Verbal Irony in Romeo and Juliet
In an evolutionary sense, irony involves a completely opposite outcome to what people expect. It is often used as a literary or stylistic device in much of literature, such as in poems, short stories, plays and even novels. The works of William Shakespeare offer some of the most elaborate examples of most literary devices. He seems to have mastered the art of embellishing story, play and narration with particularly interesting and exact examples of such devices. This therefore, brings out a masterful piece of work.
In William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” there are several types of irony that are evident and they include situational, dramatic and verbal irony. Notably, verbal irony is highly manifested in this movie. Nevertheless, at the core of this tale, is irony at its finest. It starts from the deadly loins of two foes to two lovers whose star-crossed love takes their life, to efforts of talks to bury generational strife. This paper elaborates verbal irony in an anecdote of two youngest children in their noble families who meet their death due to rivalry but eventually convinces the Capulets and Montagues to make peace.
Verbal irony arises when the verbal response offered is different to what the listener expects. In this case, the speaker can say the opposite of what is expected in an involuntary or intentional way. Moreover, without situational irony, it could have been hard to surprise or entice the audience or readers. Dramatic irony was also crucial in expressing the other types of irony. Therefore, situational and dramatic irony assisted in bringing out verbal irony in the tale of Romeo and Juliet. The most evident form of verbal irony is sarcasm but it can also be seen understatement, overstatement, or exaggeration.
In scene IV line 112, Mercutio uses sarcasm when speaking to the nurse. In its most basic sense, sarcasm refers to the use of irony to convey contempt or to mock. Juliet had sent the nurse to actually find Romeo’s response concerning their intended arrangements on getting married. