Explain the irony in Macbeth’s comments in these lines. (You need to include only one quotation or allusion in your answer to this question.) "Had I but died an hour before this chance, I had...

Explain the irony in Macbeth’s comments in these lines. (You need to include only one quotation or allusion in your answer to this question.)

"Had I but died an hour before this chance,

I had lived a blessèd time, for from this instant

There’s nothing serious in mortality.

All is but toys. Renown and grace is dead.

The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees

Is left this vault to brag of."

Expert Answers
merricat eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Macbeth speaks these words after the discovery of Duncan’s slain body. The words are an example of verbal irony. Verbal irony occurs when a character says one thing which other characters interpret in one particular way, but the audience knows a truth the characters do not. When Macbeth says, “Had I but died an hour before this chance,/I had lived a blessed time,” the noblemen gathered around take him to mean that he is so upset and grieved by Duncan’s death that he would rather have died himself than lived to see such a horrible thing happen. The audience knows this is not a correct interpretation because Macbeth is the murderer, but the characters in the play do not (yet!).

In addition, if Macbeth had died an hour before Duncan was killed, Duncan would still be alive. Macbeth would be in heaven instead of becoming a living murderer condemned to hell, as Shakespeare’s audience would have believed.