What are some examples of puns from Romeo and Juliet?

An example of a pun in Romeo and Juliet is in act 3, scene 1, when Mercutio famously makes a pun as he is dying, saying that he will be a "grave man" tomorrow.

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Puns are a play on words for comic effect. Shakespeare was no stranger to puns, particularly in Romeo and Juliet. Before Romeo kills Tybalt, much of the play resembles a traditional romantic comedy, so puns come with the territory.

Many of the puns are comical and character-establishing. In act 1, when Benvolio urges Romeo to continue with their plan to sneak into the Capulet ball, Romeo says that while the others might have "dancing shoes / With nimble soles, I have a soul of lead." The pun is a play on sole (the bottom of a shoe) and soul (one's spirit), establishing Romeo's poetic nature and his melancholy regarding love.

The exchange between Romeo and Mercutio in act 2, scene 4 is replete with puns of a sexual nature. Mercutio is miffed that Romeo skipped out on himself and Benvolio the other night, and he insinuates that Romeo was busy having sex. Being two teenage boys, Romeo and Mercutio make a variety of puns regarding sex organs for humorous effect. For example, when Mercutio calls himself "the very pink of courtesy," the word pink is meant to suggest female genitalia. Romeo follows this up by replying, "The pink flower," and then boasting that his "pump" is "well flowered." The term flower is often used to describe a woman's sexual organs, with the other term "deflower" referring to a woman's loss of virginity. The word "pump" refers to shoes, but it can also refer to an erection. Romeo is effectively calling himself a successful ladies' man with several sexual encounters in his history.

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A pun is a fairly simplistic type of word play which is often based around sexual innuendo, where a word has an implied sexual connotation. In this play, the stock humorous characters are Mercutio and the Nurse, both of whom use a lot of sexual innuendo in their speech and, indeed, often rely on puns to make the other characters (and the audience) laugh.

The trouble with identifying puns in a four hundred year old text is that sometimes the jokes are no longer self-evident, but if you look at act 2, scene 4, we can find some. Note that jokes about sex organs have changed very little since Shakespeare's time, so when Romeo comments that his "pump" is "well flowered," we can guess that he is talking both about his pumps or shoes being flowery, but also about an erection.

Another joke in the same vein appears later, when the nurse arrives and Mercutio says that the "bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon," with the word "prick" here having an obvious double meaning. Mercutio is saying, ostensibly, that the time shown on the clock is noon, but he deliberately uses the words "bawdy" and "prick" to give a sense of sexual innuendo and allude to the idea of a bawd's hand being placed on his "prick." The fact that Mercutio feels able to joke in this manner with the Nurse, too, gives us further understanding of her character; Mercutio would not speak in such a fashion to Juliet or to another woman of high birth. He is implying that the Nurse is sexually lax.

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A pun is a play on words, usually for humorous effect.  Shakespeare liked to use puns, often with sexual meaning.  However, puns can be based on just about anything. 

 Although puns are often made for humor’s sake, the person making them is not always laughing.  For example, Romeo makes a pun on the idea of being “in love.”

BEN:

In love?

ROM:

Out—

BEN:

Of love?(165)

ROM:

Out of her favour, where I am in love. (Act 1, Scene 1)

In this case, the pun is a play on the concept of being “in love” and Romeo is not really in a laughing mood.  It’s not really an incredibly sad scene though, because Shakespeare is still using the pun to inject some silliness.

Sometimes one character makes a pun off of the other.  Consider this exchange.

MER:

That dreamers often lie.

ROM:

In bed asleep, while they do dream things true.

The double meaning of “lie” is a pun, as in the fictional nature of dreams and being flat in bed.  In this case Mercutio begins the pun, and Romeo completes it.

The character of Mercutio uses puns a lot, often of a sexual nature.  However, his most famous pun is with his dying words.  Mercutio is such a punster that even with his last breath, he has to use a pun!

Ask for me to-morrow,

and you shall find me a grave man. (Act 3, Scene 1)

He will be a grave man, meaning serious, because he will be in his grave, because he will be dead!

Romeo and Juliet is one of the bawdiest plays the bard wrote, and one of the funniest.  This comes in large part from the puns.  The puns, largely coming from Mercuito and Nurse, were designed to entertain the cheaper seats in the theater, but would have brought a chuckle from even the nobility.  Even today, modern audiences can’t help but smile even in the most tragic scene when poor Mercutio is killed by Tybalt in a brawl and dies with a pun.

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