3.3.2 'Creative' insults in Shakespeare’s plays:

In Early Modern English fiction and drama insults are a frequent occurence. Especially in Shakespeare’s plays we can find various creative and original ways of name-calling. Most of them combine two adjectives or participles and a non epithe after thou.

 Thou curlish toad-spotted nut-hook! (As you like it)

 Why thou clay-brained guts, 
 thou knotty-pated fool, 
 thou whoreson, obscene, greasy tallow-catch,
 This sanguine coward, this bed-presser, this horse-back-breaker this huge hill of flesh! 

 Thou damned tripe-visaged rascal (Henry IV)

 You blue-bottled rough (Henry IV)

  Thou errant ill-breeding canker-blossom

  Thou mammering gutzs-griping haggard

  Thou art a dull and muddy-mettled rascal

In these phrases, the second person singular seems to be a marked form of address, and in some cases the use of the pronoun could itself be an insults, as it may contain a predication about the social status of the target (Jucker/Taavistsainen 2000:84).

Indeed, we can learn much from Shakespeare concerning creativity in the production of insults. There are over 4000 individual insulting instances in Shakespeare’s plays, while name-calling seems to be the most common typ of insults in those plays.

On the internet, there are many webpages dealing with Shakespearean insults. Take a look at the following examples: