The effect of dramatic irony: Tension, humour, premonition, sorrow


Dramatic irony could be secrets and makes the audience feel really involved with the deception, misunderstanding, suspense and comedy of Romeo and Juliet.


Act 1, Scene 1


When Benvolio urges Romeo to go to the feast to look at other woman to forget her, he argues that that could not happen and this is ironic because we know that he will meet Juliet at the feast; “One fairer than my love! The all-seeing sun ne’er saw her match since first the world begun”. It is also dramatic irony again when Romeo feels that something bad is going to happen by going to the feast because we know that by attending, he will meet Juliet which will cause him to die in the final scene; “My mind misgives some consequence yet hanging in the stars shall bitterly begin this fearful date with this night’s revels…by some vile forfeit of untimely death”.


Act 1, Scene 4


When Romeo tells Mercutio that he had a dream last night, Mercutio tells Romeo that dreams are things that people want to see and usually false; “Dreamers often lie”. However, Romeo is convinced that dreams tell the truth; “They do dream things true”. This is ironic because in Act 5, Scene 1, we know that Romeo’s dream about Juliet is false. Juliet never finds out her father knew Romeo and thought him rather well before he killed Tybalt-perhaps she could have talked to him: “A bears him like a portly gentleman; and to say truth, Verona brags of him to be a virtuous and well-govern’d youth, I would not for the wealth of all this town here in my household do him disparagement”.


Act 2, Scene, 2


Juliet’s promise to Romeo to “Follow thee my lord throughout the world” is full of dramatic irony and foreshadows the final scene of the play, when Juliet follows Romeo into death.


Act 2, Scene 3


When the Friar suspects that Romeo had not been in bed tonight, he misinterprets Romeo and thinks he had been with Rosaline; “Romeo hath not been in bed tonight…wast thou with Rosaline?”. This is ironic because he has just fallen in love with Juliet and was going to ask the Friar to marry them that day, Romeo has forgotten all about Rosaline.


Act 2, Scene 4


Mercutio continues to ridicule Romeo as a Petrarchan lover for employing the love poetry of the sonnets. However, his speech is ironic because he still believes that Romeo is in love with Rosaline and he never discovers Romeo’s love for Juliet; “Why is this not better than groaning for love?...this drivelling love is like a great natural that runs lolling up and down to hide his bauble in a hole”. Mercutio, who has little patience with the emotional aspects of love is delighted that Romeo has as he thinks has gotten over his lovesickness; “Now art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo”. Mercutio, during the play purposely misunderstands other characters for a comical effect but is unaware that he is misunderstanding Romeo and this adds to the overall effect.


Act 3, Scene 1


When Mercutio starts a quarrel with Tybalt, Tybalt is rather cool, not the quick-tempered character he usually is but ironically, we know he is saving his blade for Romeo; “You shall find me apt enough to that, sir, and you will give me occasion”.


Mercutio’s final speeches are full of dramatic irony. He curses the two houses, “A plague o’both your houses” and in the final scene, we know the two families will be punished for their hatred; the deaths of their only children. He also inquires after Tybalt; “Is he gone and hath nothing?” This is ironic because we know the Romeo take revenge so that Tybalt will have something; a deadly wound like Mercutio’s. He also jokes about his wound and death; “No, ‘tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a churchdoor…ask or me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man”. This is ironic because Mercutio himself and the audience know that he will die but at first his friends think he is joking; “Courage, man, the hurt cannot be much”. The final irony for this scene follows that of Act 2, Scene 4. Mercutio never learns for what cause