What are four puns from act 1, scene 4 (Queen Mab speech) of Romeo and Juliet?

Each of the partygoers in act 1, scene 4 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet try their hand at making puns during the scene. Romeo talks about his "soul of lead," referring to his heavy, broken heart and being slow afoot. Mercutio makes puns about dreamers who "lie" in bed and people who "lie" to each other. Even Benvolio, not known for puns, makes a pun about Mercutio's long-winded speeches about Queen Mab and an "inconstant wind" from the north.

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In act 1, scene 2 of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Romeo reluctantly agrees to go to the Capulet's party uninvited, and in act 1, scene 4, Romeo, Benvolio, and Mercutio are talking in the street on the way to the festivities.

There's considerable wordplay among the three friends, including a number of puns—sometimes called the lowest form of humor due to their groan-producing effect—which involve words with an identical or similar pronunciation, sometimes with different spellings, and with different meanings depending on the context in which they're used.

For example, one of the most famous puns in Romeo and Juliet is Mercutio's remark in act 3, scene 1 after he's been fatally stabbed by Tybalt: "Ask for me to-morrow, and you shall find me a grave man" (lines 97–98).

In act 1, scene 4, Romeo, lovesick over Rosaline, and his love for her unrequited, says he has a "soul of lead," referring to his heavy heart and his heavy feet as he walks to the party. Mercutio responds that since Romeo is a lover, he should "borrow Cupid's wings" and fly to the party. Romeo protests that he carries far too heavy a burden of love and would simply sink to the ground.

Romeo's line, "I dreamt a dream to-night," prompts an exchange with Mercutio that leads to Mercutio's famous "Queen Mab" speech.

ROMEO. I dreamt a dream to-night.

MERCUTIO. And so did I.

ROMEO. Well, what was yours?

MERCUTIO. That dreamers often lie [a pun on two meanings of "lie"].

ROMEO. In bed asleep [Romeo chooses the literal meaning of "lie" as in "lie in bed"], while they do dream things true.

MERCUTIO. O, then I see Queen Mab hath been with you.

In English folklore, "Mab," or the "Queen Mab" of Mercutio's speech, is the fairies’ midwife, who gives sweet dreams to sleepers and grants their innermost desires. She was also considered queen of the fairies until Titania marries Oberon, the king of the fairies, both of whom appear in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Mercutio spends the next forty lines talking about "Queen Mab." Much of the speech appears to be composed of puns of one kind or another, but this is simply wordplay based on archaic terms and cultural references from the Elizabethan period which are unfamiliar to modern readers and audiences.

Romeo finally interrupts Mercutio's lengthy discourse on Queen Mab but not before Mercutio makes a little more wordplay on the word "lie."

MERCUTIO. This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,That presses them and learns them first to bear. (act 1, scene 4, lines 97–98)

Here, "lie" refers to maids lying on their backs at both the conception and the birth of their children, learning to bear the weight of their lovers pressing down on them and learning to "bear," or birth, their babies.

Eager to get to the party, Benvolio—who is not known for puns—remarks,

This wind you talk of blows us from...

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ourselves. Supper is done, and we shall come too late.(act 1, scene 4, lines 111–112)

The "wind" to which Benvolio refers is the "inconstant wind" that Mercutio mentions, "who woos / Even now the frozen bosom of the North" (act 1, scene 4, lines 107–108), and "wind" is also a pun referring to Mercutio's long-winded explanations of everything, just to hear himself talk. Benvolio is saying that if Mercutio keeps talking, they're going to miss the party altogether.

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A pun is a word or phrase that has multiple meanings and is often used to create ambiguity about which meaning the writer intended. They are used for humor. The phrases "pun intended" or "pun not intended" refer to this.

Here are some from Act I Scene IV, the pun is in bold:

ROMEO Give me a torch: I am not for this ambling;  Being but heavy, I will bear the light.

[Light is a pun. Romeo is feeling "heavy" meaning sad/upset. So light here not only refers to the light of the torch but also the lack of lightness in Romeo's mood.]


MERCUTIO Nay, gentle Romeo, we must have you dance.

ROMEO Not I, believe me: you have dancing shoes  With nimble soles: I have a soul of lead  So stakes me to the ground I cannot move.

[sole and soul are spelled differently but pronounced the same, they are puns]


ROMEO I dream'd a dream to-night.

MERCUTIO And so did I.

ROMEO Well, what was yours?

MERCUTIO That dreamers often lie.

ROMEO In bed asleep, while they do dream things true.

[dreamers lie, as in, do not tell the truth]


ROMEO Is love a tender thing? it is too rough,  Too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn.

MERCUTIO If love be rough with you, be rough with love; Prick love for pricking, and you beat love down. 

[the other meaning of prick here is "urge," most probably in this context, it refers to sexual urges. Mercutio may be suggesting that Romeo overcome his heartbreak and pain by becoming intimate with another woman] 

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