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The Effect of Irony In Drama

As a device of rhetorics and literature, irony illustrates the incongruence or disagreement between what the actor says versus what is actually meant or can be generally understood. This is not to far off from real life situations between what one person may be saying to another person which actually is different for what is really meant. There is a hairline thin acceptance or acknowledgement of what is ironic because perception is the guiding rule: if the party receiving the message so perceives the message in another way that how it was said, then that is that.

The party of the relaying message may refute the perception of the receiving party, but then again, that is also that. It can be comedic, and at the same time dangerous – because irony can cause friction and misunderstanding. Irony in Drama One of the types of irony in literature and rhetoric is the dramatic irony that illustrates what transpires during the act of expression by an actor and as it is received by the comprehension of an audience. Happening only in a fictional context, dramatic irony makes the characters of a story, a play, a drama contradict the situation of a story because of the scripted lines they say.

It is a situation where a listener, an audience can share with the writer of story a certain acknowledgement of a present or future circumstance of the story – but the actor is not aware of. Therefore, that character will act out an emotion or action that the listener or audience will find it incongruent to the actual situation. Or, the listener can expect something contrary to how he knows the circumstance has in store for the story and/or the actor.

Or, the actor will say a line of words or his script that outlines in anticipation the expected results, but contrary to the way such character intends it to be. Dramatic irony finds its roots from the drama of ancient Greece, like Oedipus the King of Sophocles. “Dramatic irony is a relationship of contrast between a character’s limited understanding of his or her situation in some particular moment of the unfolding action and what the audience, at the same instant, understands the character’s situation actually to be.

It is thus the result of a special sort of discrepancy in perspective, and hence is “moment-bound. ” There is on the one hand how things appear from a point of view that emerges within the action at a given moment, and which is constrained by the limitations of an individual’s history up to that moment. (In fiction, this will be the picture held by some character — say, the protagonist of a drama. ) There is on the other hand a synoptic point of view that takes in the whole of an interpersonal history, part of which is unknown to that individual at the particular moment in question.

For dramatic irony to emerge, some consciousness (in fiction, this will be the audience’s) must be simultaneously aware of both perspectives. Of course, dramatic irony as such is not necessarily tragic. In comedy, for example, the change in circumstances dramatic irony portends can be for the better. ” (Baker, 1999) It must likewise be noted that the word “dramatic” in dramatic irony does not necessarily connote a sense of being emphatic or sensational. Dramatic irony in a stage play, poem, story can actually even be subdued.

It is the point of it being interesting that catches the psyche of the audience for them to experience a sense of irony. Also, dramatic irony may not always involve “unconscious hypocrisy”: wherein, the actor “intends to be understood as meaning what his utterance would ordinarily be understood to mean, but is unaware that the situation is at odds with this meaning. (I conscious hypocrisy, benign or malign, the speaker is aware that the situation is at odds with what he gives himself out to mean. That is, he intends to deceive the [listener]). ” (Baker, 1999) The Use of Irony in The Misanthorpe

The Misanthorpe was written in 1666 by Moliere, who was born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin. It is a comedy that is a satire on the French way of aristocratic life and society and its hypocrisies and inconsistencies. It is considered as one of the best works of Moliere. Precisely because of the implication of misanthropy in a culture, the story gained universal appeal. The development of the characters and their variable nuances paved the way of its recognition. The story revolves around Alceste, an aristocratic French of the time and the immediate characters surrounding his life.

He has grown to be wary and disgusted about the ensuing corruption in the French society. For him, it is a major error of mankind and such farce character of what surrounds him totally appalls him. This is what Alceste was ranting about to his friend, Philinte. So, during Act 1 of the play, Alceste said: “…Mankind has grown so base, / I mean to break with the whole human race”. Yet, the audience will come to know that how come inspite of Alceste’s strong disdain, he is very much in love with Celimene. She is the epitome of the appalling hypocrisy of the society he abhors.

Celimene is biased about social appearances and conventions, she is flirtatious, she is haughty but appearing to be prim and proper. In Alceste’s rejection of everything he finds disgusting in his society, he wants to share his life with Celimene. Therefore, there is the irony of Alceste’s profound negation of mankind and yet he is immensely in love and in acceptance of the flaws of Celimene. Then comes that scene wher Celimene has her court of suitors all together in her house. They indulge in a gossip session. Thus, in Act II, Scene IV, Alceste says: “Her satirical humour is fed and watered by your wicked flattery.

” Again, the contrasting principles come by wherein Alceste ideally believes that open mockery and cynicism nor flattery should be a proper conduct. Yet this encounter in this scene illustrates the discordant meanings. There is also another part of the play wherein Eliante, the cousin of Celimene, who express a concept of justifying love. Whether right or wrong, a lover will acknowledge the faults of his or her loved one and may see something virtuous from them. Alceste countered and ironically argued in Act II, Scene IV: “the proof of true love is to be unspairing in fault-finding”.

This is in contravention of what he has been telling Celimene that she changes her ways because her decorum is unbecoming of her being a lady. The story is now unraveling the seeming conflict within the person and being of Alceste himself. At the end of the day, he is just like any other normal human being: a slave of the heart. Finally, in Act V, Scene VIII, Alceste determinedly said: “Meanwhile; betrayed and wronged in everything, I’ll flee this bitter world where vice is king, And seek some spot unpeopled and apart Where I’ll be free to have an honest heart. ” . But what does Alceste end up doing? He marries Eliante.

It thus defies his decision that solitude is his better option since mankind and the society he lives in are totally beyond reckoning to the ideals he has set his standards to be. His aversion to everything he kept on being disgusted about has finally found a pacifying force in the person of Eliante. No matter how deep his love was to Celimene, he ironically was able to give her up.

Works Cited:

“Critical Concepts: Dramatic Irony”. Lyman A. Baker. 1999 http://www. k-state. edu/english/baker/english320/cc-dramatic_irony. htm “Bibliomania Study Guides”. Bibliomania. com http://www. bibliomania. com/0/6/4/1967/frameset. html

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