In a school book it is written

Dramatic Irony or Irony of situation: It involves a situation in a play or story in which the audience knows the reality which the speaker or character is ignorant of.

Shakespeare’s tragedies, Macbeth and Hamlet abound in scenes which provide good examples of dramatic irony.

As far as my reading of Macbeth is concerned, I couldn’t find anything like “which the audience knows the reality which the character is ignorant of”. The scene where Macbeth hallucinates and sees Banquo sitting at the feast could be called “which the audience knows the reality ….” but it isn’t that ironical (because for me something is ironical if it involves the opposite of what is being said or expected) and Lady Macbeth and others quite aware of reality. Can someone please explain what the book’s author had in mind when he made such a statement that Macbeth was a good example of dramatic irony?

  • 1
    Please provide a more specific reference than "in a school book." Could you give us the title, etc. of said book? Thanks.
    – verbose
    Feb 14 at 1:54
  • @verbose: See here, page 114 Mar 16 at 8:19

Three examples of dramatic irony in Macbeth.

  1. In act I scene VI, Duncan visits Macbeth’s castle at Inverness and shows no signs of apprehension.

    Duncan. This castle hath a pleasant seat. The air
    Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
    Unto our gentle senses.

    But the audience knows that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are planning to murder Duncan.

  2. In act II scene III, Macduff arrives at the castle and asks Macbeth to take him to the king.

    Macduff. Is the King stirring, worthy thane?

    Macbeth. Not yet.

    Macduff. He did command me to call timely on him.
    I have almost slipp’d the hour.

    But the audience knows that Macbeth has already murdered Duncan.

  3. In act II scene IV, Macduff tells Ross that Duncan was killed by his own servants on the orders of Malcolm and Donalbain.

    Ross. Is’t known who did this more than bloody deed?

    Macduff. Those that Macbeth hath slain.

    Ross. Alas, the day!
    What good could they pretend?

    Macduff. They were suborn’d.
    Malcolm and Donalbain, the King’s two sons,
    Are stol’n away and fled; which puts upon them
    Suspicion of the deed.

    But the audience knows that none of this is true.


The other one I'm going to add is not a major one but it's before the banquet scene. Lady Macbeth scolds Macbeth for not being able to move on from their crimes.

"what's done is done."

We, as the audience, already know Macbeth has already taken action to kill Banquo. Macbeth decides to hide his plans from her. This also shows a change in their relationship.

"Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck."

  • Could you give an exact act/line citation?
    – bobble
    Oct 9 at 1:54

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