What was the comic relief in "Julius Caesar"?


Quick Answer

The humor often cited in the Shakespearean play "Julius Caesar" is in the opening act, in a scene featuring the second commoner's witty replies to the haughty questioning of Marullus. In the exchange between the second commoner and Marullus, the commoner deftly uses pun and double meaning in a veiled show of contempt for the tribune. Such a play on words is regarded as rather typical in contemporary humor, but would have delighted the Elizabethan audience.

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Full Answer

In the opening scene, Marullus and Flavius appear to be irked at the commoners who are celebrating the victory of Julius Caesar over Pompey's sons. The two tribunes don't appreciate the commoners who are milling about without wearing the sign of their profession. In other words, the commoners are forgetting their place in the Roman society.

When Marullus asks the second commoner in the scene what his profession is, the commoner replies, "I am, as you would say, a cobbler." The word "cobbler" also meant "clumsy workman." With the addition of "as you would say" in his reply, the commoner takes a verbal swipe at the contemptuousness of the tribune.

In his next line, the cobbler further describes his profession as a "mender of soles," which obviously was a play on the word "soul." The use of pun and double-meaning words as a way of injecting humor to plays appears to be a staple in Shakespearean plays, as well as those of his contemporaries.

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