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Irony in Act 2, Scene 3 of Macbeth

Summary:

In Act 2, Scene 3 of Macbeth, dramatic irony occurs when Macduff discovers King Duncan's murder. Macbeth pretends to be shocked and grieved, even though he is the murderer. This irony heightens the tension as the audience knows Macbeth's true guilt while the other characters do not.

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What is an example of dramatic irony in Act 2, Scene 3, Lines 100–112 of Macbeth?

The dramatic irony of these lines lies in the juxtaposition of what is said by the characters in the scene and what the audience knows or can surmise from the action of the play up to this point.

At the beginning of act 2, scene 3, the audience know that Macbeth killed Duncan just a few minutes ago, and they're anxious to know what's going to happen now that Macduff, Lennox, and Ross have arrived to meet with Duncan. The anticipation level is high while the audience waits to see if Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are going to be discovered to have killed Duncan or if they can somehow get away with it.

Aside from that, there's something very odd about this scene with regard to Duncan's sons, Malcolm and Donalbain. At first, they seem strangely calm, even after having been awakened by a loudly clanging alarm bell and voices in the courtyard shouting "Murder and treason!"

When Malcolm and Donalbain amble into the courtyard half-awake, there's already a mass of agitated humanity assembled there, including Macduff, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Banquo, Lennox, Ross, and perhaps even the Porter, sleeping off his hangover in a corner.

"What is amiss?" asks Donalbain, as if a servant has just spilled wine on one of the guests.

When Malcolm and Donalbain are told that their "royal father's murdered," Malcolm casually inquires, "O, by whom?" Does he look around the courtyard expecting someone to raise their hand and admit to the murder?

Lennox explains to Malcolm that it appears that Duncan's own guards murdered him, and then he briefly describes the bloody scene near the guards. Malcolm and Donalbain say nothing.

On the day prior to this scene, Duncan named Malcolm his successor as king of Scotland. This would be a perfect opportunity for Malcolm to assume the role of king, as is his right and duty, and take charge of the situation.

Malcolm does nothing. A few minutes later, he huddles with his brother off to the side while the others look to Lady Macbeth, who just "fainted"— because she wants to distract everybody from Macbeth, who's talking too much—and Malcolm and Donalbain decide to run away.

Except they don't run away. They stand around while everybody else decides what to do, and when everybody else is gone, Malcolm tells Donalbain that he's going to run away to England, and Donalbain tells Malcolm that he's going to run away to Ireland.

One of the ironies of this scene is that Malcolm, who ought to be a major participant in the scene, is essentially a non-entity, and he has no effect whatsoever on the scene.

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What is an example of dramatic irony in Act 2, Scene 3, Lines 100–112 of Macbeth?

Dramatic irony occurs when the audience knows something that the characters in the play do not. Essentially, dramatic irony is when certain characters on stage are unaware of some significant information going on in the play that the audience is privy to. In act 2, scene 3 of Shakespeare's classic play Macbeth, the Scottish thanes and members of the royal court are astonished to discover that King Duncan has been assassinated in his sleep. Beginning with line 100, King Duncan's sons enter the scene, and Donalbain asks what is wrong. The audience is aware of the current situation and knows that Donalbain's father has been just been assassinated. This is an example of dramatic irony, since Donaldbain is unaware of the current crisis.

Macduff responds by saying that King Duncan has been murdered, and Malcolm asks who committed the crime. This is another example of dramatic irony, because the audience knows that Macbeth killed Duncan with the help of his wife. Lennox responds by blaming the assassination on the deceased chamberlains, who are covered in the king's blood and have their daggers nearby. Since Lennox is also unaware of Macbeth's treacherous actions, his limited understanding of the crime is an example of dramatic irony.

Overall, dramatic irony occurs in lines 100–112 of act 2, scene 3, when Donalbain questions what is wrong and Malcolm and Lennox are unaware that Macbeth assassinated King Duncan in his sleep. The audience is privy to all of this information and understands that Macbeth and his wife have been plotting Duncan's assassination for some time.

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What is an example of dramatic irony in Act 2, Scene 3, Lines 100–112 of Macbeth?

First, to understand this passage, it's helpful to understand the definition of dramatic irony. Dramatic irony occurs when both the audience and one or more of the characters in a play know something that the other characters on stage do not. In this scene, Macbeth is present when the body of King Duncan is discovered. Macduff has come to see the king in the morning, and asks if he is awake yet. Macbeth says:

MACBETH: I'll bring you to him.

MACDUFF: I know this is a joyful trouble to you, but yet 'tis one.

MACBETH: The labor we delight in physics pain. This is the door.

MacDuff goes in and soon comes rushing back out, saying that Duncan has been murdered. Shortly Lady Macbeth arrives, asking what the commotion is:

LADY MACBETH: What's the business, That such a hideous trumpet calls to parley The sleepers of the house? speak, speak!

