I came across this phrase twice while reading the play Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare in the following contexts:

1 - "Out upon it old carrion, Your flesh rebels at these years?". A character Solanio is mocking the Jew Shylock by asking sarcastically if he is still having sexual urges at this age.

2 - "Out upon her! Thou torturest me". Shylock's daughter Jessica stole money from her and Shylock is speaking to another Jew and is probably insulting her in this particular line.

Both times, the phrase is used following a negative backdrop, and I suspect its some sort of an insult in old English. Any clarification would be helpful.

  • 1
    It means "Get out of here!" and "To hell with her!" (i.e. get her out), respectively.
    – Dan Bron
    Nov 24, 2014 at 14:24
  • That's Early Modern English, ca. 1596, not 'mediaeval' English. Nov 24, 2014 at 14:37
  • Isnt the 17th century considered to be the medieval period? Nov 24, 2014 at 14:37
  • @user3182445, the medieval period is not sharply defined, but it's typically considered to have ended in the 15th century. Wikipedia will point you towards several canonical sources, I'm sure. None the less, Shakespeare definitively used EME, not Middle English.
    – Dan Bron
    Nov 24, 2014 at 14:51

2 Answers 2


Given you've come back and edited your question, it seems you are still interested in an answer, so I'll elaborate on the one I provided in the comments.

The modern rendering of "out upon" would be "out with" or "away with", so, Solanio's barb to Shylock:

Out upon it old carrion, ...

would be rendered in current English as "Out with you, ...", or more idiomatically:

Get out of here, you old creep ...

Similarly, Shylock's repudiation of Jessica

Out upon her! Thou torturest me.

would be rendered "Out with her" or "Away with her", or again more idiomatically:

To hell with her! You're hurting me [by mentioning her].

By the way, there are innumerable analyses and translations of Shakespeare into current English freely available on the web. Just plug the phrase that is confusing you, verbatim, into a search engine, and I promise you'll find an explanation as the first hit.


Consider also Cavalier poet Sir John Suckling's seventeenth-century poem beginning "Out upon it! I have loved. . . ." "Out upon it" serves as a contemptuous reproach ("To hell with you," "Get out of here") to some unnamed person challenging the poet's ability to love and remain faithful to one woman. His immediate, seemingly cynical reply belies the pretended constancy of his declaration, but eventually the poet arguably does make a case for a considered fidelity with the right person by poem's end.

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