The evolution of profanity began in the sixteenth century, and it evolves with each generation. Profanity is recognized in many Shakespearean works, and has evolved into the profane language used today. Some cuss or curse words have somehow maintained their original meanings throughout hundreds of years, while many others have completely changed meaning or simply fallen from popular vocabulary.
William Shakespeare, though it is not widely taught, used a rather vulgar and dirty vocabulary in his writings. His works included subjects that some people wish they had not. "That includes a fair helping of sex, violence, crime, horror, politics, religion, anti-authoritarianism, anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, sexism, jealousy, profanity, satire, and controversy of all kinds" (Macrone 6). In Shakespeare's time, religious and moral curses were more offensive than biological curses.
Most original, prior to being censored, Shakespearean works contain offensive profanity, mostly religious, which is probably one of many reasons that his works were and continue to be so popular. "Shakespeare pushed a lot of buttons in his day- which is one reason he was so phenomenally popular. Despite what they tell you, people like having their buttons pushed" (Macrone 6). His works contained many profane words or phrases and as a result, were censored to protect the innocent minds of the teenagers who are now required to read them, and also because they were blasphemous and offensive. Almost all of the profanity was removed, and that that was not had just reason for being there. Some of the Bard's censored oaths are; "God's blessing on your beard"
Love's Labors Lost, II.i.203
This was a very rude curse because a man's facial hair was a point of pride for him. And "to play with someone's beard" was to insult him. "God's body"
1 Henry IV, II.i.26
Swearing by Christ's body (or any part thereof,) was off limits in civil discourse. "God's Bod(y)kins, man"
The word bod(y)kin means "little body" or "dear body," but adding the cute little suffix does not make this curse any more acceptable. "By God's [blest] mother!"
2 Henry VI, II.i;
3 Henry VI, III.ii;
Henry VIII, V.i
Swearing by the virgin was almost as rude as swearing by her son, especially when addressing a catholic cathedral as Gloucester did in 2 Henry VI, II.i
Perhaps the two worst of these Shakespearean swears were "'zounds" and "'sblood." "'Zounds" had twenty-three occurrences. Ten of them were in 1 Henry IV. The rest appear in Titus (once), Richard III (four times), Romeo and Juliet (twice), and Othello (six times). Lago and Falstaff were the worst offenders. 'Zounds has evolved into somewhat of a silly and meaningless word, but was originally horribly offensive. This oath, short for "God's wounds," was extremely offensive because references to the wounds or blood of Christ were thought especially outrageous, as they touched directly on the crucifixion. "'Sblood" had twelve occurrences in all. There were eight times in 1 Henry IV (with Falstaff accounting for six), plus once in Henry V, twice in Hamlet, and once in Othello. 'Sblood occurs less than 'zounds, but is equally offensive and means basically the same thing.
Several other words came from Great Britain, but were...