The context of situation is an abstract representation of the environment in terms of certain general categories having relevance to the text. Given the context of situation, the hearer or reader can make guesses at what the speaker is going to mean. The context of situation, can be represented as a complex of three dimensions: the ongoing social activity, the role relationships involved, and the symbolic or rhetorical channel.
Then, let’s pay attention on how the situational context cohesion of pun works.
As we know that Romeo and Mercutio are good friends. He hasn’t seen Romeo for a whole night, because Romeo had gone to date secretly with Juliet, which Mercutio had no idea about. Mercutio still thought that Romeo was still infatuated with his ex-lover, Roseline, so he played a joke on Romeo when they encountered.
Benvolio : Here comes Romeo, here comes Romeo.
Mercutio : Without his roe, like a dried herring…
(Act Ⅱ, Scene 4)
In the second sentence a paronomasia pun is used. The “roe” has the near-pronounce with “Romeo”. With the help of the pun, the discourse can be easily interpreted as follows:
Context one: Romeo is as thin a dried herring which has no roes in its abdomen.
Context two: Romeo was so lonely and sad that half of him “Ro” has gone and only “Meo” was left, and that his soul got lost.
As we know from the prior script, Romeo’s infatuation to Roseline who had swore never marry with anyone, haven’t got any reply, because of which day by day the disappointed lover, Romeo, peaked and pined. So we can come to an conclusion that the explanation of Context one is not reasonable, while Context two is acceptable.
In the conversation, without getting across the background knowledge of this dialogue’s situational context mentioned in interpretation analysis, we couldn’t find any linguistic cues or any connection between the two sentences to get interpretation on this discourse.
That is to say we can’t interpret the meaning of this pun without considering the following factors: field, tenor and mode. Field refers to what is happening, to the nature of the social action that is taking place; Tenor refers to who is taking part, to the their statuses and roles; Mode refers to what part participants are expecting the symbolic organization function in the context language is playing, what it is that the language to do for them in the situation.