I love Shakespeare’s puns….Some favorites?
Romeo and Juliet: Mercutio’s dying comment after his duel with Tybalt: “Ask for me
tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.” (3.1.98)
Macbeth: Lady Macbeth plotting the death of the King Duncan: I’ll gild the faces of the grooms withal, for it must seem their guilt. (2.2, 53-54)
Hamlet: Hamlet joking about the dead Polonius being “at supper”: “Not where he eats, but where he is eaten” (4.3.19)
Puns, also paronomasia, are defined as a form of word play that suggests two or more meanings, by exploiting multiple meanings of words, or of similar-sounding words, for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect.
Shakespeare scattered 3,000 puns in his plays and sonnets, using humor as a dramatic tool to lessen or heighten tension as he does (above) with Mercutio or to reveal character traits as he does with Lady Macbeth (treachery) or Hamlet (wit).
Although the etymology of the word pun (n.) shows up in 1660s, this form of word play was a common procedure in Elizabethan writers. (Mahood 1988: 11). English writers John Dryden and Samuel Johnson were the first critics that claimed Shakespeare had corrupted the English language with “false wit, puns, and ambiguity”; their contempt may be a source for the apology “no pun intended”.
In contrast, most literary critics today show an admiration for the quality and variety of puns in Shakespeare’s works. There are linguists who are working to preserve the meaning of his puns that use language that is rapidly becoming archaic.
As for Shakespeare, he would be probably be content that we “discussed” him.