The Use Of Irony In

“Macbeth” Essay, Research Paper

There are many types of irony used in Macbeth. Without the irony, the tragedy

would not be quite so tragic.

One type of irony used in Macbeth is verbal irony. This is when a character says

one thing and means the opposite. Examples of this are when Macbeth says to Banquo,

?Tonight we hold a solemn supper, sir, And I?ll request your presence (III, i, 13-14)? or

when he says ?Fail not our feast (III, i, 28).? Verbal irony makes the play more tragic

because, if the reader understands the irony of what a character is saying, then the reader

can see the true nature and intentions of the character.

Another type of irony Shakespeare used is the irony of a situation. This is when

the results of an action or event are different than what is expected. One example is when

Macduff is speaking with Malcolm about the tragedies in Scotland, not knowing that his

family has been murdered. He says:

?Let us rather

Hold fast the mortal sword, and like good men

Bestride our down-fall?n birthdom. Each new morn

New widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows

Strike heaven on the face, that it resounds

As if it felt with Scotland and yelled out

Like syllable of dolor (IV, iii, 4-7).?

Macduff, ironically, is remarking on new widows howling, not aware of the fact

that he is a widower. This presents a great deal of irony to the reader, as well as a tragic


Dramatic irony is also used in Macbeth. This type of irony is when there is a

contradiction between what characters of the play do, and what the reader knows will

happen. In Macbeth, an example is the pleasantry with which Duncan, the King, speaks of

Inverness. This pleasantry is a facade, because little does Duncan know, but the plot to

murder him is being hatched and will be carried out here at Inverness. How ironic for the

reader, and how tragic, to hear Duncan say:

?This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air

Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself

Unto our gentle senses. (I, iv, 1-3).?

Finally, irony of Fate is used. This is when a result defeats the purpose of an

event. For example, because of Macbeth?s reaction to seeing Banquo?s ghost in Act III

scene iv is so dramatic and violent, he casts suspicion onto himself, instead of gaining

personal security. He casts suspicion by asking ?which of you have done this?? and then

answering his own question with ?Thou canst not say I did it. Never shake Thy gory

locks at me (III, iv, 49, 51-52).? This is tragic, for Macbeth ruins his goal of security and

ends up casting more doubt upon himself.

A play that is tragic would not be so without irony. Irony pulls at the strings of the

reader?s heart. Whether the irony makes the tragic hero seem more villainous, or makes

their downfall seem more tragic, it certainly helps the tragedy have a less clear cut

emotional response.

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