Define dramatic irony and give two examples from "Macbeth" that show dramatic irony.

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troutmiller eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dramatic Irony occurs when the reader or audience knows something that the character(s) do not.  It creates suspense in most cases. (This often occurs in scary movies when we know that the killer is hiding in the basement and we watch in terror as the character goes to the dark basement alone!)

An example would be in Act I when King Duncan is telling Ross to give Macbeth the title of Thane of Cawdor for his valiant efforts in battle.  Then when the witches hail him in the next scene as Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor, and then King, we know that the second part (Cawdor) will become true soon. However, they haven't heard from Ross yet, so they don't know this information.  Because we know this and the characters do not, that is dramatic irony.

Another example is when Act III when the ghost appears.  Macbeth thinks that everyone can see Banquo's ghost, but we know that the ghost only appears to Macbeth.  As he begins talking to the ghost, we cringe knowing that everyone else in the room thinks he's going crazy and talking to the air.  He doesn't know what we know--that the ghost only appears to him.