Literary Devices In Hamlet

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

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lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

swatishrivastav | Student

The first good irony comes in the first two lines. When Claudius says that it is "sweet and commendable" to give this duty, he's praising Hamlet for something that will eventually kill him.

My favorite, though, is when Claudius says to "think of us as a father." Would a father kill your real father? Not likely.

Shakespeare's "Hamlet" is full of talk about death, dead bodies, murder, suicide, disease, graves, and so forth. And there is no traditional Christian comfort or promise of eventual justice or happiness for the good people. But the message is ultimately one of hope. You can be a hero.

Am not a real expert with Shakespear, but in "Twelfth Night," you have a good example of how he turn things around in an instant with "If music be the food of love, play on. Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die." Just for fun, you should read this at the second link below. Read through the first scene.

adriana95 | Student

One part of irony that I know in the play is when it says to be or not to be that is the question as he himself doesnt really choose to follow the right path and makes him end up in a difficult situation.

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