Puns and plays on words in The Wreck of the Deutschland


Besides onomatopoeia, another figure of speech employed is the pun or play on words, a device typical of conceits. Technically:

  • puns are the use of words with double meanings, a word being used with both meanings in mind
  • a play on words is to ‘play around' with the sounds of words, to see them in unusual ways.

Thus ‘conceive' (30) and ‘keen/er' (25) are puns, because they each have two distinct meanings, and Hopkins is running from one to the other.

Other puns include:

  • ‘shrouds' (15); ‘virginal' (17); ‘told' (17).

A play on words is exemplified by ‘passion/compassioneth' (33) or ‘word/ed/ing' (29).

Investigating puns and plays on words in The Wreck of the Deutschland
  • Can you reconcile punning with the serious subject-matter?
  • What does his play on words achieve?
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