Irony in Hamlet

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In William Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet, the protagonist, Hamlet, sees an apparition of his dead father and king of Denmark who tells him the reason for his death was in the hands of his uncle Claudius. Hamlet then devises many plans to try and kill Claudius which ultimately end in many unnecessary deaths and leaves the state of Denmark with their enemy Fortinbras. Throughout the play there are numerous examples of irony and ambiguity. One has to ask why would Shakespeare use these literary devices in the play Hamlet? Irony in the context of tragedy enhances the dramatic effect. Ambiguity in regard to the characters and the plot leaves the audience open to interpretation. Was Hamlet truly mad? Was the ghost really King Hamlet or was it a “goblin damned”(I, iv, 44)? I believe that Shakespeare used irony to heighten the tragic effect of the play, increase the tension between the characters, and enhance the feeling of pathos from the audience.

The character Claudius is introduced as Hamlets uncle and father-in-law. The audience later discovers that Claudius murdered King Hamlet in his garden while he was sleeping. After the death of his brother, he marries the newly widowed Queen Gertrude, and takes the throne. In soliloque at the beginning of Act I, scene ii he expresses his sorrow for the death of their former king and seems truly upset. During this soliloque he exclaims, “Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother's death the memory be green, and that it us befitted to bear our hearts in grief, and our whole kingdom to be contracted in one bear of sorrow;” (I, ii, 1-4) continuing in the story you realize that his words are an act to sway the country of Denmark into believing that he is a good man and a worthy king. After the discussion he has with his close friends, family, and the people of Denmark, Claudius goes to see why Hamlet is depressed. Hamlet requested going back to Wittenburg to continue his studies but the king and Gertrude quickly deny it. The irony...
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