In The Crucible, consider the following examples of irony. Classify each as verbal, dramatic, or situational and think about the purpose of each example. Danforth says, “I judge nothing” in response to the evidence that Proctor plows on Sunday. Elizabeth Proctor, an honest woman, lies after Proctor has already confessed. Proctor screams at the end, “I say—God is dead … I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face! And it is my face, and yours, Danforth!” Readers know the girls are faking it when Danforth and the courts believe their act.

Verbal irony involves a character speaking words that are different from their actual meaning or from reality. In dramatic irony, readers have more information than the characters have. With situational irony, events occur that are different from what characters and readers expect.

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To help you get started on this assignment, let's review the nature and types of irony. Irony occurs when something different is expressed or happens than what has been expected or is apparent. There are several different types of irony. In verbal irony, a speaker says something different from what they actually mean or is actually true. If you were to look out the window into a blinding snowstorm and say, “Wow! What a beautiful day,” you would be using verbal irony, especially if you don't like snow.

Another type of irony is dramatic irony. Here readers know something that the characters do not. If you are reading a story in which the narrator tells you that the protagonist is actually alive, just hiding from his enemies in a closet, but those enemies firmly believe that he is dead and they are safe, you are experiencing dramatic irony.

Situational irony is a bit different. With this type of irony, a situation within a literary work turns out much differently than readers and characters have been led to expect. In a suspense story, for instance, a detective is on the trail of a man he thinks has committed a murder. He is almost positive that he is going to catch the murderer this time. In fact, he's just around the corner. But when he turns the corner, he comes face to face with a bewildered little old lady holding a sign that says, “You'll never catch me!” This is situational irony.

Now let's take a close look at these three examples from The Crucible. With the definitions in mind, identify which type of irony each one contains. Recall that verbal irony is about a character's words, dramatic irony is about readers' knowledge versus characters' knowledge, and situational irony involves an unexpected happening.

The irony used in the play increases the dramatic tension and the depth of meaning in the work. Readers are invited to reflect on the differences between appearance and reality as well as the characters' limited and often faulty knowledge of themselves and their neighbors.

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