Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Dramatic Irony In Hamlet

In Act 1 and 2, what are some examples of dramatic irony in Hamlet?


One example is in act 2, scene 2, with Polonius believing Hamlet has gone mad as a result of unrequited love. The audience knows it not to be true, because, earlier in the play, Hamlet decided to pretend to be crazy, in order to investigate the role Claudius may have had in King Hamlet's death. 

 

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In act 2, scene 2, Polonius reveals his belief that the cause of Hamlet's madness is that Hamlet is in love with Ophelia. Polonius previously told Ophelia (his daughter) to break things off with Hamlet, and Polonius now tells Claudius and Gertrude that this is likely what precipitated Hamlet's mental illness. They plan to allow Ophelia to speak with Hamlet and observe their interaction, and Polonius says,

If he love her not
And be not from his reason fall'n thereon,
Let me be no assistant for a state
But keep a farm and carters (2.2.165–168).

In other words, Polonius stakes his profession on his certainty that Hamlet has lost his reason as a result of his unrequited love. Of course, we know that this is not true. Hamlet is not actually mad (at least according to Hamlet himself) but has resolved to act as though he is in order to investigate Claudius's involvement in King Hamlet's death. Therefore, the audience knows a great deal more, here, than Polonius and the royal couple.

Later, in act 3, scene...

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