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Beautiful Polecats: The Living and the Dead in Julius Caesar

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 September 2019

Emma Smith
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
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Summary

Dr Johnson said that a pun was Shakespeare’s fatal Cleopatra. I want to argue that puns are, appropriately enough, at work with particular vigour in a play about one of Cleopatra’s lovers. Julius Caesar features a series of puns very early on, starting with the Cobbler’s ‘[a] trade, sir, that I hope I may use with a safe conscience, which is indeed, sir, a mender of bad soles’ (1.1.13–14),2 and followed by his retort to Flavius – ‘[n]ay I beseech you, sir, be not out with me: yet if you be out, sir, I can mend you’ (1.1.16–17) – and finally by ‘[t]ruly, sir, all that I live by, is with the awl’ (1.1.22).

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Shakespeare Survey 72 , pp. 160 - 170
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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