Shakespearean Insults: Background information when reading Hag-Seed

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Hag-Seed

Hogarth Shakespeare

by Margaret Atwood

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
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  • Published:
    Oct 2016, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
James Broderick

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Shakespearean Insults

"You taught me language. And my profit on't is, I know how to curse." That's the lament of Caliban, the resident savage of Shakespeare's The Tempest, but it's also the the savvy modern reader's takeaway of Shakespeare's plays. Among the linguistic legacies of Shakespeare, eloquent and eclectic cursing and insults must certainly be included.

The man knew how to cut someone down to size ("Away, you three inch fool!") with a dazzling array of metaphorical maliciousness ("You are now sailed into the north of my ladies opinion, where you will hang like an icicle on a Dutchman's beard.") and poeticized putdowns ("Thou clay-brained guts, thou knotty-pated fool, thou whoreson obscene greasy tallow-catch!")

As Eric Partridge noted in his classic study Shakespeare's Bawdy, impolite situations seemed to bring out a side of Shakespeare that is "broad, ribald, healthily coarse, unsqueamishly natural, and unaffectedly humorous." That blend of coarseness and humor is put to good use in Margaret...

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