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Dramatic Irony in Shakespeare’s Macbeth Essay

Essay 1

Dramatic irony is dramatic irony in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It is the dramatic device that has one character know something while another does not. This can be seen when Lady Macduff encounters her husband’s murderer, who she thinks is an innocent doctor.

Many other examples of dramatic irony are found throughout this play including when Banquo knows something that no one else does and when Duncan believes that he will live on to see his children grow up even though he has just been murdered.

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In Macbeth, William Shakespeare employs dramatic irony to pique the reader’s interest and enhance the impact of the consequences. Dramatic Irony Defined: A situation in a play in which the reader knows more than the protagonist does is referred to as dramatic irony. Thesis: Through drama, the author provides readers with an opportunity to know more things about Macbeth than his characters do throughout the play.

Background Knowledge

Point #1: The witches deceive Macbeth when they say, “All hail Macbeth, Thane of Cawdor!” – Second Witch (Act 1 Scene 3). This is ironic because King Duncan has already made Macbeth the Thane of Cawdor. This is significant because it leads to Macbeth believing in the witches. It’s important since the witches have everything planned out beforehand. Because he must be the Thane of Cawdor in order to fulfill their prophecy, this is significant.

Point #2- Macbeth wears a mask: “There’s no art to finding the construction of the mind in someone’s face. He was a fine gentleman on whom I built an absolute faith.” – King Duncan (Act 1 Scene 4). When King Duncan, a noble and honest king, trusts the Thane of Cawdor, and immediately after he says this – Macbeth enters the room, Shakespeare employs dramatic irony for the audience. When Macduff says this, it’s a little bit of an inside joke. In terms of the trust, Macbeth will kill King Duncan. When Duncan greets Macbeth with “O most worthy cousin,” he replies, “The service and loyalty I owe in performing it is repaid.”

Point #3 – Macbeth wishing Banquo a safe journey: Quote: “This castle has a pleasant seat; the fresh air readily and sweetly invokes our gentle senses.” – King Duncan (Act 1 Scene 6). This part of the tale exhibits amazing Irony. The narrator hints that the king has been asked to dine and enjoy himself at Macbeth’s home. He is overjoyed, but what makes this amusing is the fact that the hostess he is extolling is conspiring to murder him that night. This reflects Macbeth’s duplicity as his outward reputation for nobility is set against his genuine spirit.

Point#4- Macbeth planning to murder Banquo: “I commend you to their backs since I wish your horses swift and sure foot. Farewell. Let each individual be in command of his or her time until seven o’clock PM, when we will have supper alone – God bless you while you are apart”- Macbeth (Act 3 Scene 1). As a result, the audience is aware of Macbeth’s plans to kill Banquo due to the witches’ prediction. This is apt because we are learning more about Macbeth’s personality and generating suspense for the reader. This ties in with dramatic irony since it demonstrates how Macbeth attempts to be nice to Banquo while also attempting to murder King Duncan. The irony, in its most extreme form, is known as Dramatic Irony.

Point #5: Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have swapped roles. “Naught hath had, all is spent where our lust was born without content. It’s safer to be that which we destroy than to be a doubtful dweller in misery. ” — Lady Macbeth (Act 3 Scene 2). Because prior to this moment, Macbeth has convinced murderers to murder Banquo so he wouldn’t get his way, dramatic irony is present. She says she’d prefer death over being the murderer.

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The surprise is that Lady Macbeth, the first killer of Duncan (the individual who persuaded Macbeth), now despises bloodshed, but that Macbeth, the formerly weak one, adores it. It alludes to evil genius by demonstrating that no one — not even his closest buddy — will stop Macbeth in his quest for power. Shakespeare has done this to make the audience despise Macbeth even more.

Point #6: In Act 4, Scene 1, the witches deceive Macbeth for a second time: Quote: “Macbeth will never be defeated until Great Birnham wood to high Dunsinian Hill comes against him.” – Witches (Act 4 Scene 1). The witches are saying that Macbeth will always be king until the trees of Great Birnham wood approach Dunsinian Hill and that day is long gone. This is extremely ironic, given that Macduff was able to kill Macbeth because he lacked a “natural” woman-born birth. The witches have made a rather amusing prophecy.

Point #7- Lady Macduff tells her son: “Son: Was your father a traitor, Mother, Lady Macduff: Ay, he was, Son: What is a traitor, Lady Macduff: Why one who swears and lies” (Act 4 Scene 2). This occurs between Lady Macduff and her son after Macduff has fled to England. This scenario features dramatic irony since while Lady Macduff is informing her son that his father is a traitor and liar, Macduff has gone to England to prevent the horrors Scotland is presently facing as a result of the evil King Macbeth. It’s also dramatic tension because we know this is leading up to something terrible. The event hints at what will come.

