A quick inspirational glance at my shelves led me to pull out Discover Your Genius: How to Think Like History’s Ten Most Revolutionary Minds by Michael Gelb. Now we might have a bit of a quibble about some of his choices, but it’s hard to fault his citing the Immortal Bard as a shining example of “Cultivating Emotional Intelligence.” In this chapter, he extols the sheer scope of Shakespeare’s writing and the wellspring of creativity his plays and sonnets have sparked.
For some unknown reason, Michael’s list of “Top Ten Shakespearean Insults” captured my imagination. For sheer verbal energy and imagination, they are hard to beat:
1. Go thou, and fill another room in hell.
2. Thou clay-brained guts, thou knotty-pated fool, thou whoreson obscene
greasy tallow catch.
3. Thou slander of they heavy mother’s womb! Thou loathed issue of thy
4. You are as a candle, the better part burnt out.
5. Out, you green-sickness carrion! Out, you baggage!
6. Such a dish of skim milk…
7. Thou elvish-marked, abortive, rooting hog!
8. He has not so much brain as ear-wax.
9. Would thou wert clean enough to spit upon!
10. Oswald: What dost thou know me for?
Kent: A knave, a rascal, an eater of broken meats, a base, proud, shallow
beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy-worsted-stocking knave,
a lily-livered, action-taking, whoreson glass-gazing super-serviceable finical
rogue, one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd in way of good
service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward,
pander, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch; one whom I will beat into
clamorous whining if thou deniest the least syllable of thy addition.”
Wow, what a mouthful number 10 is — my wrist is limp just from writing it all! It’s easy to see that Shakespeare must have had a rollicking, rowdy time coming up with all this head-spinning verbal ammunition. There’s something so zesty, fresh, and fun about his playful pummeling. It reminds us how vast and rich and yeasty English is — and how much farther afield in using it we can all venture as we write on.