As we know, pun, which impresses readers with its main effects of humor or irony, is a commonly used rhetorical skill in literary works, advertisements or other discourses. Since its appearance, pun is always studied from the angle of its effects, however, rare of these studies attempts to approach it from the perspective of its cohesive functions, and there is not enough attention paid to how coherence is realized by punning, especially in the field of literature.
Romeo and Juliet, written in about the year of 1594, is one of the tragedies of Shakespeare. It is in fair Verona where this play lays its scene, two households, both alike in dignity from ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life, the whole misadventures piteous overthrows with their death bury their parents’ strife. The fearful passage that the continuance of their parents’ rages which nothing but their children’s end of their death-marked love could remove is now the two hours’ famous play.
Though this play has drawn its materials from the folk tale of the ancient Italy, it has exposed the real life of English in Middle Ages ruled by Elizabeth when the Feudalism began to fall apart and the capitalism came into being. Naturally, of that period, people’s basic necessities of life, social system, traditional customs, values and ways of thinking made a great deal of difference to both the organization of the whole play and the rhetorical skills used in this play.
In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare used rhyme, Petrarchish simile and pun. Large amounts of puns which were widely and properly used play a prominent role in readers’ understanding to this play. Pun is even used in every work of Shakespeare. And among his seventeen plays, Romeo and Juliet is the one in which pun is the most frequent used. According to a conservative estimate, there are about 175 puns used in Romeo and Juliet. Being arranged delicately and correctly, all these puns impress deeply readers with their effects of humor, irony and revealing social illnesses or the characteristics of dramatic personages. There is no doubt that punning not only brings this play to life, but also imparts a deep meaning and brings out the crucial point with only a few words to its readers. This is why Shakespeare is titled as “Master of Punning”.
Studies on the puns used in Romeo and Juliet most focus on their rhetorical functions, ways to translate them or their literal meaning and connation, while this thesis paid considerable attention to approach discourse analysis from the perspective of pun-analyzing and how cohesion is realized by punning. Knowing how pun can achieve its cohesive functions can do a great favor to the translators.