In act 3, scene 1, lines 94–95, 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?

This line in Romeo and Juliet is an example of a pun. Mercutio is playing on the dual meaning of "grave," which can mean "serious," or it can refer to a literal grave, where one is buried after death. Mercutio loves wit and wordplay, and the fact that he pauses to make a final pun even as he knows he's been mortally wounded is both comic and tragic. Mercutio doesn't want to let on how "grave" his wounds really are.

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In this line, Mercutio uses a pun or double entendre, which is a word or phrase that contains two or more meanings. Ever the wit and wordsmith, Mercutio, though he is dying, can't resist indulging in a last play on words. His speech begins as follows, responding to Romeo's wishful hope that his wound is not every deep:

No, ’tis not so deep as a well nor so wide as a church-door, but ’tis enough, ’twill serve. Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man. I am peppered, I warrant, for this world.

Mercutio is saying that, tomorrow, he will be in his grave, but he also will be grave or solemn in demeanor, because he will be dead. As Mercutio knows, Romeo shares his special appreciation for words and will understand the bitter irony of his pun. Mercutio's words also foreshadow Romeo's fate. Both promising young men will be dead as the result of a pointless feud. The grief and frustration we might feel at Mercutio's senseless death foreshadows how we will feel about Romeo's.

It is worth mentioning that "peppered," in its archaic meaning, is also a pun—Mercutio is saying, as any of us might, that he is peppered with wounds but also that he has been inflicted with severe suffering (the archaic meaning) and that he is spiced (peppered) or prepared for burial.

Mercutio is a vibrant, compelling, lively character, and he stays true to form even as he is dying, always the witty realist.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 15, 2020
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It is entirely appropriate that Mercutio should be using such a pun. For here is a young man with an irrepressible sense of fun, someone with a love of banter and witty wordplay, chronically incapable of taking anything seriously, whether it's love or, in this case, death, including his own. Even though he's just been mortally wounded by Tybalt in a violent street brawl, even as his very life ebbs away from him, he still finds time for a joke.

Tomorrow, as Mercutio reflects, he'll be a grave man, both in the sense that he'll be serious and in the sense that he'll also be dead. Indeed, the two go together; it's only when Mercutio is dead that he'll ever be serious about anything. If someone can't take their own impending death seriously, it's unlikely that they'll take anything else seriously, either.

Mercutio's pun also refers to the nature of his injuries. He knows full well how grave, how serious, his wounds are and yet still insists that he's sustained nothing more than a scratch. Mercutio may claim that his wounds are not that grave, but he knows otherwise. That is why he says that, the very next day, his good friend Romeo will find him “a grave man.”

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 15, 2020
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Mercutio is a funny, witty individual who continually makes jokes and puns throughout the play. Mercutio is also considered a rather clever skeptic. In Act 3, Mercutio duels with Tybalt and Romeo intervenes in an attempt to stop the fighting. Unfortunately, Tybalt mortally wounds Mercutio before fleeing the scene. When Benvolio asks Mercutio if he is okay, Mercutio insists that the wound is merely a "scratch." Mercutio curses both of the families and sends his page to grab a doctor. Mercutio, with his usual dry wit, comments,

"Ask for me tomorrow and you will find me a grave man" (3.1.94-95).

As was mentioned in the previous post, Mercutio's statement includes the literary device known as a pun. A pun is a humorous play on words which employs a double-meaning. The word "grave" could refer to Mercutio's solemn attitude or suggest his final resting place. Despite Mercutio's impending death, he remains witty and humorous which is typical of his character.

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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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