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Irony in Macbeth

Irony Examples in Macbeth:

Act I - Scene IV

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"There's no art To find the mind's construction in the face:..."   (Act I - Scene IV)

Duncan is saying that one cannot tell someone's true nature by examining their face. This is an example of dramatic irony because he is talking about the traitorous Thane of Cawdor just as Macbeth, the new Thane of Cawdor, comes into the room to greet him. This is ironic because Macbeth ultimately betrays Duncan.

"This castle hath a pleasant seat..."   (Act I - Scene VI)

Duncan has never been to or seen Macbeth's castle before. He finds it very pleasant, which is ironic considering the fate that awaits him within. This deception of appearance is a good example of the theme the witches' established early on: Fair is foul and foul is fair. What looks so pretty and pleasant to the King is actually a death trap.

"A friend..."   (Act II - Scene I)

This is almost comically ironic. Macbeth is Banquo's worst enemy and will soon be responsible for his murder.

"so, it will make us mad...."   (Act II - Scene II)

These words are filled with dreadful irony and foreshadowing. Considering how Macbeth has already imagined a floating dagger prior to killing Duncan and his current agitated state, the likelihood that one or both of them will mentally suffer as a consequence of this action is a distinct possibility.

"To kill their gracious father?..."   (Act III - Scene VI)

Notice how in this speech Lennox asks several questions about the main events in the play. These are means to be rhetorical and ironic, as having witnessed Macbeth's strange behavior earlier and the poor condition the country is in, Lennox now believes Macbeth is guilty of murder and that he needs to be overthrown.

"your father's dead...."   (Act IV - Scene II)

This is an example of verbal irony in which Lady Macduff says one thing but intends to be understood as meaning something that contrasts with what she says. In this case, she tells her son that Macduff is dead even though the boy knows this is not the case.

"Why in that rawness left you wife and child..."   (Act IV - Scene III)

Malcolm brings up a valid reason for not immediately trusting Macduff: He had difficulty believing that Macduff would leave his family defenseless if he really intended to join Malcolm and fight Macbeth. Again the audience experiences the dramatic irony of this situation, because Macduff has yet to learn that his brash decision to leave without taking care of his family has cost him their lives.

"He hath not touch'd you yet..."   (Act IV - Scene III)

Notice the dramatic irony in this line. While the audience knows what has already happened, neither Malcolm nor Macduff yet know that Macbeth has already had Macduff's family and household killed.

"goose look..."   (Act V - Scene III)

A "goose look" is a look of foolish fear. Consider the irony in this statement: Macbeth asks the servant why he has this look of fear on his face, and Macbeth doesn't realize that he himself is the source of such fear.

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