Shakespearean Compliments

The Cobbe Portrait, William Shakespeare

A few days ago, Buzzfeed posted an article (do we call those things articles? I’ve heard the term listicle thrown around, but that doesn’t do it justice either. It’s just a page full of animated gifs with very limited words and no critical analysis. I digress…) titled 15 Shakespearean Insults to Replace Your Boring Ones and have also put together other similar articles like 17 Shakespearean Insults to Unleash In Everyday Life.

So, Buzzfeed, what’s up with all of this negativity? Shakespeare did more than just insult people. Shakespeare was a poet as well as a playwright and often wrote poems praising the person within the poem with some pretty and nice language. Shakespeare was good at complimenting people, too.

Here are some of my favorite Shakespearean compliments.

“I might call him / A thing divine, for nothing natural / I ever saw so noble.” – The Tempest

Translation: You’re too good to be human, so you must be something heavenly.

Usage: Heck, if someone looks especially good that day this is a great compliment to pay them.

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” – As You Like It

Translation: Fools think they are smart, and smart people know they are fools.

Usage: Ever do something dumb or see a friend do something dumb and try to reassure them it’s cool? This quote will do that for you. We all do silly things, it’s part of being human and recognizing that makes us wise.

“Though she be but little, she is fierce!” – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Translation: Don’t be fooled by her size. She’s got strength.

Usage: If you have a friend that plays sports or is good at debate or just downright awesome but smaller in stature than those around them, this quote is a great way of playing up the fact that size doesn’t indicate ability in any of these areas.

“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.” – The Merchant of Venice

Translation: One good deed lights up a world of darkness.

Usage: Heck, if someone does something nice for you, this is a great way of showing you their actions are appreciated.

“Sweets to the sweet.” – Hamlet

Translation: Unnecessary, honestly. We all get this one.

Usage: When you give a person candy or something sweet. I bet many of us have heard this one or even used it without realizing its origins.

So for each Shakespearean insult from Buzzfeed you go out and use today, try to balance it a little with a Shakespearean compliment.


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