RAMON PRESSON: Shakespeare’s guide to digs, slams, and insults


RAMON PRESSON: Shakespeare’s guide to digs, slams, and insults

Donald Trump frequently presents us with a figure who is a cross between a trash-talking professional wrestler and a carnival worker in the dunk tank who provokes customers with insults.

Not many mornings go by without a Trump tweet or two that insults or mocks someone in his ever-growing list of verbal targets. Nary a campaign speech, rally speech, press conference, or interview is void of a dig aimed at someone. I started to list a few examples and soon realized the task is akin to selecting a few snowflakes from an avalanche.

I’ve noticed, however, that Trump isn’t highly creative in his sarcasm and insults.

Perhaps that is due to Imagination Fatigue. When you’ve made as many enemies and critics as Donald Trump has in just a few years, and when you feel compelled to answer every public criticism and critic with a snarky retort, it’s almost a given that the well of
witty comebacks will soon be drained dry.

Try a literary lambasting

To keep from repeating the same familiar and tired phrases and to renew our appreciation for 16th-century British literature, President Trump might consider lifting some of William Shakespeare’s best biting one-liners from his famous plays.

Here are some suggestions:

“Thou art a wretched puling fool, a whining mammet.” (Romeo & Juliet)

“Thou hast not so much brain as earwax.” (Troilus and Cressida)

“Go thou and fill another room in hell.” (Richard II)

“I’ll beat thee, but I should infect my hands.” (Timothy of Athens)

“A most notable coward, an infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise breaker, the owner of no good quality.” (All’s Well That Ends Well)

“Thou art a beetle-headed flap-eared knave!” (The Taming of the Shrew)

“Poisonous bunch-backed toad!” (Richard III)

“More of your conversation would infect my brain.” (The Comedy of Errors)

“The rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended a nostril.” (The Merry Wives of Windsor)

Henry, King of Jabs

The following insults are from Henry IV alone, and this is just a sampling of zingers from Shakespeare’s historic drama about the English king. There’s so many tongue lashings in the script that it makes you wonder if Will was working out some deep personal resentments with quill in hand.

“Away, you starveling, you elf-skin, you dried neat’s tongue, you bull’s pizzle, you stock fish!”

“…that bolting-hutch of beastliness, that swollen parcel of dropsies, that huge bombard of sack, that stuff cloak-bag of guts, that roasted Manningtree of ox with pudding in his belly…”

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

“Thou clay-brained guts, thou knotty patted fool, thou whoreson obscene greasy tallow-catch!”

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

“I’ll tickle your catastrophe!” I adore that threat as the finale because it’s wonderfully unexpected in its playful politeness. It sounds more Monty Python than William Shakespeare.

What if I be thine target

So, it would be great if I could convince the President to upgrade his lexicon of ordinary insults to something more creative, rising to the use of inspired words and phrases that would send us scrambling to the dictionary for understanding.

And if by chance, Mr. Trump were to aim one of his flaming verbal arrows at me in retaliation for this piece of satire, how would I respond?

Thusly …

“Away, you three-inch fool! I scorn you, scurvy companion. The tartness of your face sours ripened grapes. I am sick when I do look on thee. Thy wit is as thick as
Tewkesbury mustard. Thy brain is as dry as the remainder biscuit after voyage. Thou art a boil, a plague sore. Thou damned and luxurious mountain goat. Thou elvish marked, abortive, rooting hog. Thou cream-faced loon. Thy tongue out-venoms all the worms of Nile. Thy sins are not accidental, but a trade. You poor, base, rascally, cheating lack-linen mate. Thou subtle, perjured, false, disloyal man. There is no more faith in thee than in a stewed prune. You are as a candle, the better burnt out.” *

Or something like that.

(*All lines in this paragraph are exact quotes from various Shakespeare plays.)

Ramon Presson, PhD, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Franklin (www.ramonpressontherapy.com) and the author of several books. Reach him at
ramonpresson@gmail.com. To read Presson’s previous columns go to www.franklinhomepage.com/?s=ramon+presson

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