Dramatic Irony is the result of information being shared with the audience but withheld from one or more of the characters.
Example: In Act 1 Scene 4, line 50 , the witches hail Macbeth, “thane of Cawdor!”
Dramatic irony: At this point, Macbeth is unaware that the king has conferred this honor upon him because of his valor in battle, so he attributes his fortune to the witches’ prophecy. However, the audience knows Duncan made the pronouncement in Act 1, Scene 3.
Purpose: This dramatic irony is to show Macbeth’s belief that the witches speak the truth and are responsible for his success. This belief can, and does, influence his future actions.
Example: In Act 1, Scene 6, line 1, Duncan says, “This castle hath a pleasant seat”
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In Act V, Scene i, Lady Macbeth had a fear of the dark and she had started sleep walking and talking to herself. As she was wandering the castle one night, she was obsessed with trying to wash the blood that she still felt and smelt from her hands, a huge change from Act II, Scene ii. She said, “Out, damned stop! out I say!” and continued with, “What, will these hands ne’er be clean?” This is definitely very ironic, since early in the play Lady Macbeth dismissed Macbeth’s concerns with little thought, and one would expect her not to ever think of them again. As we can see in the play though, what was once a trifle to Lady Macbeth soon became a major issue when the realisation of what she had done in Duncan’s murder finally set in. As far as the audience is concerned, they would probably be shocked after the murder of Duncan, and find Lady Macbeth’s responses to Macbeth’s hysteria discomforting, thinking that Lady Macbeth must be a very evil person indeed. Later on though, when Lady Macbeth broke down mentally, the audience would feel a bit more of a vague sense of fear when they were reminded by Lady Macbeth of how terrible Duncan’s