Dramatic Irony to Build the Character of Macbeth
Macbeth, there’s a passage in which the King is speaking with Banquo and Macbeth. They are in the King’s palace, commenting about Macbeth becoming Thane of Cawdor. One of the literary resources that Shakespeare constantly uses is irony. In this case, he uses dramatic irony, in which the audience is aware of a situation that the other characters are not familiar with. In this specific circumstance, he uses the irony to build up the character of Macbeth, to let the audience judge him themselves.
There are various examples in which the dramatic irony is explicit. The King has high expectations of the deeds that Macbeth is going to fulfill. He trusts Macbeth and he has just been assigned to be Thane of Cawdor. “He was a gentleman on whom I built an absolute trust”. The King is referring to the former Thane of Cawdor who betrayed him, he’s committing the same mistake twice, but he seems to be too naive, not considering the fact that maybe Macbeth can betray him too.
Macbeth is not planning on doing so yet, but he is being tempted to.
The audience knows that Macbeth has spoken to the three witches, that he has the idea of becoming king in his mind, the king doesn’t know this. Macbeth has been presented to us as a good person, not evil. He doesn’t seem to have any plans against the king, or against anybody, he seems to be honest and pacific. We think like this and so do the rest of the characters. The problem is that an obstacle has been placed in his way, he has been tempted, he is being manipulated into becoming greedy and ambitious.
Temptation is attacking his mind, one can clearly identify this in his aside, “let not light see my black and deep desires” . He is admitting to himself that he is feeling inducement to commit a crime in order to get to the crown. The situational irony here is present because of the fact that the king is saying wonderful comments about Macbeth and he is answering him with all respect and honor, but the audience hears his aside, proving him to be kind of a hypocrite. The image the spectators have of Macbeth is beginning to change. Macbeth praises the King in each and every one of his sentences.
He continues telling him how hard he is going to work for him, how much he honors him and what a pleasure it is to work directly for him. The viewers start to question the veracity of Macbeth’s statements. He seems to be trying to convince the King to trust him, when Macbeth doesn’t even trust himself because he is very confused. “The service and the loyalty I owe, / In doing it, pays itself. ” Macbeth seems to be honest when he speaks these words, but when we listen to his soliloquy we doubt this. This is what builds the situational irony again.
The dramatic irony is a tool for the audience to learn more about the character of Macbeth. The listeners used to think that Macbeth was impulsive, naive, and good hearted, after this scene, people start to question that. This aims to the theme of the play, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” . There’s confusion between what’s right and what’s wrong. To this point, the spectators don’t know what to think about Macbeth, it is all summarized in what the king said, “There’s no art / To find the mind’s construction in the face. ” No matter what your image of somebody is, there’s a fifty/fifty chance that this is false.
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