Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What are examples of irony in Act 5 of Shakespeare's Hamlet?

An example of situational irony in Act 5 of Hamlet comes in Scene 2, when Hamlet tells Horatio how he managed to escape the trap set for him by Claudius and send Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths. This is an example of situational irony in that Claudius’ actions have had the exact opposite effect of what was intended.

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Dramatic irony occurs when the audience possesses an insight which at least one of the characters lacks. In act 5, scene 2, the audience is aware that Claudius plans to use the fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes as an opportunity to finally rid himself of his nephew. The audience then witnesses Claudius asking for wine and dropping a "pearl" into Hamlet's cup. Hamlet isn't aware that Claudius has poisoned his wine, yet he dismisses the offer of a drink until he finishes his round.

Not realizing her husband's plans, Gertrude sees the cup--which the audience realizes is poisoned--and lifts it, offering a toast to Hamlet's good "fortune" in this bout.

This is a moment of dramatic irony. Not realizing that she holds a cup of poison, Gertrude drinks the wine, which quickly kills her.

It's also a moment of verbal irony . Toasting Hamlet's "fortune" is an ironic word choice; in fact, this duel is not fortunate at all for Hamlet. It has been designed to kill him and though the poisoned wine won't be his...

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