In Act 1 Scene 4 of Macbeth, Duncan speaks highly of Macbeth. Explain why this is dramatic irony.

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teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dramatic irony refers to situations in which characters are unaware of certain events or the true motivations of another character, but the reader/viewer/audience is in the know.  In Act 1 Scene 4 of Macbeth, the audience is well aware of the prophecy that Macbeth and Banquo have received from the witches, but no one else in the play knows about the men's encounter with the witches.  At this point, Duncan speaks highly of Macbeth's valiance on the battlefield, and he is completely unaware that Macbeth has already begun thinking about ways to kill him to take his position as King.  Macbeth has not yet solidified any plans; however, he is coveting Duncan's high status, and no one else knows about it.  Thus, this situation is a moment of dramatic irony.