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asteismus


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A rhetorical term for a facetious reply, usually involving a pun or pretended misunderstanding of a word used by the previous speaker. A common device of dramatic dialogue, especially in comedies, it was practised relentlessly by Shakespeare, as in the exchange:

Polonius: I did enact Julius Caesar. I was killed i'th'Capitol. Brutus killed me.

Hamlet:  It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a calf there.

See also repartee.

Subjects: Literature.


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