’t we all need a friend like Mercutio to bring us down a notch? Poor Benvolio must have gotten a few gray hairs from having to put up with these two. 

We also have an insult from the Capulets:


TYBALT: Why, uncle, ‘tis a shame.

CAPULET: Go to, go to,

You are a saucy boy.


A saucy boy indeed. Tybalt may be a far cry from our favorite of  Shakespeare’s characters, but one could argue that, because of that, it makes for a much more gratifying quote. If you call your friend a saucy boy, you may get some questioning gazes but hey, at least you can argue that you’re quoting Shakespeare!

Two insults, both alike in dignity. Which is better? Only you, of patient ears, will tell.

Shakespeare seemed to have been very interested in the Kings of England, to the point where he’d write a play on the famous Henrys, just to spice things up a little. So, it’s only natural that we include this ingenious quote from Henry IV (aka, the one before Timothée Chalamet). This is one of the plays we don’t read during high school and after taking a look at some of this serious smack talk, we understood why. How could we write an essay analyzing it when all we can think about is the “thou paper-faced villain” line? Though this play is littered with lines that could verbally slap the receiver, we have narrowed it down to the best one. 

After being threatened to get thrown into a gutter, Mistress Quickly fires back a quick (haha) witted retort:


MISTRESS QUICKLY: Throw me in the channel? I’ll throw thee in the channel. Wilt

thou, wilt thou, thou [we are censoring this part] rogue?—Murder, murder!—

Ah, thou honeysuckle villain, wilt thou kill God’s officers

and the King’s? Ah, thou honeyseed rogue, thou art a

honeyseed, a man-queller, and a woman-queller.



MISTRESS QUICKLY: Throw me into a gutter? I’m gonna throw you in a gutter. Will you, will you, you deceptive [censored]? —Murder, murder!— Oh, you homicidal villain, will you kill God’s officers and the King’s as well? Oh, you treacherous honeyseed! You are a honeyseed, man-killer, and a woman-killer.


It turns out Mistress Quickly had a lot to say. Let’s be honest: nobody likes getting thrown into a gutter. If anybody in Shakespeare’s plays can pack a mean punch, it’s Mistress Quickly (though we still don’t know what a “honeyseed” is, exactly). 

And finally, we have the cream of the crop. It would not have been a true list of Shakespeare’s insults without these:


SON: Thou liest, thou shag-haired villain!

FIRST MURDERER:       What, you egg?

(stabbing him.) You young fry of treachery!


Goodness, Macbeth is a wild ride. Next time you get mad at somebody, just call them an egg. It may not be commonly used anymore, but last time we checked, being called an egg is still not desirable. 

Now that you know how to defend your honor in true Shakespearean fashion, maybe you’ll be encouraged to look out for some new ones when the Shakespeare English unit rolls around. And though we didn’t mention it, Othello has insults as well (so keep your eyes peeled Sophomores). The moral of this article: Shakespeare was not just some old guy who wrote sonnets and love stories; he was also a master at slandering his own fictional characters.