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Learn English through Insults by Shakespeare


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Why do we cringe when we hear "Shakespeare?"

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If you ask me, it's usually because of his words.

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All those thines and thous and therefores

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and wherefore-art-thous can be more than a little annoying.

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But you have to wonder, why is he so popular?

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Why have his plays been made and remade more than any other playwright?

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It's because of his words.

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Back in the late 1500s and early 1600s,

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that was the best tool that a person had,

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and there was a lot to talk about.

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However, most of it was pretty depressing.

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You know, with the Black Plague and all.

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Shakespeare does use a lot of words.

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One of his most impressive accomplishments is his use of insults.

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They would unify the entire audience;

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and no matter where you sat, you could laugh at what was going on onstage.

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Words, specifically dialogue in a drama setting,

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are used for many different reasons:

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to set the mood of the scene,

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to give some more atmosphere to the setting,

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and to develop relationships between characters.

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Insults do this in a very short and sharp way.

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Let's first go to "Hamlet."

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Right before this dialogue,

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Polonius is the father of Ophelia, who is in love with Prince Hamlet.

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King Claudius is trying to figure out why Prince Hamlet is acting so crazy

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since the king married Prince Hamlet's mother.

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Polonius offers to use his daughter to get information from Prince Hamlet.

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Then we go into Act II Scene 2.

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Polonius: "Do you know me, my lord?"

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Hamlet: "Excellent well. You're a fishmonger."

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Polonius: "Not I, my lord."

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Hamlet: "Then I would you were so honest a man."