When characters within a play are unaware of the truth being revealed to the audience, it’s known as dramatic irony (Dictionary). This literary device can be found in Act I Scene V when Hamlet’s ghost appears and informs him how he had truly perished.
The ghost follows Hamlet throughout this sequence, informing him at one point that he is his father’s spirit, who has come back to deliver a message. When Hamlet was sleeping, the ghost wanted to inform him that it was Claudius who murdered him and poisoned him. He also instructs Hamlet to seek vengeance for his death as well as his life.
Hamlet’s instructions to the players imply that they should act realistically, which is a contradiction since actors do not pretend to be real. Claudius must watch his crime being enacted on stage as if it were genuine.
In Hamlet, dramatic irony is established when only Hamlet and the readers are aware of the King’s demise. His attempt to hide his madness also lends itself to this form of irony. He pretends to be insane for everyone else, and other folks accept it.
The tale about the King’s demise as a result of the snake’s bite is one of the dramatic irony components. Claudius spreads disinformation that Hamlet’s father died owing to the snake’s venom, and the Danes accept it.
However, in Act 1, while speaking with Hamlet as his Ghost, the King reveals that it was Claudius who poisoned him. Only readers and Hamlet are aware of this fact; therefore there is dramatic irony. Furthermore, only Hamlet can converse with his Ghost; Gertrude is blind to his presence.
Another example of dramatic irony is Hamlet’s act of feigning madness. To conceal his plot for revenge, Hamlet pretends to be insane in order for Claudius to think it. His friends Marcellus and Horatio as well as the audience are aware that he is faking, which raises a contradiction.
In Act 2, Ophelia explains to her father Polonius that Hamlet is acting strangely. Polonius’ madness is attributed to the “thrill of love.” Ophelia rejected Hamlet’s affection, and Polonius presumed it was because it had made him insane. In this scenario, again, only readers are aware that this madness is a ruse.
The usage of dramatic irony evokes strong emotions in readers. One may sympathize with Hamlet because to his father’s death and his uncle’s treason, among other factors. Dramatic irony also heightens the reader’s interest in the story while providing suspense.
In general, ironic use enhances the play’s distance from the pure tragedy genre. Since Hamlet’s goal is to seek revenge, he is commonly classified as a revenge tragedy. In contrast to Shakespeare’s usage of satire in Hamlet’s quest for righteousness, Hamlet uses irony in his attempt for justice. Hamlet comes close to murdering Claudius numerous times but fails to do so. It becomes quite humorous during one of these moments.
Hamlet’s final chance for revenge comes in Act 3 when Claudius is praying. Nonetheless, he opts to postpone the deed. He believes that if he kills Claudius during prayer, he will send him to heaven. Humor and sarcasm are frequently used in Shakespeare’s works. Hamlet makes frequent dark satirical comments such as:
The funeral baked meats
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.
(Act 1, Scene 2).
Humor interconnects with tragic events and feelings. When Claudius asks:
How is it that the clouds still hang on you?
Not so, my lord. I am too much in the sun.
(Act 1, Scene 2)
The phrase “looks to the sun” implies that the next-in-line male is a hero. Britannica notes that dramatic and linguistic forms of irony are frequently contrasted. Dramatic irony occurs in the play’s plot. Verbal irony is demonstrated via words with a different meaning when interpreted literally. On several levels, Hamlet has a lot of iron.