April 23rd is Shakespeare’s birthday and death date. Well, the birth date is disputed but we’ll call it close enough. What better way to honor the great bard’s life than to let off steam with some Shakespearean insults?
I confess I totally stole (ahem, borrowed with permission) this idea from one of my blogging friends, Jeri. She ran a post today inviting her readers to create their own insults and hurl them at her. Jeri used to be an English teacher who became a writer and editor, so it makes sense for her to bring Shakespeare into the picture. But why me? What does conflict have to do with it?
Let me explain.
Another blogging friend, Laura, (I love this part of the blogosphere) sent Jeri and me a packet of Shakespearean Insult Bubble Gum a while back. Being of zany mind and foolish daring-do, I took these packs into a meeting I was facilitating the following week. I included them along with stress balls and over-sized paperclips for participants who just have to have something to fiddle with to help them focus.
I told the group if they felt a need to let off some steam, Shakespeare offers some of the most witty and colorful ways to do it.
After this, you’ll want to reread (or read, as the case may be) Shakespeare’s plays just for the insults he has his characters blurting out. Or, I suppose, you could take the lazy way out like me and get a book of his insults. I promise you, they’re entertaining. You don’t even have to understand the exact meanings of his word choices (many of which he made up) to appreciate them and get a good chuckle.
Now this group I was facilitating was new to me except for its leaders. I wasn’t sure how they would react to the idea of tossing out insults at each other, even if it was all in good fun. Besides, I was there because the group had some serious challenges to tackle.
People played with the paper clips. They squeezed stress balls. A couple of them stretched against the wall to let the kinks out of their backs and ignite their brain’s synapses. But no one picked up an insult or chewed bubble gum.
After a tense interchange and a break, I handed several people an insult each to read out loud. They had to read them at least twice. Once to get used to the language. The second time, with drama, to really hear it and laugh. Shakespeare did have a way with words.
It was just the right ice breaker at the right time.
Humor and playfulness, inserted thoughtfully into a challenging situation, can release tension and open the way for productive dialogue.
Jeri created a table of many of Shakespeare’s words from which to make up our own insults. She graciously allowed me to use it for us to play with here.
Let’s share insults in the comments section. You write me one and I’ll hurl one right back at ‘ya.
- Just for fun.
- To honor Shakespeare.
- For practice because who knows when one of these witticisms might come in handy.
- And for you to use as a tension-breaker in a meeting of your own some day.
Make your own Shakespearean insults by combining one word from each of the three columns. Preface it with the word thou.
Example: Thou artless claybrained footlicker.
Table formatted by Jeri Walker-Bickett. Website: jeriwb.com
Come on now, thou loggerheaded tickle-brained flap-dragons. Hurl away. I dare you. I double dare you.
Besides, you don’t want Jeri’s readers to get the best of us, now do you?
Photo credits: Jagoda Perich-Anderson