Home > Multimedia Essays > “You suck” is just too “lame”

“You suck” is just too “lame”

By Mikaela J. Sumulong [II AB Psychology]

A look into Shakespearean insult and how it lives on today.

            William Shakespeare is obviously well known for his colorful and flowery words which sparked, in our generation, a new industry focusing on the art of making ‘Shakespeare for Dummies’ or how to make Shakespeare relevantly interesting to the youth. However, even if Shakespeare’s language elicits a kind of apprehension from anyone ‘forced’ to take it, his ingenuity remains.

His use of words, when shelled and broken down, does not only inflict a ‘head-over-heels’ and ‘red on the face’ reaction, but rather they also bring a whole new level in the insults of enthusiasts who love sounding smart while bringing down someone a peg or two. This then brings to my attention the wonderful world of Shakespeare’s insults, and how it is perceived or expressed.

Shakespeare’s insults have become part of a new way of engaging the youth into Shakespearean culture. It is a means of integrating humorous insult into the way Shakespeare is tackled in the classroom. This educational video briefly mentions the truth that insult was a great factor in engaging Shakespeare’s audiences during the Elizabethan period:

            When we think about it, the same kind of engagement can be utilized to teach today’s young people about Shakespeare. Some English classes have started, though I’m not sure if it’s effective. It can be fun though:

             Shakespeare’s insults can also be used by someone trying to humorously make a point about how “lame” insults have presently turned out (The topic about insults is brought into the video by 1:17):

            “I think you’re a herd of boils and plagues” does sound more intimidating and more slighting that just sticking to “you suck”.

By the way, you know how in movies, the lead kind of contemplates about the path he or she might take, and someone comes along and tells them they believe in the lead? Then that inspiring scene somehow makes the supporting character say something motivational along the lines of, “They shall write songs about you”?  Well, here is a song made out of Shakespeare’s insults:

              All these examples then prove that Shakespeare does offer a kind of class that truly transcends generations. A class which not only affects how romance is perceived, but also the kind of words that displays our intellectual capacity to make effective comebacks or insults. I mean, offensive language is initially a display of classlessness, right? So “cheers!” to Shakespeare for making a ‘revolutionary’ way of telling someone they’re “stupid”. So in other words, Shakespeare insults create a TOTAL effective:

I mean, there are just so many ways Shakespearean insult is celebrated. These can be seen in shirt products:

Insult generating applications:

Internet memes or images:

And even in playing cards:

However, my personal favorite, the most amazing way it’s presently shown is through this wonderfully edible product:

Thy breath stinks with eating toasted cheese.”

Yes, can you believe it? Shakespeare made it in the candy business selling ‘insulting’ bubble gum! The power of Shakespeare, hence, is truly amazing. His transmedial reach then makes him a marketable commodity. In a way, Shakespeare has become a brand, nay, an icon that which can be separated from the literary works for which he is ultimately famous for.

What does this suggest then about the kind of image Shakespeare now portrays? Do these diverse capitalistic approaches somehow threaten the dignity of Shakespeare and his works? Or does it help market the ‘intimidating’ and ‘inaccessible’ Elizabethan culture to the young who seem to display apprehension toward the topic of Shakespeare?

More questions are then asked, and many answers shall be provided for by more critical and learned minds. In my own miniscule knowledge of Shakespeare, I refuse to tempt a ‘know-it-all’ posterior, because I can honestly say that the answers to the difficult questions I raised are beyond my expertise (and I am no expert in the first place).

So I leave you with this simple, somewhat superficial and socially relevant lesson of this multi-media essay: The next time a half-witted homo sapien tries to get the better of you, try to emulate Shakespeare and whip at the person with the old bard’s insulting words.


Categories: Multimedia Essays
  1. October 5, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    i really enjoyed reading this article and watching video clips. it gave me a lot of insight about the use of Shakespeare’s words and how it’s used in various forms

  2. ivanamabunay
    October 6, 2012 at 11:05 am

    This was very fun and insightful to read. I think that the effort you put into insulting someone is equated to how much you the want the curse to make an impact on the person. However, when you try to make it more witty like in this case, the goal is somewhat changed. Instead of trying to hurt the person, you’re just making him not completely understand what you’re talking about (even though the person has an idea that what you said was obviously negative). In this way, the insult is more for your own benefit. I think that this is most effective for emotionally coping, which I think should be the aim of insulting should it really be inevitable. Instead of targeting the faults and insecurities of the person, one should discover the beauty of the language and use it to emotionally cope with a situation wherein one is ticked off.

  3. October 7, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    i somewhat agree with the previous comment. using shakespearean insults in modern day is something similar to cursing someone in another language (hopefully, one they do not understand); it’s aim is not a directly to offend, but more like an ‘in-my-head-i’m-shooting you’ type of thing.
    -julian chu

  4. October 10, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Somehow, I find these Shakespearean insults less grave and offensive than that of modern day ones simply because it would just be plain outrageous to utter such words today. I somehow picture people to only be using these kinds of insults as forms of intellectual folly and the like. Either way, this is quite the eye-opener.

  5. October 10, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Even though the characters are trying to insult someone, they still sound so classy and elegant. Compared to insults of today that are just filled with trash talking and curse words, the insults by Shakespeare sound like it comes from a very well educated and classy person. Maybe it’s just because of the word choices that Shakespeare uses and the time and culture differences. Many of the words he uses are not used in casual conversations today.

  6. tomgoodstudent
    October 12, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Ah, Shakespearean insults… I remember when i was in grade school (true story!) i tried to get back at a bully by sending him Shakespearean insults made through an online generator. I think the language was a little too complex for our young minds but it still brought the point home. Shakespeare’s language really is something else.

  7. October 15, 2012 at 12:22 am

    This article is really funny and interesting. I think Shakespeare insults won’t be much of an insult to people who haven’t read Shakespeare’s work. They’d react in confusion or just laugh at your sad attempt of giving them a witty or “nerdy” insult. There isn’t much of a “Burn!” factor to those who don’t grasp the idea of Shakespeare’s language. Nonetheless it would really be funny to hear two people exchanging such insults and would really show their knowledge and fluency with regard to Shakespeare.

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