In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, what are some puns said by the Nurse in Act I?

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tamarakh's profile pic

Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Act 1, Scene 3, one pun the nurse speaks is found in the line the Nurse quotes her husband as saying to Juliet when she was a toddler, "'Yea,' quoth he, 'dost thou fall upon thy face? Thou wilt fall backward when thou has more wit." The pun is a sexual innuendo making a double meaning of the phrase "fall backward." Fall backward can literally refer to falling, as baby Juliet just did, or it can be interpreted with sexual connotations.

A second pun can be found in the line referring to the bruise on baby Juliet's face after falling, "a parlous knock," meaning a "perilous knock." The term knock can refer to a hit or blow, but it can also have sexual connotations that the slang term "knocked up" comes from.

A third pun can be found in Nurse's response to Lady Capulet's advice that Juliet open herself up to getting to know Paris: "by having him, making yourself no less," Nurse responds with, "No less! nay, bigger; women grow by men." The pun is a play on the word grow. Lady Capulet is using less as a paradox for Juliet getting to know Paris, but Nurse uses the paraodx with grow as a pun with sexual reference. She is using grow to refer to growing in pregnancy.

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cbetances's profile pic

cbetances | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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Act I Scene iii

Lines 15-16: I'll lay fourteen of my teeth—(15)/ And yet, to my teen be it spoken, I have but four—

Lines 42-48: 

And then my husband (God be with his soul! 
A’ was a merry man) took up the child. 
‘Yea,’ quoth he, ‘dost thou fall upon thy face?(45) 
Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit; 
Wilt thou not, Jule?’ and, by my holidame, 
The pretty wretch left crying, and said ‘Ay.’ 
To see now how a jest shall come about! 
I warrant, an I should live a thousand years,(50) 
I never should forget it. ‘Wilt thou not, Jule?’ quoth he, 
And, pretty fool, it stinted, and said ‘Ay.

Lines 54-61: 

Yes, madam. Yet I cannot choose but laugh 
To think it should leave crying and say ‘Ay.’(55) 
And yet, I warrant, it had upon it brow 
A bump as big as a young cock'rel's stone; 
perilous knock; and it cried bitterly. 
Yea,’ quoth my husband, ‘fall'st upon thy face? 
Thou wilt fall backward when thou comest to age;(60) 
Wilt thou not, Jule?’ It stinted, and said ‘Ay.


Line 82:


Nay, he's a flower, in faith—a very flower.

Line 99:


No less? Nay, bigger! Women grow by men.


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