Now begins the passage cited in the question. In response to questioning by Malcolm and Donalbain as to what is amiss, Macbeth replies:

MACBETH: You are, and do not know't: the spring, the head, the fountain of your blood is stopt--the very source of it is stopt.

MACDUFF: Your royal father's murder'd.

In this passage, the dramatic irony comes from the fact that the audience knows who murdered King Duncan. Both Lady Macbeth and Macbeth know intimately well who murdered King Duncan, but the other characters on stage do not. Macbeth and his wife knew the King was dead, and by whose hand the murder was committed, before Macduff ever showed up. Yet Macbeth and his wife try to pretend that they are just as shocked and horrified as the other characters in order to maintain the appearance of their innocence.

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Identify and explain an example of verbal irony in Act 2, Scene 3 of Macbeth.

There are numerous examples of verbal irony in the conversation between Macbeth, Macduff and Lennox soon after their arrival at his castle, Inverness. The king had lodged there for the night and Macduff enquires after him:

Is the king stirring, worthy thane?

Macbeth replies:

Not yet.

There are two samples of verbal irony. First in Macduff's simple question and second in Macbeth's even simpler reply. Firstly, Macduff calls Macbeth 'worthy', meaning a person who deserves respect, praise and commendation for the good that he/she has done, but Macbeth is far from 'worthy.' He is, in fact despicable and not deserved of any praise for he has just committed a foul deed. He murdered his cousin, the king, whilst he was sound asleep and therefore defenceless. Although he had his guards with him, they were in a drunken stupor and hardly responded when Macbeth committed his heinous crime. It is therefore deeply ironic that Macduff should call him 'worthy.' This is also an example of dramatic irony for the audience knows what Macbeth has done but Macduff and Lennox do not.

Macbeth's reply is ironic since he knows that it is impossible for the king to make any move. He, Macbeth, has made sure of that. He killed Duncan but replies as if there is a possibility that the king might stir, i.e. awaken, but Duncan has been untimely sent to his eternal rest.

Further irony lies in the fact that Macduff mentions that he has 'almost slipped the hour' in meeting the king, and he has actually missed meeting the king, forever. Macbeth's statement' 'I will bring you to him' is further irony, for his words imply that the king is still alive, when he is not.

Added to this is Macduff's statement about this being a 'joyful trouble' for Macbeth without realising how true his words actually are. Macbeth expresses the fact that his duty to take care of his liege, 'physics pain,' i.e. it is a soothing balm or medication to what strife or pain he may be experiencing, is entirely correct, but not in the manner that Macduff understands it.

Macbeth had been in torment about killing his king and has now been relieved that the deed has actually been done. Furthermore, he has now removed the biggest stumbling block in his aspiration to be king. With the king dead, it would be much easier for him to ascend the throne.  

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Identify and explain an example of verbal irony in Act 2, Scene 3 of Macbeth.

Additionally, he states that he did "kill them," and while the others believe he is strictly speaking about the guards, the fact is that "them" also includes King Duncan.

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Identify and explain an example of verbal irony in Act 2, Scene 3 of Macbeth.

 Macduff and Lennox arrive the next morning after the murder, and Macbeth acts as if nothing happened. He shows Macduff to Duncan's room, and discusses the night before with Lennox. Lennox is describing the rough night he had. He says he heard screams of death, and Macbeth comments, ''Twas a rough night" . This is an example of verbal irony because it seems to Lennox that Macbeth is commiserating with him, when in actuality, he is commenting on his own murderous night.

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Explain the dramatic irony of Macbeth's actions in Act 2, Scene 3.

Macbeth's actions are an example of dramatic irony because the audience is well aware that Macbeth is responsible for the murder of King Duncan. However, Macbeth's actions and words in Act II, Scene III are significant for a number of other reasons as well. Firstly, the act of killing the guards ensures that the guards would never sober up and inform any of the lords that Lady Macbeth was responsible for their inebriation. While the guards would still probably be thought guilty of killing Duncan, the opportunity for them to tell their side of the story could potentially plant doubt within the minds of the others, and therefore possibly begin to point the finger at the Macbeths. The killing of the guards marks the first instance in which Macbeth takes measures to destroy additional potential threats to his safety. He continues this pattern throughout the play by hiring murders to kill Banquo and Fleance, and later going after Macduff and his family.

