Shakespeare: The Bard's Guide to Abuses and Affronts


Edited and translated by Running Press

Edited by Running Press

Formats and Prices




$4.99 CAD




ebook $3.99 $4.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around February 25, 2014. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Baffle your friends with your erudite knowledge of Shakespearean English, all while casually insulting them. This deluxe collection of Shakespeare’s most dazzling insults is neatly separated into sections for quick retrieval when a stinging retort is demanded. Become the master of your own villainy with creative insults that will show those rogues and ruffians who’s in charge!



WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE IS THE most studied writer in the history of Western civilization. His body of work includes thirty-eight plays, 154 sonnets, and two epic narrative poems. And it’s not like he lived to be 100, or anything. But even if he had, I think we can all agree that the man was insanely prolific—and wildly successful in his lifetime. To the people of Elizabethan England, he was a rock star. Think of the popularity of J. K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey, Elvis, and the Beatles—combined.

Even if you’ve never read any of Shakespeare’s works, you’ve probably quoted him countless times without even knowing it. His words are so timeless, so universal that, over the centuries, they have seamlessly integrated into our lexicon.

Surely you’ve called something “a sorry sight.” That’s from Macbeth, as is “as pure as the driven snow.” Bet the last time you said that you hadn’t “slept one wink,” you didn’t realize you were quoting Cymbeline. Ever been “in a pickle”? Well, so was Trinculo in The Tempest. And a “wild goose chase”? That one’s from Romeo and Juliet.

But most importantly—for our purposes, anyway—Shakespeare was king of the comeback. His more temper-prone characters—from Hamlet to Shylock to Lady Macbeth to just about any and all of the King Henrys—didn’t hold their tongues when they were annoyed, hardly ever hesitating before doling out verbal lashings left and right. And yes, he will go there . . . openly issuing jabs at beauty (or lack thereof), bodily odors, and practically initiating the “your momma . . .” insult that still prevails on elementary school playgrounds to this day.

For all of Shakespeare’s words and phrases that are still in frequent use today, there are still many more that have, sadly, fallen by the wayside over the past 400 years. Let’s bring them back: knave, churl, white liver’d, sodden-witted, beef-witted, and, of course, a bull’s pizzle. Try tossing out one of these next time you find yourself in a heated discussion, and then, well, it’ll pretty much be checkmate for you, my friend.

Evidently, Shakespeare garnered envy early on for his talent and success—critic Robert Greene referred to him in 1892 as “an upstart Crow”—but his biting wit and dexterity with insults surely left more than one of these critics speechless. From attacks on boorishness to stinging critiques of character and false faith, the masterfully composed affronts are deftly integrated into his plays, securing Shakespeare’s spot as the sixteenth century’s master of repartee—and bringing welcome moments of levity to even the darkest and most tragic of his tragedies.

Presented here are 133 razor-sharp gibes straight from the pen of the Bard himself. The insults and jabs that peppered his plays are neatly compiled—and strategically organized by topic, for super-quick reference—in this handy, portable tome. Whether you’re dealing with an imbecile, a hypocrite, an egoist, an unwelcome flirt, a villain, any sort of pest—or any combination of these—with this book, you’ll never find yourself without a comeback again.


IN 1623, DRAMATIST BEN JONSON said of Shakespeare: “He was not of an age, but for all time.” Boy was that a keen and prescient observation, but perhaps even Jonson would be surprised by just how widely read Shakespeare’s plays are more than 400 years after they were written—or by the lingering potency of his still-scathing insults.

We actually don’t know too much about William Shakespeare’s life (definitively speaking), aside from information found in public records. The son of John Shakespeare (a successful glove maker and community leader who later fell upon hard times) and Mary (Arden) Shakespeare (daughter of a wealthy landowner), William was baptized in Stratford, England (about ninety miles outside of London), on April 26, 1564. He was their third child, but the first to make it out of infancy alive. Although no school records from this time exist, most agree that due to his relatively well-to-do family, it is likely that Shakespeare was a student at King Edward VI Grammar School in Stratford, where he would have learned Latin and literature. There are no records indicating his having attended university.

In 1582, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, a farmer’s daughter who was 26 and already pregnant with their first child at the time of their union. He was only eighteen at the time, which was considered a minor, so the marriage required the written consent of his parents. Daughter Susanna was born on May 26, 1583. Twins Hamnet and Judith followed less than two years later on February 2, 1585. (Sadly, Hamnet later died at age 11.) They had no more children, most likely due to the fact that Shakespeare soon after moved to London—then a thriving city of between 150,000 and 200,000 residents and where he would live over the next twenty years—leaving his family behind in Stratford, though still taking care of them financially. He even took care of his folks, likely paying the fees for his father to be granted a family coat of arms in 1596.

What exactly Shakespeare was doing (and where) between the years 1585 and 1592 is somewhat of a mystery, leading many scholars to refer to this period as “the lost years.” Speculation regarding what he may have spent those years doing includes: traveling the continent; studying law; teaching; and apprenticing with a butcher. We do know, though, that by the time 1592 rolled around, he had written at least three plays, one of which—Henry VI, Part I—was a smashing success, performed nightly to audiences of between 2,000 and 3,000 people. Half of these attendees stood (for many hours!) and were called “groundlings.” The rest of the audience sat in more expensive seats in three galleries.

Shakespeare first garnered wide recognition for his poetry, though, and his very first publication was a nearly 1,200-line poem called Venus and Adonis in 1593, which was wildly popular. It was dedicated to his patron, Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton. The earl was young, wealthy, literary minded, and apparently bisexual. Naturally, there is much speculation as to the true nature of his relationship with Shakespeare. Were they lovers?

In the early and mid 1590s, Shakespeare was a rising star—as an actor and playwright—in London’s bustling theater scene. Unfortunately, in that same year, the theaters in London were ordered to be closed down and remained closed for nearly two years, due to a nasty outbreak of the plague.


On Sale
Feb 25, 2014
Page Count
208 pages
RP Minis