Shakespearean Smackdowns!

By Chris B. Wed, April 9, 2014

As you may know from the buzz around the libraries, this April marks the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare's birth. And while Will may be celebrated for his comedies, tragedies, historical plays and sonnets, the Wadsworth Library decided to honor his ability to throw some serious shade. Yes, insults can be hurtful in real life. But sometimes, someone says something so witty and funny that you can't help but laugh. William Shakespeare was the master of the well-turned, direct, and witty line. He simultaneously made you think and made you chuckle at his word play. If you throw a quote of his at a friend (or frienemy), you can immediately stop them in their tracks and think, "Hang on a second... Was I just insulted?"

Here are some of our favorite lines. Stop by Wadsworth Library to see the full list of Shakespearean Smackdowns:

“I do desire we may be better strangers.” From As You Like It (Act 3, Scene 2)

“I’ll beat thee, but I should infect my hands.” From Timon of Athens (Act 4, Scene 3)

“They lie deadly that tell you have good faces.” From Coriolanus (Act 2, Scene 1)

“A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; base, proud, shallow, beggarly three-suited, hundred pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave.”  From Henry VIII (Act 1, Part 1)

To celebrate Shakespeare in all of his witty glory, we first made the ruffled collars pictured. (If you're going to play the Elizabethan dozens, you've GOT to look the part.) You can make a collar at home. They're really easy to make! Ours are made out of coffee filters and a paper plate. To start, fold the paper plate in half. Cut out the center section to create a ring. Now cut along one of the folded sections of the ring. This will open the ring up and make it easier to put around your neck.

For the next step, you're going to need some coffee filters. Take a filter and fold it in half. Now fold this in a half again so the coffee filter is quartered. Repeat this step six times so you have six folded coffee filters. Stack the six and staple them to the paper plate ring. If you stack the filters a little unevenly, they’ll make the ruff seem fuller when it’s complete.

Keep folding and attaching the filters as you work your way around the ring. When you’re done, gently fluff up the filter edges. Ta-da! You have a ruffled collar! Wear it to your next cocktail party to impress your friends.

Now on to the fun part – the Shakespearean Smackdown! We created a handout for the kids to create their own Shakespearean smack-talk. We used some of the words found in Shakespeare’s various works. You can print out your own PDF copy here.

Everyone took turns practicing their smackdowns.  We recorded a couple because they were just so good!

Here is Tavier giving his best smackdown!

And here is Tashanti’s cool and regal reply!

We had a blast laughing at some of the strings of words the kids created. They enjoyed sounding out some of the unfamiliar words and creating stings of crazy insults.

Now that you have your collar and a copy of the list, give it a try. And while you’re rolling some well-created phrase off your tongue, remember to wish Will a happy birthday!

Wadsworth Library's supervisor models one of the ruffled collars.
Wadsworth Library's supervisor models one of the ruffled collars.
The Bulletin Board at Wadsworth Library.
The Bulletin Board at Wadsworth Library.
An engraving of Shakespeare by Martin Droeshout, as found on the cover of the First Folio.  It was engraved in 1622.
An engraving of Shakespeare by Martin Droeshout, as found on the cover of the First Folio. It was engraved in 1622.

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