Further, Macbeth's words, and Lady Macbeth's reaction to them, reveal that he isn't very cunning, which reinforces Lady Macbeth's preexisting concerns.  At this point in the play, Lady Macbeth has already warned him of his inability to hide his thoughts when under pressure. The tension of the scene increases as Macbeth is forced to explain his actions to Macduff and the others.  He says that seeing the murderers asleep "[s]teeped in the colors of their trade" so near the body of Duncan, the murder of whom constitutes a crime against nature, was too much for him.  He then asks "[w]ho could refrain/that had a heard to love, and in that heart/ Courage to make 's love known?" (2.3, 134-137).  In other words, he loved Duncan so much, that he did what anybody would do in that moment. How could anybody blame him?

This scene is further enhanced by Lady Macbeth's reaction to Macbeth's attempts to explain himself. Upon seeing the focus turning toward her husband, she feigns shock and pretends to swoon to draw attention away from Macbeth.  This also functions as dramatic irony, as the audience knows why she is pretending to swoon. As previously stated, it also reinforces the fact that she doesn't trust Macbeth to be able to get himself out of the situation, and she has good reason to be concerned. As the play progresses, Macbeth develops the habit of getting himself in over his head, time and time again.

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Where is the dramatic irony in act 2, scene 3 of Macbeth?

Macbeth had planned to be in his chamber pretending to be sound asleep when the King’s body was discovered, but the prolonged knocking finally forced him to put in an appearance in his nightgown to find out what somebody wasn’t opening the gate. Just before he arrives, the drunken Porter admits Macduff. Thus Macbeth is forced against his will to be present when Macduff finds the King’s bloody body.

We all know from personal experience, if only as children, how difficult it is to act natural when we feel guilty. It is easy to act natural when we are being natural, but it is very hard to remember how it feels to be natural when we are not feeling natural. So we can understand what Macbeth is going through. This is perhaps the worst experience of his life. He is trying to act natural and doing a very poor job of it. He looks rigid, cold, and expressionless. He speaks in very brief sentences consisting mostly of monosyllables.

Macduff tells Lennox, “Our knocking has awaked him. Here he comes.” When Macbeth greets them with such an apparently cold manner, Macduff assumes that he is angry at being awakened by all of Macduff’s pounding on the gate. The dramatic irony throughout this part of the scene is mostly contained in the fact that only the audience knows why Macbeth is acting so strangely. He has simply forgotten how to act like an innocent man. It is nearly impossible to act innocent if you are guilty.

For his part, Macduff completely misinterprets Macbeth’s behavior, since Macduff is innocent and has no suspicion that anything is amiss. Part of the reason for the insertion of the comical scene with the Porter is to reassure Macduff and Lennox that there is nothing unusual going on inside the castle. Everyone is sound asleep. Macduff would naturally become alarmed if he kept knocking at the gate and nobody answered. This would only cause him to knock louder and longer, which was the only way Shakespeare could think of to have Macbeth present when the body was discovered. Macbeth goes through agony waiting for Macduff to enter the King’s chamber and then come running out shouting to wake up everybody in the castle.

Later Macduff will remember Macbeth's behavior and will feel convinced that Macbeth is guilty of Duncan's assassination. Macduff will refuse to attend Macbeth's coronation and will flee to England to help raise an army to invade Scotland and depose Macbeth.

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Where is the dramatic irony in act 2, scene 3 of Macbeth?

There is significant dramatic irony in this scene of Shakespeare's tragedy, which is when the murder of Duncan is discovered and exposed. Let us remember that dramatic irony is when one or more characters on stage and the audience know something that other characters do not. This of course appears in this scene through our knowledge of who really killed King Duncan. Even though Macbeth and Lady Macbeth clearly know too, they act as if they were innocent. Consider Macbeth's response to seeing Duncan's corpse:

Had I but died an hour before this chance,

I had liv'd a blessed time; for, from this instant,

There's nothing serious in mortality;

All is but toys: renown, and grace, is dead;

the wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees

Is left this vault to brag of.

The dramatic irony lies in the way that we know, just as Macbeth himself knows, that this speech is not at all sincere, and he is playing a part, trying to maintain his innocence. However, at this moment in the play, the other charactes are reduced to shock and amazement at the crime of regicide that has been committed among them.

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Where is the dramatic irony in act 2, scene 3 of Macbeth?

In dramatic irony, the irony relies on the reader or spectator having information which a certain character does not.  In Act 2 Scene 3, Macduff rings the bell to signal Duncan's death.  Lady Macbeth asks why the bell is ringing and Macduff says,"O, gentle lady, 'tis not for you to hear what I can speak:  The repetition, in a woman's ear, Would murder as it fell."  Thus, he is saying that what has happened is so horrible that it should not be repeated to a women.  We know that it is Lady Macbeth herself who helped plan the murder and who smeared Duncun's blood on the grooms.  Macduff, however, does not know this.

Another instance of dramatic irony is that Macbeth tells Lennox and Macduff that in his fury he has killed the grooms.  However, we as readers (viewers) know that Macbeth actually killed the grooms so that they could not deny killing Duncan

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