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Arthur Miller's one-act morality play, Incident at Vichy, begun while the playwright listened to the war crimes trials at Nuremberg, ironically finds the detainees held in a room with only a long bench on which they can sit, as they await questioning. While some contend this is only a check point, several believe that evil forces are at work. Nevertheless, they delude themselves, hoping that their passivity as civilized men will save them. Marchand, whose profession matches the French meaning for his name--merchant--says that “Vichy must be full of counterfeit papers” and that “as soon as they start, it shouldn’t take long." This the audience knows to be true, but it is not true in the manner which Marchand believes; instead, it is true that the men will be thrown into cattle cars and dispensed with rather quickly.
Here lies the dramatic irony, or contradiction between what the characters think and what the audience knows to be true. For, as Leduc a psychiatrist and veteran of the 1940 fighting against Germany tells the others,
"You cannot wager your life on a purely rational analysis of this situation. Listen to your feelings: you must certainly feel the danger here.”
In another example of dramatic irony, the German officer who holds the men as detainees states in his cynicism that victimizers suffer loss just as do the victims. What he means is that they both suffer the loss of their humanity, but ironically, he has also forecast what the audience knows as the Nazi defeat.
Miller's play points to another evil of the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis, as well as a dramatic irony. In their passivity and civilized manners the Jews hoped that if they lived in ghettos and gave up their positions and property, the Nazis would leave them alone. But, it was in their failure to resist that they were reviled and hated even more.
One scene in the movie "Titanic" that can be labeled as dramatic irony is when a character leaning on the balcony before the ship hits the iceberg says, "It's so beautiful I could just die."
The irony occurs when a situation is understood by the audience but not by the characters in the play.
dramatic irony is when a person makes a harmless remark, and someone else who hears it knows something that makes the remark have a different, and usually unpleasant, meaning. For instance, if you were in a restaurant and said out loud, 'I can't wait to eat the veal marsala I ordered,' and there were people around who knew that the veal marsala was poisoned and that you would die as soon as you took a bite, your situation would be one of dramatic irony.
"Dramatic irony occurs when the audience knows more than one or several of the characters onscreen, a condition which pushes audience attention into the future because it creates anticipation about what is going to happen when the truth comes out. That anticipation is known as ironic tension, and it is bracketed by a scene of revelation (the moment the audience is given information of which a character is unaware) and recognition(the moment when the character discovers what the audience has already known . . .). Dramatic irony comes in two flavors--suspense, which can be used to inspire fear in the audience, and comic, in which a misunderstanding is 'milked' to produce laughter. . . .
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