Literary Devices In Hamlet

What are examples of verbal irony, situational irony, and dramatic irony in Hamlet?

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Perhaps the greatest irony of all is that Hamlet engages in so much self debate and deliberates so long in order to form a plan of action that is best for Denmark only to die an untimely death.

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Dramatic irony is when we know something as an audience that the characters do not know.  For example, we may know that Hamlet is crazy and not really talking to a ghost.  But do we?  We know what is happening to everyone everywhere, but each character does not.

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Perhaps the most ironic moment in the play, if we can say that, is the play-within-the-play, which is an example of dramatic irony taken to an extreme.

The action of the play is understood by Hamlet and the audience to be a synopsis of the murder that precedes the action of the play. Yet the players and the court, at first anyway, believe the play-within-the-play to be pure entertainment.

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Irony is a literary, dramatic or poetic device in which something other than the expected is said or happens.

  • It can be verbal irony, occurring in what someone says, for example, "I like the kitten ... that I'm allergic to...."
  • It can be in a situation that occurs. For example: He was looking for his glasses; he was glad they were found on the cushion the girl was sitting on.
  • It can be dramatic irony in which some know information that others do not: For example in Hamlet, the audience and Horatio know Hamlet is acting like he is mad though other characters do not.

Verbal irony: "A little more than kin, and less than kind." (verbal play on kin/son and kind/same).  Act I, scene ii.

Situational irony: The swords being switched and Laertes dying by the poison intended for Hamlet.  Act V, scene ii.

Dramatic irony: We and Horatio know that Hamlet is going to act crazy while Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, and Ophelia are left trying to figure out what is happening with the much changed Hamlet.  Act I, scene i.

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