Give three specific examples of dramatic irony in Act 1 and 2 of Hamlet.
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Dramatic irony results when the readers and one character possess information which the other characters are ignorant of.
1. In ActI Sc.5, the Ghost reveals to Hamlet that he was poisoned to death by Claudius who spread the rumour that he died of snake bite which is believed to be true by everyone in Denmark. Dramatic irony results because only Hamlet and the readers know the truth that Claudius murdered Hamlet's father. After this revelation, we sympathise with Hamlet and begin to hate Claudius: "Now Hamlet hear........Now wears his crown."
2. At the end of ActI Sc.5, Hamlet makes his two friends Horatio and Marcellus to swear that they must not reveal what they have just seen and heard. We sympathise with Hamlet who has decided to "put an antic disposition on" (to pretend madness) to deceive the others and not reveal his true feelings and his future plan of action in revenging his father's death. Dramatic irony results because only the readers and his friends Marcellus and Horatio know that he is only pretending to be mad.
3. In Act II Sc.1 Ophelia reports to her father Polonius the strange behaviour of Hamlet. Polonius immediately concludes that Hamlet is 'madly in love' with Ophelia: "This is the very ecstasy of love" and that he has gone mad because she has obeyed his instruction in spurning Hamlet's love: "That hath made him mad." Only the readers know that Hamlet is only pretending to be mad.
When Hamlet met Polonius, he pretended that he didn't know him and acted madly. only the readers know that Hamlet was acting.
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