I remember seeing somewhere a volume entitled – and gathering – Shakespeare’s Rudest Insults, a handy compendium if you ever wanted to overwhelm an opponent with colourful Elizabethan invective – ‘The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon’, from Macbeth, being a relatively modest example. Try using that as a greeting next time someone knocks on your office door at work!
Could such a volume be compiled from Morris’s works, and if so, what might it include? One obvious candidate would be Jack Straw’s contemptuous call to the spokesperson of the lords, knights, bailiffs and lawyers in the opening battle of A Dream of John Ball: ‘hearken, thou bastard of an inky sheep-skin!’ (ch.VI) – which would certainly have been a satisfying formulation to throw at Chancellor George Osborne after his Comprehensive Spending Review speech in the House of Commons (or Dung-Market) the other day.
But there must be many others (from both life and works), so could we between us come up with a full list of Morris’s Rudest Insults to match Shakespeare’s?