Dramatic Irony in 'an Inspecto Calls'

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How does Priestly use extensive dramatic irony to influence the audience’s impressions of Birling in Act 1? ‘An Inspector Calls’, first shown in 1946, was performed to an audience that would have just waved an anxiously awaited good-bye to two world wars and welcomed the instatement of the new Labour government that proposes the introduction of the exciting welfare state. So, it becomes obvious that an audience of this time would appreciate the extensive use of dramatic irony used through the character of Birling in the introductory section of this play. In the first ten minutes of the play, Birling speaks for the majority of the time, imposing his devastatingly mistaken views on his family. Before delving into the numerous and topical issues at hand, Birling mentions he speaks ‘as a hard-headed business man’ which suggests to the audience that he is a man who is knowledgeable about controversial and relevant issues such as government policy. So, it is even more amusing to the audience when Birling reveals his opinions on war – ‘there isn’t a chance of war’ – because he himself has made it seem as if he is a source of knowledge and influential information. Immediately, there should be a reaction from the audience consisting of amusement and laughter as they understand exactly how wrong Mr Birling is. Birling even goes as far as to say that those who believe war will occur are foolish and that he knows best, ‘talking as a hard-headed, practical man of business’. His overwhelming ignorance is highlighted several times throughout this act through the repetition of his self-describing phrases and is simply built upon as the play progresses. The audience is fully aware that war will occur and so the majority should be amused by this ignorance and arrogance thus we can assume that Priestly uses irony to engage the audience. Regardless of whether the audience emphasise with him or dislike him, they will be fully engaged due to the nature of his speech and this proves...
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