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What is Dramatic Irony? Important tips for using Dramatic Irony in your Writing

The meaning of irony as a literary device is often misunderstood. We would have learned about the irony in our high school through the literary works of Shakespeare. But many people were not exactly sure about what irony is and how to use it correctly. Do you know about irony? If not, then check this blog post and learn about irony, different types of irony and in-depth information about dramatic irony and how to use dramatic irony in your writing.

What is Irony?

The irony is defined as the difference between what actually happened and what appear to happen. In simple terms, it is a contrast between expectation and reality. The irony is a powerful literary device that adds more depth to a piece of writing. In the literature, irony is associated with humor and tragedy. Not just literature, you can also use irony in your everyday life too.

Types of Irony

So, what are the different types of irony? In general, the irony is classified into three types.

  1. Verbal Irony
  2. Situational Irony
  3. Dramatic Irony

Verbal Irony

It is a statement the speakers use for expressing something that is very different from what he/she intends to speak.

Example: A sister walks into her brother’s messy room and says “You’re the King of Cleanliness!”

Situational Irony

It is a kind of literary technique in which an opposite of the expected outcome will happen. Situational irony is sometimes called the irony of events.

Example: The cobbler’s children have no shoes.

This situation is ironic because the cobbler is a professional shoemaker, and so everyone would expect that the cobbler’s children would have many shoes.

Dramatic Irony

Dramatic irony is one of the popular irony types that are used predominantly as both a theatrical device and literary device. In this technique, the audience knows something that the characters they follow in the book or play don’t know. So because of this understanding, the actions and words of the characters give a different meaning, which in turn leads to humor or suspense, depending on the writer’s intention.

Example: In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the crowd realizes that Juliet isn’t dead, but Romeo accepts that she is.

How is Dramatic Irony different from Situational Irony?

Both the dramatic and situational irony involves the situation and the difference between the expectations and reality. The ultimate difference between these 2 types of ironies is whether or not the unexpected reality is revealed to the audience along with the character or before.

In situational irony, our expectations will not be aligned with the characters in the story, but in dramatic irony, the character’s expectation is not the reality of that situation, and hence it creates tension.

Why is Dramatic Irony used?

Dramatic irony is used to increase the engagement of the audience with the story. When the audience knows something that the characters involved in the story don’t know, then obviously tension will be created and which in turn will hold the attention of the audience.

In order to make dramatic irony to be effective, as a writer, you need to build sympathy for a character and then make your audience care for that character.

Examples of Dramatic Irony in Disney Movies

Here are a few examples of dramatic irony in the famous Disney movies.

  • In the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs movie, the poisoned apple that put Snow White into deep sleep is a dramatic irony because the audience knows that the wicked stepmother cursed the apple, but in reality, Snow White doesn’t know that act.
  • Another example of dramatic irony is Hercules and the magic potion. In the Hercules movie, the audience knows that Hercules doesn’t drink the last drop of the magic potion, but Hades underestimated him, which then leads to the victory of Hercules.

Dramatic Irony for Humor and Suspense

The effects of dramatic irony are commonly visible in all kinds of stories. If the characters you are watching operate in a situation where they don’t know the truth, then the entire drama can be suspenseful or funny. For cracking a comedy, misunderstanding plays a key role. So, to generate misunderstandings between the characters, you can use dramatic irony and make the scene funny.

Like comedy, dramatic irony is one of the important tools used in horror and thriller films to generate suspense. Most of the time, dramatic irony works in the form of suspense because both play a key role in causing tension in a scene. If you let the tension boil for a longer time, then obviously it would be explosive at the truth-revealing moment.

Generally, many literature writers and screenwriters use the dramatic irony technique while narrating a story. Not just to elevate comedy or suspense, some writers also use dramatic irony for tragedies. If dramatic irony is used for tragedies, then it will be called Tragic Irony.

Examples of Dramatic Irony in Horror Films

Here are a few examples of dramatic irony used in some popular horror films.

  • On Halloween, a killer hides in the Wallace house and murders every teenager that enters. The audience knows that anyone who enters the house will be doomed, but the kids don’t suspect anything and get trapped. The ignorance of the kids coupled with the audience’s knowledge of the certain death creates a thrilling sense of dramatic irony.
  • In the movie A Nightmare on Elm Street, when a girl named Nancy claims that a killer is pursuing her in her sleep, the adults will dismiss it laughingly, but the audience knows the violence the killer does in dreams leaves palpable marks in real life.
  • In Night of the Living Dead, the protagonist Ben is the only human alive in the house after the attack of the zombies. But when the police arrive and look for the survivors, they assume Ben as a ghoul and shoot him in ignorance. Only the audience understands the meaning of Ben’s actions.

Stages of Dramatic Irony

To use dramatic irony effectively, you need to spend a lot of time and then implement it wisely in the screenplay. So, how to use dramatic irony in a screenplay? Like the three-act structure, there are three stages in the dramatic irony- Preparation, Suspension and Resolution.

Preparation stage happens as soon as the information is revealed to the audience.

Suspension is the time it takes for the character to find out the truth that the audience has known for a long time.

Resolution is what happens after the truth is revealed.

Tips for using Dramatic Irony in Writing

Be it a novel, a play or a movie, whenever you use dramatic irony in writing, always make sure to follow the below-mentioned tips to make your piece of writing interesting.

  1. Use a complex and multi-layered narrative to let the different characters in your story know different information. If your narrative is complex, then the audience will have a close look and make choices based on the wide set of information they have.
  2. Develop the interest by letting your audiences know more than the lead characters in the story.
  3. Instead of narrating a story from the protagonist’s point of view, tell the story from the antagonist’s point of view to generate suspense.
  4. In order to emphasize the dramatic irony, try to include turning points in the story around the primary characters.

Examples of Dramatic Irony in Literature

So, now let us see a few dramatic irony examples in literature.

  • In the Odyssey poem written by Homer, Odysseus returns home in disguise to test the faithfulness of his wife Penelope. Here, all the readers know that the person in disguise is Odysseus.
  • When it comes to dramatic irony, William Shakespeare is a master in implementing that technique in his literary works. In Othello, Othello believes lago to be honest, but the audience knows that lago is manipulating Othello. Shakespeare had also used dramatic irony wisely in his plays like Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, etc.
  • In The DaVinci Code, Dan Brown takes the readers inside the George Washington Masonic Memorial, and gives an interior monologue for CIA Agent Simkins using dramatic irony to establish the ignorance of the secrets that Langdon and Katherine Solomon are chasing.
  • The Greek Myth of Oedipus as written in Sophocles’ play Oedipus Rex is full of dramatic irony. In it, King Oedipus wishes to expose the killer of the former king, Laius. The audience knows that the killer is Oedipus, but Oedipus doesn’t know he is the killer.
  • In the Hunchback of Notre Dame written by Victor Hugo, Quasimodo believes that the gypsies are coming to harm Esmeralda and hence tries to protect her, but in reality, the gypsies’ motive was to protect her.

Wrapping Up

In this post, we have covered the basics of dramatic irony, but there is still a lot more to learn. Just like that, you can’t implement dramatic irony in your writing. You need to think smartly and use irony naturally in your narration. More practice is required for using the dramatic irony technique in your writing. If you find it difficult to include dramatic irony in your writing, then reach out to us. Our assignment helpers will help you to complete your assignment in a more creative way by implementing the dramatic irony technique smartly.