What are two examples of dramatic irony in Act I, Scene 4 of Macbeth?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dramatic irony is when the audience knows more about events and situations than the characters or actors in a play, movie, or story. In act 1, scene 4 of Macbeth, Shakespeare utilizes dramatic irony when King Duncan affectionately addresses Macbeth as his "worthiest cousin" and praises Macbeth for his valiant efforts in battle. He is also excited to travel to Inverness and is anxious to dine with Macbeth and his wife. The audience is aware of Macbeth's ambitious nature and knows that he has serious thoughts about murdering the king. However, King Duncan feels comfortable visiting Macbeth's castle and is completely unaware that Macbeth is thinking about assassinating him.

Another example of dramatic irony concerns Macbeth's positive, humble responses to King Duncan. The audience is aware that Macbeth is blatantly lying to the king when he tells him, "The rest is labor which is not used for you" (Shakespeare, I.iv.45). In actuality, Macbeth will not be content until he has obtained the title King of Scotland.

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act 1, Scene 4 of Macbeth, King Duncan meets Macbeth for the first time since the great battle. Duncan expresses his boundless gratitude for Macbeth's indispensable help against the enemy and concludes by saying, rather ironically:

Only I have left to say,
More is they due than more than all can pay.

This is ironic because the audience knows full well that Macbeth is thinking of taking everything away from Duncan. It is almost as if Duncan knows Macbeth's intentions and is unconsciously giving him permission to do it.

Macbeth's reply is loaded with irony. He tells the King:

The service and the loyalty I owe,
In doing it pays itself.

Macbeth is saying just the opposite of what the audience knows he is thinking.