dramatic irony


dramatic irony
irony that is inherent in speeches or a situation of a drama and is understood by the audience but not grasped by the characters in the play.
[1905-10]

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      in literature, a plot device in which the audience's or reader's knowledge of events or individuals surpasses that of the characters. The words and actions of the characters therefore take on a different meaning for the audience or reader than they have for the play's characters. This may happen when, for example, a character reacts in an inappropriate or foolish way or when a character lacks self-awareness and thus acts under false assumptions.

      The device abounds in works of tragedy. In the Oedipus cycle, for example, the audience knows that Oedipus's acts are tragic mistakes long before he recognizes his own errors. Later writers who mastered dramatic irony include William Shakespeare (Shakespeare, William) (as in Othello's trust of the treacherous Iago), Voltaire, Jonathan Swift (Swift, Jonathan), Henry Fielding (Fielding, Henry), Thomas Hardy (Hardy, Thomas), and Henry James (James, Henry). Dramatic irony can also be seen in such works as O. Henry (Henry, O.)'s short story “The Gift of the Magi.” In Anton Chekhov (Chekhov, Anton)'s story “Lady with the Dog,” an accomplished Don Juan engages in a routine flirtation only to find himself seduced into a passionate lifelong commitment to a woman who is no different from all the other number of women with whom he has flirted.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • dramatic irony — noun (theater) irony that occurs when the meaning of the situation is understood by the audience but not by the characters in the play • Topics: ↑dramaturgy, ↑dramatic art, ↑dramatics, ↑theater, ↑theatre • Hypernyms: ↑irony …   Useful english dictionary

  • dramatic irony — dramat′ic i′rony n. lit. irony derived from the audience s understanding of a speech or a situation not grasped by the characters in a dramatic piece • Etymology: 1905–10 …   From formal English to slang

  • dramatic irony — noun Date: circa 1907 irony 3b …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • dramatic irony — dra.matic irony n [U] when the people watching a play know something that the characters do not, and can understand the real importance or meaning of what is happening …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • dramatic irony — dra,matic irony noun uncount a situation in which an audience knows more about what is happening in a play or movie than the characters do …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • dramatic irony — noun A theatrical effect in which the meaning of a situation, or some incongruity in the plot, is understood by the audience, but not by the characters in the play …   Wiktionary

  • dramatic irony — noun (U) a special effect in a play in which the people watching know something that the characters in the play do not, and can understand the real importance or meaning of what is happening …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • dramatic irony — UK / US noun [uncountable] theatre, cinema a situation in which an audience knows more about what is happening in a play or film than the characters do …   English dictionary

  • dramatic irony — /drəˌmætɪk ˈaɪrəni/ (say druh.matik uyruhnee) noun → irony1 (def. 4) …   Australian English dictionary

  • irony — In the ordinary use of language irony means primarily ‘an expression of meaning by use of words that have an opposite literal meaning or tendency’. When we look out of the window at the pouring rain and exclaim ‘What a lovely day!’, we are using… …   Modern English usage


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