Macbeth Macbeth essaysThe Tragic Irony of Macbeth
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 Ill 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.
Let us rather
Hold fast the mortal sword, and like good men
Bestride our down-falln 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
For example, because of Macbeths reaction to seeing Banquos 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.
Macbeth would not be tragic without irony. Irony pulls at the strings of the
readers 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