The UVic Writer's Guide
A pun is a play on words. It exploits the multiple meanings of a word,
or else replaces one word with another that is similar in sound
but has a very different meaning. Puns are sometimes used for
serious purposes, but more often for comic effect--almost exclusively so after the eighteenth century.
In the grave-digger scene of Hamlet, the hero and a Clown pun on the words "lie" and "quick":
HAMLET: Whose grave's this, sirrah?
CLOWN: Mine, sir....
HAMLET: I think it be thine indeed, for thou liest in't.
CLOWN: You lie out on't, sir, and therefore `tis not yours. For
my part, I do not lie in't, yet it is mine.
HAMLET: Thou dost lie in't, to be in't and say it is thine. `Tis
for the dead, not for the quick; therefore thou liest.
CLOWN: `Tis a quick lie, sir; `twill away again from me to you.
Literary Terms (By Category)
Literary Terms (Alphabetized)
Table of Contents
Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria,
This page updated September 23, 1995