Irony in Romeo & Juliet: Dramatic, Verbal & Situational

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  • 0:03 Irony in 'Romeo & Juliet'
  • 0:48 Situational Irony
  • 1:54 Verbal Irony
  • 2:54 Dramatic Irony
  • 4:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Monica Sedore

Monica holds a master's degree and teaches 11th grade English. Previously, she has taught first-year writing at the collegiate level and worked extensively in writing centers.

''Romeo and Juliet'' is the classic tale of two young lovers whose families' ancient feud leads to the couples' untimely deaths. Check out this lesson to find out more about the uses of irony in this play.

Irony in Romeo & Juliet

Irony, in its most basic sense, involves an outcome that is the opposite of what you expect. Finding a lost sock the day after throwing away its mate is ironic. At its core, the tale of Romeo and Juliet is irony at its finest: 'From forth the fatal loins of these two foes / A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life; / Whose misadventured piteous overthrows / Do with their death bury their parents' strife.' It is the death of their youngest children that eventually convinces the Montagues and Capulets to make peace with one another.

Situational Irony

Situational irony is perhaps the most basic and easiest type of irony to understand. It occurs when a situation unfolds in an unexpected way. In Act IV, on the day that Juliet is to marry her suitor, Paris, her mother goes to her room to wake her and finds her daughter to be dead (or so she believes, thanks to Friar Laurence's potion). Unbeknownst to him, Capulet demands that her mother 'bring Juliet forth. Her lord is come.' Juliet's nurse replies, 'She's dead, deceased. She's dead, alack the day!' Lady Capulet confirms this, saying, 'Alack the day, she's dead, she's dead, she's dead.' In this situation, Capulet expects his daughter to marry Paris, the man he has deemed worthy of her hand. However, Juliet appears to be dead on her wedding day. For the family, it is tragically sad and ironic that Juliet would die on this, of all days.

Verbal Irony

Similar to situational irony, verbal irony occurs when a verbal response is different than what is expected. During the party at Capulet's mansion, Tybalt spies Romeo and his men. Enraged, Tybalt declares that he will not stand for 'when such a villain is a guest. / I'll not endure him.' Capulet responds quickly in a way that neither Tybalt nor the audience expects, considering the feud between Capulets and Montagues. He says, 'He shall be endured. / What, goodman boy? I say, he shall. Go to. / Am I the master here or you? Go to. / You'll not endure him! God shall mend my soul, / You'll make a mutiny among my guests.' In this exchange, Capulet's reply is both surprising and ironic. It would have been more expected that Capulet would throw all of the Montagues out of his party.

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