There are many instances in which William Shakespeare shapes our modern works of art and literature, doing so by remaining the most spoken playwright of his century. Besides his many privileges, he had used some literary elements that have great discussion in the present day, such as his usage of irony, foreshadowing, unconscious hypocrisy and other literary elements. They are used today as well, but in the past centuries, the combination of those elements was the technique which was the most appealing to the audience, the one, actually, used by Shakespeare. One of those elements is dramatic irony, which is based on the contrast of reality and misconception. In dramatic irony this contrast depends on the difference between what the character believes and what the audience knows to be true. The usage of dramatic irony, combined with other literary elements, builds suspense, tension, and concern for the characters in the play – one thing that the playwright or a writer desires to achieve.
Dramatic irony is a plot device usually used when writing tragedies such as in a play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. In Romeo and Juliet tragedy, Shakespeare used this element to intensify the play. He had done so successfully, because by the effect, it is one of the most famous plays in our history. Presumably, Shakespeare uses other characters to mention some information to let the reader wonder what the other character that doesn’t have that information will do. For example, when Romeo hears about Juliet’s death he doesn’t know that Juliet had actually drunk the sleeping potion the Friar gave her. Since it is a tragic play, it would mean that such use of dramatic irony will lead the character to some tragic end. Consequently, Romeo decides to kill himself and “be with Juliet.”
The audience, aware of some shortcoming due to the element of foreshadowing, will want to warn (although, the audience obviously doesn’t have the power to advise) the character, although knowing that a tragic end is inevitable. In all, the truth the audience holds is the cause for their tension. Furthermore, without the usage of irony, other literary elements do not have the same effect. It is the combination of different literary devices that makes the play unique and interesting. Without foreshadowing, for instance, dramatic irony wouldn’t work as well.
The idea that the audience knows the extra information that the character doesn’t, is built by using the element of foreshadowing, because otherwise, without it, there would be no clues or hints to guide the viewers. If audience didn’t know the plan Friar Laurence came up with to reunite Romeo and Juliet (that is to give Juliet a sleeping potion so she could escape her marriage with Paris by appearing dead), their reaction to the upcoming events would be different. There wouldn’t be the engagement of the audience, but only the confusion as to what the use of dramatic irony serves.
In Act V of Romeo and Juliet, there are two instances of dramatic irony that follow. Noted Shakespeare’s use of dramatic irony appears throughout the play, and in the end of the story, all elements lead to one final resolution.
Courtney from Study Moose
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