In Act 3 Scene 1, line 99, Mercutio says "and you shall find me a grave man" - what is the literary device being used here, and  how is it characteristic of Mercutio?

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Mercutio is using a pun here, which is one of Shakespeare’s favorite literary devices. A pun is the use of a word that can mean two different things in the context in which it is used.

To understand the pun, you need to be looking at the quotation in context. Mercutio, of Romeo’s house of Montague, has been sword fighting with Tybalt, of Juliet’s house of Capulet. Romeo wishes to avoid physical violence between the two families, since he is in love with Juliet. When he moves to separate Mercutio from the fray, Tybalt stabs Mercutio fatally under Romeo’s constraining arm.

For a few moments, there is what sounds like lighthearted banter between the Montague’s people—Romeo, Mercutio, and Benvolio. When Mercutio realizes he’s dying, he says:

Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.

The word “grave” creates the pun. It could mean that Romeo will find him to be a “serious” man tomorrow, or that he will find that he is dead and in the grave tomorrow. Mercutio means the latter, since he knows that he is dying.

It fits with Mercutio’s character in that he tends to be very excitable and demonstrative in his speech, and he has punned before in the play.


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