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! (Halstaff) 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: