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What irony is revealed in the play Macbeth?

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bluefire | Student, Grade 11

Posted February 14, 2009 at 1:37 PM via web

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What irony is revealed in the play Macbeth?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 14, 2009 at 1:59 PM (Answer #1)

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There are several instances of irony in the play, some situational and some dramatic.

A good example of situational irony is Macbeth's killing Duncan to gain the throne, thinking only of the power and wealth he will enjoy as the new King of Scotland. However, after murdering Duncan and being crowned, Macbeth cannot enjoy any part of his new position. He continues to kill in order to maintain power until he becomes a despised tyrant who is destroyed by his own people.

Another good example of situational irony concerns Lady Macbeth. She takes part in Duncan's murder with no hesitation or guilt. She berates Macbeth for being weak when his conscience bothers him about Duncan's murder. She is cold and calculating. However, at the end of the play it is Lady Macbeth who is overwhelmed with guilt and eventually kills herself.

Dramatic irony functions a bit differently. It is created in drama when the audience knows and understands more than the characters do. An excellent example of dramatic irony is found when King Duncan comes to Macbeth's castle to stay for the night. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth treat Duncan with respect and affection, doing all that is within their power to make him comfortable under their roof. Duncan believes they are his dear friends and loyal subjects. He does not realize that he will not live through the night, but the audience knows that Macbeth and his wife will murder him in his sleep within a few hours. This dramatic irony makes the dialog in the scene especially meaningful, sometimes disturbing and sometimes poignant because Duncan is so trusting.

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bank4320 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted February 14, 2009 at 2:09 PM (Answer #2)

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"Macbeth" gives rise to several moments of irony.  The first and most obvious instance occurs in Act 1, Scene 4, when King Duncan, believing Macbeth to be loyal, makes him Thane of Cawdor (the position of a man who has just attempted to overthrow King Duncan) and, in trying to satisfy Macbeth's ambition, actually ends up igniting the ambition and directing it to ends which inevitably lead to King Ducan's brutal murder.  Irony also plays heavily into Macbeth's actions; for instance, before Macbeth murders Duncan, he contemplates the disorientation of his situation: ". . . I am his kinsman and his subject,/Strong both against the deed [of murder]; then, as his host,/Who should against his murderer shut the door," (1.7.13-15).  The irony of Macbeth's actions continue when he murders not only Duncan, but also Duncan's attendants whom he has framed for the murder which he committed; in this case, the man who should be executed becomes the executioner.  There are many other structural elements which might be mentioned.  (It is only after he becomes king that Macbeth's allies and subordinates begin to disobey him.)  All of these are instances which demonstrate not only that Macbeth is a highly ironic tragedy, but also that the genre of tragedy itself is capable of sustaining a high degree of irony.

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b741405 | Student, Grade 11

Posted December 2, 2011 at 5:13 AM (Answer #4)

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There are several instances of irony in the play, some situational and some dramatic.

A good example of situational irony is Macbeth's killing Duncan to gain the throne, thinking only of the power and wealth he will enjoy as the new King of Scotland. However, after murdering Duncan and being crowned, Macbeth cannot enjoy any part of his new position. He continues to kill in order to maintain power until he becomes a despised tyrant who is destroyed by his own people.

Another good example of situational irony concerns Lady Macbeth. She takes part in Duncan's murder with no hesitation or guilt. She berates Macbeth for being weak when his conscience bothers him about Duncan's murder. She is cold and calculating. However, at the end of the play it is Lady Macbeth who is overwhelmed with guilt and eventually kills herself.

Dramatic irony functions a bit differently. It is created in drama when the audience knows and understands more than the characters do. An excellent example of dramatic irony is found when King Duncan comes to Macbeth's castle to stay for the night. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth treat Duncan with respect and affection, doing all that is within their power to make him comfortable under their roof. Duncan believes they are his dear friends and loyal subjects. He does not realize that he will not live through the night, but the audience knows that Macbeth and his wife will murder him in his sleep within a few hours. This dramatic irony makes the dialog in the scene especially meaningful, sometimes disturbing and sometimes poignant because Duncan is so trusting.

 

PLAGEURIZING

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