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Home » » Discuss how Shakespeare handle dramatic irony in his historical play, Julius Caesar

Dramatic irony is the soul of a tragedy. It is a form of situational irony that involves the audience’s awareness of a character’s real situation before the character. In other words, it is a dialogue or situation which conveys one meaning to the character or characters on stage and a different meaning to the audience. It is used both in tragedy and in comedy to heighten respective effects. There is an abundant use of dramatic irony in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare. Dramatic irony serves as the central point for the tragedy. Irony piles upon irony in this famous tragedy. In a tragic play, dramatic irony generally deepens the tragic effect. Julius Caesar is a tragic play, so the use of dramatic irony here inevitably deepens and enhances the tragic effect. 

In the very beginning in reply to Caesar’s remark that men like Cassius are dangerous. Antony says: “Fear him not, Caesar, he’s not dangerous”. Now, here is a remark where we can perceive the use of dramatic irony by Shakespeare. At this point in the play Antony thinks that Cassius is not a dangerous man. In fact, Antony goes on to say that Cassius is an honourable Roman. Actually Cassius has already begun to work against Caesar and hits upon a plan to assassinate Caesar. Thus there is a contrast between what Antony says here about Cassius and what Cassius afterwards proves’ to be. Here we find a dramatic irony. 

There is plenty of dramatic irony in the scene in which Brutus is discussing with Cassius and the others. In reply to Cassius’s suggestion that Antony should also be killed aling with Caesar, Brutus says that killing Antony along with Caesar would mean cutting the head off and then cutting the limbs. 

There is dramatic irony in Portia’s assertions of her course and strength. She wants her husband Brutus to tell her his secret. She says that she is the daughter of a brave and reputed Roman, and the wife of another great and reputed Roman. Therefore, she claims to be a woman of exceptional courage. But ultimately she commits suicide. The dramatic irony in her assertions arises from the contrast between the impression which she wants to create upon her husband’s mind and her ultimate failure to stand the strain of events. 

Thus we find dramatic irony in Caesar’s own remarks. There is a dramatic irony in his dismissing the soothsayer who has warned him to beware the ides of March. Subsequently, the soothsayer’s prediction will prove to be perfectly true. Caesar’s ignoring all the omens will subsequently prove to have been real signs of the disaster which is in store for Caesar. There is dramatic irony in Caesar’s remark to Calpurnia, “How foolish do your fears seem now!” Actually, Calpurnia’s fears prove afterwards to have been fully justified. In this way, irony plays a very powerful role in Julius Caesar. Shakespeare has employed it in this play in profusion. 


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