What are examples of irony in this speech from Hamlet?  How all occasions do inform against me. And spur my dull revenge! What is a man, If his chief good and market of his time Be but to sleep...

What are examples of irony in this speech from Hamlet?

 

How all occasions do inform against me. And spur my dull revenge! What is a man, If his chief good and market of his time Be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more. Sure he that made us with such large discourse. Looking before and after, gave us not  That capability and god like reason to fust in us unus'd. now, where it be Bestial oblivion or some craven scruple Of thinking too precisely on the event, A thought, which, quarter'd hath but one part wisdom and ever three parts coward, I do not know Why yet I live to say "This thing's to do;" Sith i have cause and will and strength and means to do't. Examples gross as earth exhort me: Witness this army of such mass and charge led by a delicate and tender prince,whose spirit with divine ambition puff'd makes mouths at the invisible event,exposing what is mortal and unsure to all that fortune,death and danger dare,even for an egg shell.Rightly to be great is not to stir without great argument,but greatly to find quarrel in a straw when honours at the stake.How stand i then,that have a father kill'd,a mother stain'd,excitements of my reason and my blood, and let all sleep, while, to my shame. I see the imminent death of twenty thousand men, that, for a fantasy and trick of fame, go to their grave like beds, fight for a plot whereon the numbers cannot try the cause, which is not tomb enough and continent to hide the slain? O! from this time forth, My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!

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mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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There are several instances of irony that can be discussed within the context of this speech.  The first is that the speech is about how useless words are, and yet, he gives a speech to say it.  He bemoans the fact that all he has done to this point is talk and talk and talk, and in doing so, he talks even more about it.  So there is that.  Then, he realizes, finally, and only upon seeing men march out onto the battlefield, what a coward he has been.  The irony here lies in the very unusual place and circumstance upon which he decides to act; he could have enacted revenge many, many times while in the castle, but he does not.  That is unexpected, as is his sudden resolve in on a battlefield far, far away.  It is a rather ironic setting to finally decide to act on his revenge.  And, upon deciding to act, it is conveniently far, far away from the castle where he could actually do so.  It is easy to say you will be brave when you are not in the situation where bravery is required, and Hamlet has shown that when put in that situation, he tends to back out.

I hope that those thoughts helped a bit; good luck!

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