Dramatic irony is a literary device in which the audience knows more than the characters in a story, play, or movie, creating tension and suspense. In William Shakespeare‘s (1564-1616) play Macbeth, there are several examples of dramatic irony that contribute to the play’s overall themes of ambition, fate, and deception. Here, are some of the most notable examples:
At the beginning of the play, Macbeth is a brave and loyal soldier who is honored for his bravery. However, the audience knows that Macbeth is destined to become a murderer and a tyrant. This creates dramatic irony because the audience is aware of Macbeth’s true nature before the other characters in the play.
More Notes: Macbeth
The Witches’ Prophecy
In the opening scenes of the play, Macbeth and Banquo encounter three witches who prophesied that Macbeth will become king. The audience knows that this prophecy will come true, but Macbeth does not. This creates dramatic irony as the audience watches Macbeth’s ambition grow, and he becomes increasingly desperate to make the prophecy a reality.
Lady Macbeth’s Guilt
When Lady Macbeth says,
“A little water clears us of this deed,”
she is referring to the murder of King Duncan. The audience knows that Lady Macbeth will eventually be consumed by guilt and madness, but Lady Macbeth herself is unaware of this at the time.
When Banquo is murdered, his son Fleance escapes. This creates dramatic irony because the audience knows that Fleance is destined to become king, but the other characters in the play are unaware of this.
Throughout the play, Macbeth believes that he is invincible and cannot be defeated. However, the audience knows that his downfall is inevitable. This creates tension and suspense, as the audience waits for Macbeth to realize that he cannot escape his fate.
The dramatic irony in Macbeth creates a sense of tension and suspense as the audience watches the characters’ actions unfold in the face of their tragic fate. It also highlights the play’s themes of ambition, fate, and deception, as the characters struggle to control their own destinies in the face of overwhelming odds.