Romeo and Juliet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What moments of dramatic irony occur in act 2 of Romeo and Juliet?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Dramatic irony occurs when the audience knows what the characters in a play do not.

As an audience, we are well aware by act 2 that Rosaline is history as far as Romeo is concerned, because he has fallen head over heels in love with Juliet. Romeo's friends, however, have not caught up with the new set of affairs. Why would they? Just a few hours ago, Romeo was insisting that Rosaline was the only woman in the world for him. No other woman in the world would ever compare to Rosaline.

Thus, we encounter dramatic irony in act 2, scene 4, as Mercutio and Benvolio wonder what became of the missing Romeo. Mercutio says,

Why, that same pale hard-hearted wench, that Rosaline,
Torments him so, that he will sure run mad.
This is dramatic irony, for we know that Rosaline is no longer tormenting Romeo.
At the beginning of scene 5, dramatic irony again occurs. We know that the nurse and Romeo have successfully connected and set into motion the marriage plan, but the anxious Juliet does not yet have this information. She is on tenterhooks, not knowing what her nurse learned, so dramatic irony is in play when Juliet, worried about bad news, says:
Though news be sad, yet tell them merrily.

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Sol Gandy eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Dramatic irony occurs when there is a contradiction between what a character thinks and what the audience knows to be true. Along with the two examples in the above post, there are three other instances of dramatic irony in Act II. In Scene 3 the Friar initially believes that Romeo is still in love with Rosaline and, because he sees that Romeo has been up all night, asks if Rosaline is the reason. He soon learns that it was Juliet who kept Romeo awake.

In Scene 4, Mercutio and Benvolio are also still under the impression that Romeo is hopelessly in love with Rosaline. Mercutio comments,

Alas, poor Romeo, he is already dead,
stabbed with a white wench’s black eye, run
through the ear with a love-song, the very pin of his
heart cleft with the blind bow-boy’s butt shaft.
Mercutio is right in one respect. Romeo has been shot with Cupid's arrow, but he is now in love with Juliet and not Rosaline.
In the same scene Juliet's nurse shows up to speak to Romeo in the streets of Verona. She has been sent by Juliet to discover Romeo's plans for their wedding. Mercutio treats her disrespectfully and taunts her. Mercutio insults her appearance, saying,
Good Peter, to hide her face, for her fan’s
the fairer face.
Mercutio and the Montague men are unaware of the real reason for the Nurse's appearance and why she wishes to speak with Romeo. Only the audience realizes she has become a confidant in the couple's plan to secretly marry. In fact, only the Nurse and Friar Laurence know about the couple until the very last scene of the play.

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dneshan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The very first example of dramatic irony occurs in Act 2, scene 1 when Benvolio and Mercutio are looking for Romeo after the Capulet’s party.  They are in the Capulet orchard making comments about Romeo’s love for Rosaline.  The reason this is dramatic irony is because the audience knows that Romeo is no longer in love with Rosaline; he’s in love with Juliet.

A second example would be in Act 2, scene 2 when Juliet is standing on her balcony.  She thinks that she is simply talking to herself about how she feels about Romeo and how she wishes he was not a Montague.  Since Romeo is standing right there but she does know it and the audience does, this is dramatic irony.


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