1. Verbal Irony: This occurs when a character says one thing but suggests or intends the opposite.  For example, in Julius Caesar, Mark Antony says “and Brutus is an honorable man,” when he really means that Brutus is dishonorable because he has betrayed Caesar.

Very similar to sarcasm, although sarcasm is harsh and direct while verbal irony is implied.

2. Dramatic Irony: This is the contrast between what the character thinks to be true and what we (the reader) know to be true. Dramatic irony occurs when the meaning intended by a character’s words or actions is opposite of the true situation. Further, the character cannot see or understand the contrast, but the audience or reader can. For example, in Othello, dramatic irony occurs when Othello refers to Iago as “honest Iago.” Unknown to Othello, Iago is a villain who deceives him into thinking that Desdemona (Othello’s wife) has been unfaithful. For this, Othello unjustly kills his wife, believing the whole time in Iago’s honesty.

Types of Dramatic Devices

Note the difference in examples for verbal and dramatic irony: Antony calls Brutus “honorable” and knows he is not honorable, while Othello calls Iago “honest” and does not know of Iago’s deceit.

3. Situational Irony: It is the contrast between what happens and what was expected (or what would seem appropriate).  This type of irony emerges from the events and circumstances of a story.  When we see situational irony, we might think circumstances are unfair or unfortunate – for example, if a greedy millionaire were to buy a lottery ticket and win additional millions. Because people cannot explain the unfairness, it causes them to question whether or not the world makes sense.


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