Use of dramatic irony in Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Before discussing specific cases of dramatic irony through the play, there is one main irony that sets the basis of what the play is about: the more Macbeth believes he succeeds, the deeper in disintegration he steps. One of the aims of dramatic irony is to enhance the theme of appearance and reality. For instance, we see several situations in which Macbeth and his wife pretend to be welcoming, loyal people, and at the same time we know what their plans are (Act1 Scene 6, Act 2 Scene 3). We can also see how Macbeth hides from Banquo the fact that he does think of the witches, thus revealing his underlying ambition (Act 2 Scene 1). Dramatic irony deeply reinforces the sense of betrayal throughout the play. It is created through the characters’ ignorance of the evil forces. Macbeth knows that what he does is wrong but he is at no time aware of the magnitude of his future suffering. We know more than he does because, unlike him, we presence a conversation between the witches where we acknowledge the martyrdom he will endure through the lack of sleep, the inexistence of peace during his meals and his relentless guilt (Act 1 Scene 3). As regards Lady Macbeth, this would apply too. In her case, though, we can remark the absence of consciousness at the time of summoning the evil spirits. She submits the goodness in her and her soul to them, turning into an instrument of evil and later on its victim. At first, she displays a considerable sense of pragmatism and practicality (Act 2 Scene 2). Later on, what she says in this state of rationality proves in retrospect ironic when we see her talking in madness. Her soul is disrupted by what at first gave her the power to do evil. We see how she becomes afraid of what she recognized as innocuous. When she expresses that “what is cone cannot be undone” (Act 5 Scene 1), we can see how at first it meant that the deed was finished, and now, this takes various connotations...
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