The general name given to literary techniques that involve surprising, intriguing, or amusing contradictions, irony falls into three categories:
- verbal irony in which words are used to suggest the opposite of their usual meaning
- situational irony in which an event occurs that directly contradicts the expectations of the reader or the audience
- dramatic irony in which there is a contrast between what a character thinks and what the reader or audience knows to be true.
In Act II, Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio and Benvolio seek Romeo, whom they believe is hiding, but because they do not know of Romeo's new love Mercutio calls to him in the name of Rosaline:
I conjure thee by Rosaline's bright eyes,
By her high forehead and her scarlet lip,
That in thy likeness thou appear to us! (2.1.19-21)
It is dramatic irony that is exemplified in this scene as Mercutio teases Romeo about Rosaline, not realizing that Romeo no longer is lovesick and Rosaline's name now means nothing to him, for he is instead infatuated with Juliet. And, when Benvolio says,
Come, he hath hid himself among these trees,
To be consorted with the humorous night.
Blind is his love, and best befits the dark. (2.1.32-34)
his words, also, exemplify dramatic irony as Benvolio, also, believes that Romeo is moody and hiding because he is still upset over his rejection by Rosaline.