‘Thou puny, plume-plucked puttock’: Aiken High students swap Shakespearean insults

By Larry Wood for the Aiken Standard


Using only language, students in Katie Collins’ English I classes at Aiken High School learned a sharp tongue can cut as deeply as a steel blade.

As part of a Shakespeare residency program led by local actress Dottie Allen, the students acted out Act 1, Scene 1 of “Romeo and Juliet” in class, but instead of ending the scene in a street fight with physical violence, as the Bard did, the students chose words to wound their victims.

“Dottie gave my students a list of Shakespearean words in three different columns, and they chose one word from each list to create their own Shakespearean insults,” Collins said. “They are funny.”

Creative combinations ruled, and the students rose to the challenge, as Benvolio of the Montagues did to Gregory of the Capulets in the play, with insults such as “Thou churlish, rump-fed pignut,” “Thou villainous, swag-bellied foot-licker” and “Thou mewling, fly-bitten maggot-pie.”

The exercise also fit perfectly with a lesson Collins has been teaching her students since the start of school.

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