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What is Dramatic Irony?

When the audience knows more than the characters.

Drama Queens and Irony: Why Knowing More Than the Characters is So Satisfying

There's no doubt about it - dramatic irony is one of the most satisfying things in literature. Essentially, it's when the audience knows more about the situation or the outcome of events than the characters do. This can happen in many different ways: we might know that two characters are secretly in love, while they remain completely oblivious to one another's feelings; we might know that a particular object is cursed, while the characters continue to treat it like any other object.

Whatever the specifics of the situation may be, dramatic irony creates a sense of anticipation in the audience. We know that something important is going to happen, and we're eagerly awaiting the moment when the characters finally catch up with us. And when that moment does arrive, it's incredibly satisfying. We feel like we're in on a secret - the secret of what's really going on in the story. It's a little like being a detective, piecing together clues and trying to guess what's going to happen next. And when we're right, it's immensely satisfying.

Dramatic Irony in Action: Two Examples of Knowing More Than the Characters

If you're looking for examples of dramatic irony in action, you don't have to look too far! From Shakespeare to modern-day thrillers, this literary device crops up in all kinds of genres and styles. Here are two examples of dramatic irony in literature.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

All throughout Romeo and Juliet, we're privy to information that the characters themselves don't have. For instance, we know that Juliet has taken a sleeping potion that will make her appear dead. Romeo doesn't know this, and so when he sees her in her tomb, he believes that she's really dead. It's a heart-wrenching moment of dramatic irony - we know that Juliet is only sleeping, but Romeo doesn't. The consequence of this is that Romeo kills himself, and Juliet wakes up to find him dead. If only Romeo had known the truth...

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

In The Great Gatsby, there's a great example of dramatic irony involving the character of Daisy. At one point, she's talking to Gatsby about her daughter, and she says, 'I hope she'll be a fool - that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.' What Daisy doesn't know - but what we, the readers, know - is that her daughter is never going to be able to be a beautiful little fool. Instead, she's going to have to face a world that's full of injustices and inequalities. It's a powerful moment of dramatic irony, because we know that Daisy's words are going to come back to haunt her later on.