Dramatic Irony

Literary/ Cultural Context Note

Litencyc Editors (Independent Scholar - Europe)
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Dramatic irony arises when an audience experiences a discrepancy between its view of the play and the understanding of the characters on stage. This discrepancy is usually a function of plot, as in Shakespeare's

Romeo and Juliet

when the audience knows that Juliet has taken a sleeping potion in order to seem dead, but Romeo does not know this and commits suicide beside her seeming corpse. This moment in

Romeo and Juliet

is based on the story of Pyramus and Thisbe from Ovid's


(written around 5-10CE), but such dramatic irony is older still: in Sophocles' play

Oedipus the King

(circa 420BCE), when King Oedipus proclaims that whoever has angered the Gods and brought terrible afflictions on the city of Thebes will suffer death, the audience knows he is condemning himself: it is…

267 words

Citation: Editors, Litencyc. "Dramatic Irony". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 01 November 2002 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=574, accessed 28 May 2024.]

574 Dramatic Irony 2 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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