Irony in Romeo and Juliet

Irony Examples in Romeo and Juliet:

Act I - Scene II 1

"fires..."   (Act I - Scene II)

Religious heretics, those who defied or actively spoke out against the Catholic Church, were burned at the stake. Here, Romeo vows that his love for Rosaline is so pure that if he falls in love with another woman, he can be burned at the stake because he will be a heretic. This is ironic as the prologue has already told the audience that Romeo will fall in love with Juliet.

"I have seen the day(20) That I have worn a visor and could tell A whispering tale in a fair lady's ear, Such as would please. 'Tis gone, 'tis gone, 'tis gone! You are welcome, gentlemen! Come, musicians, play. A hall, a hall! give room! and foot it, girls. Music plays, and they dance. (25) More light, you knaves! and turn the tables up, And quench the fire, the room is grown too hot. Ah, sirrah, this unlook'd-for sport comes well. Nay, sit, nay, sit, good cousin Capulet, For you and I are past our dancing days...."   (Act I - Scene V)

Capulet reflects on his own youth when he would have been able to wear a mask and charm a young lady. This statement becomes ironic as this is exactly what will happen to his own daughter at this party. This reminiscing also comes across as haunting after the Prologue to this play. While Capulet can reflect on his youth because he has grown old, Romeo and Juliet will never be able to do so; in dying for their love and their parent's strife, they will forever be preserved in their dancing days.

"It cannot countervail..."   (Act II - Scene VI)

Romeo states that sorrow cannot destroy his happiness, though this statement comes across as unintentionally ironic. The audience knows that sorrow will in fact destroy his happiness before the play has ended.

" love thee better..."   (Act III - Scene I)

Here, Romeo extends his love for Juliet to her family. He proposes the very feeling that the Friar had hoped would resolve the hatred between the two families; however, ironically it is this compassion that causes the coming tragedy.

"Am I like such a fellow..."   (Act III - Scene I)

It is ironic that Mercutio tells Benvolio that he is a hot-head when Mercutio has been the most outspoken and offensive character in the play so far. Mercutio describes himself more in his anecdote about the tavern brawler than Benvolio.

"we shall not scape a brawl,..."   (Act III - Scene I)

This is another instance of foreshadowing that refers to the tragedy promised in the Prologue. Moments like this remind the audience that they are watching a tragedy so that they understand the irony in these exchanges, which would otherwise be seen as comedic.

"married to her grave..."   (Act III - Scene V)

Lady Capulet intends this statement as a an insult that points to Juliet's selfish grief. However, her statement is ironically apt: Juliet is married to Romeo, and her love for him ends up leading her to her grave. Metaphorically, Juliet is actually married to her grave.

"wondrous light..."   (Act IV - Scene II)

Capulet's joy is ironic here because the audience knows that Juliet has planned to fake her death in order to get out of the marriage. While this scene could function as a comedic relief of the play's dramatic tension, the audience knows both that Juliet fabricates the comedy and that the play will end in tragedy.

"restorative..."   (Act V - Scene III)

Like Romeo who called the poison "cordial", Juliet sees death as a restorative, or medication. Now that Romeo is dead, Juliet's only relief will come with death. Ironically, the poison is the only "medicine" that can save her.

" no power yet..."   (Act V - Scene III)

This is a moment of dramatic irony. The audience knows that Juliet's cheeks and lips are not pale because she is not actually dead. However, Romeo believes that this is a sign of her everlasting beauty: even in death Juliet is beautiful.