Dramatic Irony: Definition and Examples in Speech, Literature and Film

What is dramatic irony? When taking part in English conversations or reading a text in the English language, you are likely to come across some form of irony. With different types of irony in use within the language, it can get confusing to learn which type fits in which situation. In this article, we are going to take a look at the dramatic irony. We will find out what it is and how it can be used as well as taking a look at some examples of dramatic irony both in everyday situations and in a literary context.

Dramatic Irony

Dramatic Irony Definition

What is dramatic irony?

Dramatic irony occurs in everyday life when a situation is happening and yet the person within the situation is unaware of what is occurring. For example, if a person were to be mocking a friend for losing his wallet, but did not realize that he had also lost his own wallet, this would be dramatic irony.

When used as a literary device, dramatic irony allows the audience to be aware of a situation of which the character is unaware. A good example of this would be if you were watching a soap opera and you knew that a character was going to propose to his girlfriend, but he had no idea that his girlfriend was planning to leave him for another man, this would be dramatic irony.

Dramatic Irony Examples

Examples of Dramatic Irony in Everyday Life

There may be many times in which you will come across dramatic irony in a day to day situation. These situations do not need spoken work to express them because the irony of the situation expresses itself. Here are some examples of dramatic irony in an everyday situation.

  • Two people who are very much in love are reveling in their happiness and one says to the other “I am so happy, I could die.” without realizing that she is about to be hit by a truck.
  • A man is laughing at an acquaintance whose son has just been arrested, not being aware that his own son was arrested alongside the boy for the same crime.
  • A woman believes that her boyfriend is acting strange because he is going to ask her to marry him but in reality, he is planning to leave her.
  • A person is going into a house to hide from someone, who is in actual fact, inside the house themselves.
  • A person is talking on the phone and bad-mouthing a friend, not realizing that the person with whom they are talking is with the friend who can hear the entire conversation.
  • The age-old image of someone being asked to dig a grave, not knowing that they are digging it for themselves.
  • Someone who is planning a surprise birthday party, not knowing that the person who has a birthday will be away on holiday when it is thrown.
  • A woman who is telling friends that she is happy she did not lose her job when in truth she will be relieved of her duties the next time she goes to work

Examples of Dramatic Irony in Literature and Film

Dramatic irony can have a special effect on a reader or an audience when used in a literary context. It gives the audience almost an advantage over the characters with which they are interacting and can add a new level of excitement to the piece. Here are some examples of when dramatic irony has been used in written texts.

  • In the film, Toy Story, the character Buzz Lightyear truly thinks that he is a space ranger but the audience and the other characters in the movie know that he is, in reality just a toy.
  • In the play, King Lear by William Shakespeare, the audience is aware that Cordelia is, in fact, Lear’s daughter but he does not know this himself.
  • In the movie series of Star Wars, the character Luke Skywalker is not aware that his father is Darth Vader, but the audience is aware of this at an earlier stage.
  • In the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast, the audience knows from that start that the beast is in reality, a handsome prince but the main character, Belle is not aware of this until the end.
  • In the movie, Frozen, for the first part of the film the audience is aware that the princess, Elsa has magical powers but her sister, Anna is not aware of this and simply thinks that Elsa is ignoring her and being cold towards her.
  • In the famous play, Macbeth written by William Shakespeare, the character of Duncan trusts Macbeth without realizing that he is going to be king and is willing to kill him, all the while the audience is aware of this situation.
  • In the movie, There’s something about Mary, the character Ted thinks that he is being arrested for a minor crime when in reality he is being questioned for murder. The audience knows this and so his answers seem odd.
  • In William Shakespeare’s play, Othello we see another example of dramatic irony where the audience is in the knowledge that Lago is plotting against Othello, but Othello has no idea of what is happening.
  • The movie series, Final destination uses dramatic irony as a basis for the entire story. The audience and the main character are all aware that a certain group of people are sure to face death but this group of people has no idea of what is going to happen to them.
  • In the story of The Little Mermaid, she is unaware that making a deal with the evil sea witch is going to lead to trouble but the audience is aware of this the entire time.


We have learned that dramatic irony can be used to give one party, for example, a reader of a book an advantage over the other in that they know something about a situation that will later have an effect on the character.

Dramatic irony can be seen in normal, everyday situations of life and can be regularly found in written works such as stories, poems or screenplays.

Dramatic Irony Infographic

Dramatic Irony: Definition and Examples in Speech, Literature and FilmPin

Dramatic Irony Definition and Useful ExamplesPin