Julius Caesar Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Identify and explain the cobbler's puns in Julius Caesar.

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Flavius and Murellus are annoyed that the commoners have decided to dress in their finest clothes and take a holiday to celebrate Julius Caesar, an unnerving idea that suggests the common people may encourage Caesar to take over as emperor. Trying to get the commoners off the street and back to work, Murellus asks one why he is not in his work clothes and what his trade is.

The man addressed, a cobbler, won't answer directly. He evades by replying:

Truly, sir, in respect of a fine workman, I am but, as you would say, a cobbler.

Cobbler has two meanings in this context. it is a pun on his real profession, which is a cobbler—a person who repairs shoes—and also suggests that he is opposite of a fine workman in that he simply "cobbles" things together in a makeshift way.

Murellus commands him to "answer me directly" but the man continues to evade him, frustrating Murellus. In another pun, instead of plainly stating his trade, the cobbler says he is

a mender of bad soles.

This is a pun on soles as the soles of shoes and souls as human souls.

This punning shows how the common people use word play and double entendres as a form of power: this is a way of talking that tries to evade having the powerful know their business. The cobbler talks in puns to confuse Murellus. From the opening of the play, therefore, Shakespeare establishes the disconnect between the common people and those in power.

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Mike Walter eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The cobbler appears in the first scene in the play. He is called the Second Commoner in the play. His function is to...

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