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Shakespeare & Beyond

Shakespeare Lines for Evil Laughter

It’s almost spooky season and our friends at DC Public Library are getting into the spirit with their second annual Evil Laugh Contest. Through October 21, you can submit a 10-second video of yourself delivering your most spine-tingling laugh for a chance to win in categories such as Best Vocals, Art Direction, and Dramatic Performance.

To help you prepare your best cackles, chortles, and maniacal chuckles, we’ve combed through Shakespeare’s plays for some deviously delightful lines you can use in your performance.

A black and white etching of leaning gravestones in a clearing

Detail from Anonymous. Hamlet’s Grave. 1767. Folger Shakespeare Library: ART File S528h1 no.97 (size XS).

Set the scene

Are you in a gloomy castle, a mysterious lair, or a secret lab? Talking to a henchmen, a crowd, or to yourself in the mirror? These lines will help you create the proper atmosphere.

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
—Macbeth (4.1.44)

’Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn . . .
— Hamlet (3.2.419)

Hear me, you wrangling pirates, that fall out
In sharing that which you have pilled from me!
Which of you trembles not that looks on me?
Richard III (1.3.162)

Detail from Henry Linton, after John Hennessy. Edwin Booth as Richard III. 1872. Folger Shakespeare Library: ART File B725.4 no.82 (size XS).

Declare yourself the villain

The most fun evil doers are those that revel in their naughtiness. These lines will leave no doubt as to which side you’re on.

And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determinèd to prove a villain
—Richard III (1.1.28)

In this, though I cannot be said to be
a flattering honest man, it must not be denied but I
am a plain-dealing villain.
—Much Ado About Nothing (1.3.28)

Of course, while these lines are great set-ups to your best evil laugh, not all of these lines come from villains plotting nefarious deeds. To read them in the context of their plays, visit The Folger Shakespeare.

And keep laughing!


I’d suggest a different quote from Richard III:

“Was ever woman in such a humor wooed?
“Was ever woman in such a humor won?
“I’ll have her, but I will not keep her long.”

David Jack Kenny — September 28, 2022