Explain the irony act 1, scene 2, lines 51–53 of Macbeth.

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The sort of irony at work in these two lines, spoken by Lennox early in the play, is known as prophetic irony. This means that the audience will not know the first time they watch the play that these lines are ironic—the understanding depends on a knowledge of what is going to come afterwards. Therefore, when Lennox says that Ross has a strange look in his eyes and that this suggests he is going to say something strange, it is not immediately obvious to the audience that there is irony in what Ross actually does say—namely, "God save the king."

However, if we know the play, we certainly know there is irony here. Ross is wishing good health for the reigning king, Duncan. In and of itself, this is ironic because Duncan will soon die at the hands of Macbeth, who he thought was loyal to him. Subsequently, the story Ross tells about the "traitor," the current thane of Cawdor, is also ironic because Ross is explaining how this man has behaved. Duncan, the king, then pronounces a sentence of execution on the thane of Cawdor and suggests that his title should be bestowed upon Macbeth—the clear implication being that Macbeth would be more deserving of the title because he would never betray his king. As we know, this turns out to be absolutely false.

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The lines, spoken by Lennox, indicate that Lennox thinks Ross had a strange look in his eyes, lilke he had an odd story to tell.  The irony is that, ultimately, Ross will have a very strange tale to relate.  Ross can tell about how Macbeth killed Duncan, killed his friend, Banquo, and killed Macduff's family - all in the name of ambition.  In this scene where Lennox delivers these lines, the Thane of Ross approaches Lennox and Malcolm.  Ross tells them of how the Thane of Cawdor assisted the king of Norway in a battle against Scotsmen for some land.  Ross says that Macbeth was able to defeat the Norwegian king and the Thane of Cawdor in battle. There is some irony, also, in that Macbeth was fighting for Duncan and proved himself very loyal against a traitor to the country.  Later, it is Macbeth who performs a traitorous deed when he kills King Duncan. Additionally, Macbeth is the one in the end, who is killed in battle.

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