Professor Commemorates 400th Anniversary of the Bard’s Death by Creating Shakespeare Insults Coloring Book


SILVER SPRING, Md., April 14, 2016 — A Massachusetts English professor has created a coloring book that illustrates 30 memorable insults from William Shakespeare’s plays. The book’s release coincides with this month’s commemorations of the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death and the observance of his birthday, both April 23rd. Author Patricia Crouch says she hopes The Shakespeare Insults Coloring Book will help its modern audience connect to Shakespeare through laughter while also provoking questions about the power that words have—both to entertain and to wound.


Choosing to commemorate the anniversary of a great man’s death with insults rather than praise may seem odd, but Crouch, an Associate Professor of English at Framingham State University, notes that much of Shakespeare’s most inventive and memorable language is in keeping with the rhetorical traditions of early modern invective rather than encomium. “Let’s face it,” she says. “As Northrop Frye once astutely pointed out, ‘invective is one of the most readable forms of literary art, just as panegyric is one of the dullest.’”


Crouch says that while the more humorous aspects of The Shakespeare Insults Coloring Book are designed to lure in and entertain a modern audience, the book can also be used to facilitate discussions on college campuses and elsewhere about the aggression that the language of insult encodes.


In choosing quotes to include in the coloring book, the author’s main criteria were cleverness and vividness of expression rather than vitriol. Many selections insult personal traits, whether physical, moral, or intellectual. Addressees are mocked for being short (“three-inch fool”), ugly (“scratching could not make it worse . . . such a face as yours”), cowardly (“cream-faced loon”), drunken (“drunkenness is his best virtue”), inept (“infant-like”), and adulterous (“a hobby-horse”). Several denigrate their subjects by associating them with disease, animals, or hell.


Only a few of the insults are likely to seem provocative in today’s climate: there are two fat jokes plus a quote from Macbeth in which the witches are accused of being unfeminine because they are “bearded.” Crouch defends her inclusion of these insults, though she admits some may find them offensive. “As a college professor who teaches sixteenth- and seventeenth-century British authors who often openly voice misogynistic, racist, and other intolerant ideas, I’m always grappling with how to address such language with my students,” she says. “If one of their classmates jokingly insulted someone on the basis of their gender, weight, or the like, clearly that would be unacceptable. But what if a character in Shakespeare does it? How do we talk about that? Does reading or discussing the insult somehow have the effect of reenacting the original aggression, or does it strip the insult of its power? I think that these are the kinds of questions we need to think about.”


Many of the illustrations that accompany the quotations are based on early British engravings, drawings, and other works of art. As such, the book gives a nod to the early modern culture of imitation, in which artists like Shakespeare copied or borrowed from earlier sources and remade them as new works that were seen to assert their own originality. Scenes are adapted from works as diverse as psalters, medical treatises, medieval apocalypses, natural histories, bestiaries, paintings, and witchcraft compendiums.


More information about The Shakespeare Insults Coloring Book, including a gallery of images from the book and free downloadable sample pages that can be printed and colored, is available at or from the Gumdrop Press website.


The book is available for sale on Amazon and will soon move into expanded distribution.


About the Author


Patricia Crouch is Associate Professor of English at Framingham State University, Framingham, Massachusetts, where she teaches early modern British literature, including Shakespeare. She received her Ph. D. from Temple University in Philadelphia. Her scholarly work has been published in Milton Studies, English Literary Renaissance (ELR), and elsewhere.


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