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Dramatic Irony in Hamlet

There are many scenes of dramatic irony in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but the most remarkable is perhaps the dramatic performance of The Murder of Gonjago (Act. III. sc. 2) before his uncle to expose his involvement in his father’s murder. Here the audience as well as Hamlet understands the significance of the situation and Hamlet’s speeches, but neither Claudius nor Polonius: “…let them be well used; for they are abstracts and brief chronicles of the time:” (2. 2.555-57)

In the classical text Hamlet interpolates a few lines to upset his uncle and thereby prove his guilt. The ingenious arrangement shows Hamlet as a very intelligent yet conscientious person; without proof of crime, he would not kill the murderer. The dramatic irony is revealed to the actors, “You are welcome; but my uncle-father and aunt-mother are deceived. ”(2. 2. 403) He also wins the sympathies of his audience by sticking to reason rather than giving in to impulsive revenge.

The play also rouses his emotions and whets his appetite for avenging his father, as he says: “The play is the thing/ in which I’ll catch the conscience of the king. ” (2. 2. 641-42) The audience enjoy the advantageous position that they know the motive for the performance while the suspects, Claudius and the queen, take it as just royal entertainment. But as the play progresses, the king looks visibly disturbed though assured by Hamlet that “They do but jest, poison in jest.” (3. 2. 248). Hamlet is convinced when Claudius orders the performance to be stopped. This scene emphasizes the theme of Hamlet’s habit of excessive pondering and inability to plunge into action when the play is aborted. It also brings out the turmoil in his soul in the form of abject self-pity.

Work Cited

Craig, W. J. (ed. ) Shakespeare: Complete Works. London. O. U. P. 1974 May 2, 2008

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