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Irony is a rhetorical device, literary technique, or situation in which there is an incongruity between the literal and the implied meaning. Irony can best be defined as that middle ground between what is said and what is meant, or others’ understanding of what was said and what was meant. It can sometimes be a bit confusing, yet at the same time it can also be amusing. There are several examples of irony which can be summed up in various categories: situational irony, cosmic irony, dramatic irony etc. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth there was a lot of irony, and Shakespeare intended the irony of the play to build and maintain suspense, while creating a vague sense of fear.
Key words: irony, dramatic irony, examples, Shakespeare, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet…
Irony (from the Ancient Greek Îµá¼°ÏÏ‰Î½ÎµÎ¯Î± eirÅneía, meaning dissimulation or pretend ignorance) is a rhetorical device, literary technique, or situation in which there is an incongruity between the literal and the implied meaning. In the 1580s, Henry Denham introduced a rhetorical question mark or a point which looks like a reversed question mark. This mark was also proposed by the French poet Marcel Bernhardt at the end of the 19th century to indicate irony or sarcasm.
Ironic statements (verbal irony) are statements that imply a meaning in opposition to their literal meaning. A situation is often considered to be ironic (situational irony) if there is an “incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result.” The discordance of verbal irony may be deliberately created as a means of communication (as in art or rhetoric).
Irony can best be defined as that middle ground between what is said and what is meant, or others’ understanding of what was said and what was meant. It can sometimes be a bit confusing, yet at the same time it can also be amusing. There are several examples of irony which can be summed up in various categories: situational irony, cosmic irony, dramatic irony etc.
Situational irony is a type of irony that may occur when the outcome of a certain situation is completely different than what was initially expected. It is often referred to as an “irony of events.” (For example: A person who claims to be a vegan and avoids meat but will eat a slice of pepperoni pizza because they are hungry. It may not make sense, but it is an illustration of irony.)
Cosmic irony is a type of irony that can be attributed to some sort of misfortune. Usually cosmic irony is the end result of fate or chance. (For example: Gambling. If you are playing blackjack chances are you will be up (making money) for awhile, and then just when you thought things were going good, you lose it all.)
Dramatic irony occurs when there is miscommunication in a book, play or film and the audience is smarter than the characters. This type of irony is interesting for me, because my theme is “Irony in Macbeth and in Romeo and Juliet” where we can find a lot of examples of this type of irony.
EXAMPLES OF IRONY IN ROMEO AND JULIET
“Romeo and Juliet” has lots of examples of dramatic irony. The biggest example is in the chorus. The reader knows the plot and the ending basically they read the whole book knowing what will happen. In act one scene five, Romeo and Juliet dance together not knowing that the other is from their enemy’s families. The reader is informed on this. When the nurse enters in act II scene IV, the characters just think that the nurse is just a stranger yet we all know from before, the nurse is there to talk to Romeo about Juliet. The role of irony in “Romeo and Juliet” contributed to the interest and suspense the play gives the audience. The only type of irony used was dramatic irony, which is a contradiction between what the character thinks and what the reader or audience knows to be true. The dramatic irony used is very important to the story to add the extra “edge of your seat effect” which makes the audience eager to figure out what will occur next. The irony in “Romeo and Juliet” is used throughout the play to create more drama and suspense during the most important parts of the tragedy. One of the first examples of dramatic irony was during a crucial event, and when this scene concluded the entire play became turned upside down. When Romeo arrives to see Benvolio and Mercutio after he has just been wed, he sees them conversing with Tybalt and other Capulets. Tybalt makes it clear that it is Romeo he wants to fight. This is quite ironic because Romeo has just married a Capulet and since Romeo and Tybalt are now related they can’t be quarreling.
“I do protest I never injure thee, but love thee better than thou canst devise till thou shalt know the reason of my love; And so good Capulet, which name I tender as dearly as my own be satisfied.”(III.i.58-60)
This angers Tybalt and it depicts dramatic irony because Tybalt us unsure why Romeo won’t fight him, since this isn’t unusual because they are from feuding households. Tybalt is confused; however the audience is very aware of the reasons for Romeo’s chivalry. When Romeo and Tybalt exchanged words after Romeo and Juliet’s secret union, the results ended in turmoil and began the spiraling decline of the plot.
When the Capulet family finally begins to recover after Tybalt’s death, the irony appears once again as Capulets and Paris decide on a date for Juliet and Paris to be married. As Capulet and Lady Capulet hurry to make all the final arrangements, Juliet is busy making some arrangements of her own.
“Tell me not, Friar, that thou hear’st of this, unless thou tell me how I may prevent it. If in thy wisdom thou canst give no help, do thou but call my resolution wise, and with this knife I’ll help it presently.”(VI.i.51-55)
The dramatic irony appears in this scene when the Capulet household is amidst chaos planning the wedding of their beloved daughter but what they don’t know is that she has already been married to the exiled Romeo. After Tybalt’s disturbing murder, the Capulet’s decision for Juliet’s union to Paris depicts more dramatic irony.
A final example of dramatic irony is when Juliet and Friar’s plan is seems to go as schedule, when a misunderstanding results in two tragic deaths. When Balthasar doesn’t receive a letter from the Friar, he reveals to Romeo that Juliet is dead because he saw her lying in the Capulet’s tomb. Romeo decides to go to the apothecary to get a potion to join her. When Romeo goes into the tomb, he is incredibly upset, and drinks the potion so he will no longer feel any pain. Juliet wakes just minutes after, and asks the friar where Romeo is.
“Oh comfortable friar! Where is my lord? I do remember well where I should be, and there I am. Where is my Romeo?”(V.iii.160-162)
She finally spots him and then realizes he has died just moments ago. The discovering of her recently perished husband makes Juliet take her own life. The dramatic irony in this situation occurs when Romeo never receives the letter from the friar and he is told Juliet is dead. However, Romeo isn’t aware, but the reader is, that Juliet thinks the plan is all going as expected. When the secret plan takes an uncharted turn, the misunderstanding has a tragic end.
The role of dramatic irony used in “Romeo and Juliet” makes the play more suspenseful and interesting to the audience. The contradiction between what the characters think and what the reader knows to be true occurred many times throughout the story and gave it a cunning, suspenseful edge. Dramatic irony is used during the play to create more drama at crucial parts of the tragedy.
In conclusion, Macbeth is full of irony. The irony in Macbeth is there to add to the suspense and the malicious mood of the play. Without the irony in Macbeth, the play would have been much different. For example, if Duncan’s visit to the castle took place at night, in the middle of a thunderstorm, with the Macbeths being hostile to him and the witches egging Macbeth on, the play would have lacked a good deal of suspense, and the audience might begin to get bored of the play, since it would not change much and it would be easy to predict what would happen. If the witches hadn’t made their paradoxical prophecies to Macbeth, the play would be missing a lot of irony and the audience wouldn’t get much fear from watching the play, since they would just reason that Macbeth was insane to begin with.
And that’s also the case with Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet” where we have almost the entire plot based on irony.
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