Point #8: Macduff is sugarcoated by Ross: Quote: “Macduff: How is my wife? Ross: Well, too. ” (Act 4, Scene 3). This is a dramatic irony since we (the readers) not only realize that Ross is telling lies about Macduff’s family, but also that his family has been murdered. This line is critical to an understanding of Macbeth’s personality. Clearly, Macbeth is prepared to do anything to retain his throne, including murdering numerous innocent individuals.

Essay 2

When the audience is more informed than the characters, dramatic irony occurs. Shakespeare employs dramatic irony to amuse his audience while also demonstrating the depth of persuasion exercised by the protagonist.

In Act, I, Scene III, the first use of dramatic irony occurs when the three witches appear and greet Macbeth and Banquo. The witches address Macbeth as Thane of Cawdor, which he takes to be a prediction (Shakespeare 7). However, because King Duncan has ordered Ross to have Cawdor placed under Macbeth’s command as a prize for winning the combat, the audience understands that King Duncan has charged Ross with doing so.

When King Duncan gives a nice speech about his host, not knowing they intend to murder him, he is performing dramatic irony (Shakespeare 14). Macbeth and the lords are waiting for Banquo’s arrival when dramatic irony strikes. Macbeth already knows that he will be murdered. While the audience is aware of Macbeth’s actions, the characters are misled by him.

Macbeth replies, “I drink to the general hilarity of the whole table and to our friend Banquo, who is missed by all of us, I wish he were present so that we might all drink to him,” (Shakespeare 39). When Macduff has informed him about Banquo’s murder, he says how he looks forward to his arrival.

Another example of dramatic irony occurs when Macbeth talks to Banquo’s ghost, and the guests believe him to be a lunatic. They declare that he needs isolation. The characters are as much in the dark as the audience about Banquo’s ghost being among them (Shakespeare 38).

The audience is aware of Macbeth’s crimes when the characters still think he is a trustworthy individual. There are other dramatic ironies in the play, including Hecate’s plan to deceive Macbeth using three witchy ladies. The dramatic ironies are used to emphasize the treacherous plots that the innocent-looking faces conceal. It also builds suspense by keeping people guessing as to what will happen when the truth comes out.

Macbeth’s words illustrate the idea of ambition in Act V, Scene V. He talks about life’s brevity and worries during critical moments. However, ambition is a major theme that fits the description. “Full of sound and fury” (Shakespeare 65) is how ambitious people are described by Ross. It is “unthriftless ambition,” says Shakespeare, “that would ruin thy own precious time!” (28). Ambition comes with a lot of enthusiasm but has a limited shelf life.

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Shakespeare expands on the idea by employing characters to discuss the future. The three witches are employed to forecast what will happen. The three witches have been employed to tell the tale of Macbeth’s short life. They’ve pushed him farther than they thought possible.

The porter is used to provide the reader with an indication of what is most likely to happen. The porter fits the phrase “told by an idiot, full of sound and fury” (Shakespeare 65). “Here’s a farmer who hung himself on the promise of plenty” (Shakespeare 22). The porter paints a vivid picture.

The tale of the ambitious that is no longer told after their death includes that of Banquo. He had supported Norway’s king (Shakespeare 6). His story is now unknown. The demise of Banquo is yet another example of a driven person who lived only a short time. In Act III, Scene I, Banquo considers murdering Macbeth (Shakespeare 29). He becomes a component in an idiot’s narrative. Lady Macbeth is also part of the same narrative: the tale of ambition.

Essay 3

“Fair is foul, and foul is fair. Hover through the fog and filthy air.” (I, 11-12) The “weird sisters” or witches said this early in the play to establish a sense of mystery, perplexity, and tension. The lines are contradictory; something that appears on the surface to be good or pleasant cannot (on the surface).

However, when we get to know Macbeth and learn about his own hidden motives, this will become evident. Alliteration of the “F” sound is also apparent in these lines, making them more memorable and tumultuous. 2) “…For brave Macbeth – well he deserves that name – despising Fortune…/ And fixing his thoughts on our fortifications.” (I,ii, 18-26)

This was said by the ship’s captain, who informed King Duncan of Macbeth’s brave deeds in winning Scotland’s war; this is used early in the play to show that Macbeth is a loyal subject willing to serve his king, even if others like Macdonwald rebel.

