What Is an Example of a Pun in “Julius Caesar”?
William Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar” contains a pun in which a cobbler plays with the implied double meaning of the word “soles,” which is a homophone for “souls.” This line of dialogue appears in Act 1, Scene 1 of the play and is spoken by the Second Commoner, who wittingly says to Marullus, “A trade, sir, that, I hope, I may use with a safe conscience; which is, indeed, a mender of bad soles.” Spoken thusly, it is unclear whether the speaker is a mender of soles, as in shoes, or souls, as in a person’s moral fiber.
In this scene, the Second Commoner continues his punny speech about soles and souls, teasing Marullus, who is trying to figure out the occupation of the Second Commoner. The exchange actually begins with a pun, as Marullus asks the Second Commoner what his trade is, and the Second Commoner replies, “Truly, sir, in respect of a fine workman, I am but, as you would say, a cobbler.”
In this context, “cobbler” can assume the second meaning of the word, which refers to someone who is clumsy and bad with his or her hands. Thus, the Second Commoner does actually answer Marullus, but not without using puns to vex and mislead.