Examples of this are when Macbeth says to Banquo,Tonight we hold a solemn supper, sir, And Ill request your presence (III, i, 13-14) orwhen he says Fail not our feast (III, i, 28). Verbal irony makes the play more tragicbecause, if the reader understands the irony of what a character is saying, then the reader can see the true nature and intentions of the character. Another type of irony Shakespeare used is the irony of a situation. This is whenthe results of an action or event are different than what is expected.
One example is whenMacduff is speaking with Malcolm about the tragedies in Scotland, not knowing that hisfamily has been murdered. He says: Let us ratherHold fast the mortal sword, and like good menBestride our down-falln birthdom. Each new mornNew widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrowsStrike heaven on the face, that it resoundsAs if it felt with Scotland and yelled outLike syllable of dolor (IV, iii, 4-7). Macduff, ironically, is remarking on new widows howling, not aware of the factthat he is a widower.
This presents a great deal of irony to the reader, as well as a tragicsituation. Dramatic irony is also used in Macbeth. This type of irony is when there is acontradiction between what characters of the play do, and what the reader knows willhappen. In Macbeth, an example is the pleasantry with which Duncan, the King, speaks ofInverness. This pleasantry is a facade, because little does Duncan know, but the plot tomurder him is being hatched and will be carried out here at Inverness. How ironic for thereader, and how tragic, to hear Duncan say: This castle hath a pleasant seat; the airNimbly and sweetly recommends itselfUnto our gentle senses.
(I, iv, 1-3). Finally, irony of Fate is used. This is when a result defeats the purpose of anevent. For example, because of Macbeths reaction to seeing Banquos ghost in Act IIIscene iv is so dramatic and violent, he casts suspicion onto himself, instead of gainingpersonal security.
He casts suspicion by asking which of you have done this? and thenanswering his own question with Thou canst not say I did it. Never shake Thy gorylocks at me (III, iv, 49, 51-52). This is tragic, for Macbeth ruins his goal of security and ends up casting more doubt upon himself. Macbeth would not be tragic without irony.
Irony pulls at the strings of thereaders heart. Whether the irony makes the tragic hero seem more villainous, or makestheir downfall seem more tragic, it certainly helps the tragedy have a less clear cutemotional response.