Furthermore, the rebelling individuals in the conflict serve as foils for Macbeth to underscore his character trait of being loyal. The audience, on the other hand, sees dramatic irony when Macbeth fails to live up to his duty as a devoted subject and joins forces with Banquo’s sons and murders Duncan. 3) “No more than Thane of Cawdor shall Thane of Cawdor deceive Our bosom interest; Go convey his doom, And with his title greet Macbeth.” (I,ii, 63-66)

When King Duncan addressed Ross, he said: “This was spoken by King Duncan to Ross, and it depicted the king as a person who appreciated and praised loyalty; this is shown by Duncan giving Macbeth the title of Thane of Cawdor. By bestowing Macbeth with the title of Thane, Duncan intended to thank him for his efforts and continue to be loyal, while also raising his standing in society.

Nonetheless, because Macduff kills and takes possession of the throne, King Dunsin is killed and took his position. Furthermore, when comparing him to other kings who provide rewards for heroes that preserve their kingdom, he lives up to the archetype of a king who gives such a gift.

Essay 4

The irony is an effective dramatic technique. When the audience knows more than the characters, this device creates tremendous suspense. Many Shakespearean plays employ this aspect of irony. This mechanism is employed by William Shakespeare to build suspense as well as keep the audience hooked. The strategy of dramatic irony will be discussed in this essay.

In Macbeth, dramatic irony is employed in several parts of the drama, each with a distinct goal. The audience’s awareness of Macbeth being dubbed the Thane of Cawdor before he does is the first use of dramatic irony in the play.

In Act 4, Scene 1, Macbeth revisits the witches and utters the most ironic line: “Witches infect the air on which they ride, and all those who trust them are damned!”. The audience may reach three distinct conclusions based on those lines. First, Macbeth does not perceive that the witches are crafting his fate. Second, Macbeth is oblivious to his own treachery and regicide of King Duncan.

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Finally, Macbeth is unaware that by denouncing those who trust him, he is also condemning himself. Another example is when Macbeth thinks about his purpose in murdering Duncan and remarks, “I have no spur To prick the sides of my resolve… I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent…” This is ironic since just after that Lady Macbeth appears and proves to be a spur.

Other Shakespearean works besides Macbeth offer numerous excellent examples of dramatic ironies, such as Julius Caesar and Twelfth Night. The use of dramatic irony by Shakespeare is essential in order to capture the reader’s attention.

Essay 5

The irony is a literary technique in which words with literal meanings are used to convey messages that are the polar opposite. Examine the many instances of irony in Macbeth, using dramatic irony as an example. A: There are two primary kinds of theatrical irony employed by Shakespeare in Macbeth. 1. Dramatic irony: It’s the device of providing the spectator with information that at least one character in the story isn’t aware of (at least consciously), putting him or her a step ahead of at least one character.

A situation in a play in which the reader knows more than the protagonist does is known as Dramatic Irony. This is one of Shakespeare’s most frequent types of irony, and it occurs frequently in Macbeth. “Fair is foul and foul is fair” is the witches’ motto, something that Macbeth unwittingly mirrors when he says, “So lovely and terrible a day I have not seen.” This hints to the audience that Macbeth and the witches are already spiritually linked before they meet.

“There’s no art in finding the mind’s construction in a face,” says Duncan of the Thane of Cawdor. “He was a gentleman on whom I built / An absolute trust. ” This is ironic since, after becoming the Thane of Cawdor, Macbeth becomes a “most disloyal traitor,” just as his predecessor had been. When Duncan arrives in Inverness, he remarks that the castle has a “pleasant seat.” Banquo quickly agrees that the air is “delicate,” not realizing that Macbeth intends to kill him here.

“The multitudinous seas incarnadine,” says Macbeth after the death of Duncan. Lady Macbeth, on the other hand, scoffs at this and states that “a little water cleanses us of this crime. ” The irony of this is only revealed in Act 5, Scene 1 when while sleepwalking, Lady Macbeth washes her hands over and over again and purrs to herself, “Here’s the smell of blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this tiny hand.”

The porter believes he is a “porter of hell-gate,” not knowing that the castle has become a hell on earth because of the murder of King Duncan by one of his loyal subjects. The irony of Fate: It stems from the idea that gods, or the Fates, are amusing themselves with humans’ minds at deliberate ironic intent.

In Macbeth, the witches toy with Macbeth to mislead him on purpose. E.g., When Macbeth encounters the witches for the second time and they display him the phantasms, their words are carefully constructed to deceive him into being overconfident and thinking he is invincible. Shakespeare uses both types of irony effectively in Macbeth to increase tension and contribute to the tragic effect of the play.

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Dramatic Irony in Shakespeare’s Macbeth Essay. (2021, Oct 25). Retrieved December 9, 2022, from