Irony In Romeo And Juliet Act 1

In Act I Scene 5 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, where is the dramatic irony in Juliet's response to the Nurse?

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mlsldy3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Act 1 Scene 5, finds us at the Capulet's Ball. Romeo and Juliet have had their first encounter. It is a masked ball, so Juliet doesn't know the identity of her new found love. Romeo and Juliet have instantly fallen in love and Juliet wants to know the identity of her love. She asked the nurse to go and find out who her love is. She tells the nurse ' if he be married, my grave is like to be my wedding bed", here lies the dramatic irony of the scene.

We all know how the story is going to end. The chorus tells us at the beginning of the death of Romeo and Juliet. Juliet was foreshadowing the outcome of her romance with Romeo. When Juliet finds out that her love is a Montague, Juliet feels despair. She knows that her family and the Montague's are enemies, so she thinks that there is no chance of a happy ending for her. She tells her nurse of the sorrows she feels.

" My only love, sprung from my only hate! Two early seen unknown, and known too later! Prodigious birth of love is to me, that I must love a loathed enemy." 

Although the two families are sworn enemies, Romeo and Juliet realize that love is too strong to keep them apart. The tragedy that is to be played out throughout the play, is summed up in this act. 

sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The irony of the exchange between Juliet and the nurse is found in the following line of dialogue spoken by Juliet.  

"if he be married/ My grave is like to be my wedding bed."

Act I, Scene 5 is the Capulet ball.  It is one of those big, fancy costumed parties.  People wear masks to hide their identities.  Despite the fact that Romeo is wearing a mask, Juliet is still somehow smitten with him.  Juliet asks her nurse to go find out who the attractive masked man is.  Then she says the above line.  It is an example of dramatic irony.  Dramatic irony is irony in which the audience knows something that the characters do not.  In this case, the audience knows that Romeo is a Montague, but Juliet and the nurse do not.  If you know the play, then the line is even more rife with dramatic irony, because then you know that not only is Romeo a Montague, but you also know that Juliet's grave is indeed close at hand.  

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Of course, the Capulets' guests were costumed, so Juliet does not know the identity of Romeo, who approached her at the party. She asks the Nurse to find out who he is, and adds that "if he be married/ My grave is like to be my wedding bed." This is, in a sense, dramatic irony because it is her love for Romeo will eventually lead her to her grave. She will not die an old spinster but as a young woman very much in love. The irony only intensifies when the Nurse tells Juliet that the man in question is actually Romeo, from the house of Montague. Juliet bemoans the fact that her "only love" is "sprung from my only hate!" 


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Romeo and Juliet

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