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Notes on The Tempest Themes

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The Tempest Topic Tracking: Dramatic Irony

Act 1

Dramatic Irony 1: A lot of the intrinsic humor in this play is based on the ignorance of the players juxtaposed with the relative omniscience of the audience. This example is even further contrived because Miranda does not know that Gonzalo is on the island but her father, and the audience, does. Miranda's naive character, coupled with this ironic comment, begins one of the running themes of the play.

Act 2

Dramatic Irony 2: A great part of this act is spent trying to distract the king from the fact that his son is missing, presumably dead. From the beginning, when Gonzalo begins his long approximation of the island, until the end, when the Lords swear that Ferdinand must be dead, everyone tries to keep the king distracted from the 'truth'. The fact that the audience knows the Lords are wrong and that Ferdinand is alive enhances the inaneness of the charades.

Dramatic Irony 3: The two drunkards assume that everyone else on the island are dead. They fight with one another when Ariel impersonates Trinculo. By playing the part of rulers, they are supplanting their assumed dead bosses. To the audience this is riotous: two servants playing at ruling and planning an assassination when their King is still well and living.

Act 3

Dramatic Irony 4: The audience knows that Prospero has already planned marriage when the youths pledge themselves to each other. Ferdinand pledges his love without knowing that his father is still alive.. In this he is altering the balance of power without truly knowing it.

Dramatic Irony 5: This frightening occurrence is comedic to the audience because such pompous men are brought to their knees by apparitions. The audience sees Prospero watching and Ariel overseeing so they know that the whole thing is orchestrated.

Act 4

Dramatic Irony 6: The audience, unlike Ferdinand and Miranda, knows what has upset Prospero. They have been anticipating the assassination plot. The youths are kept in blissful ignorance.

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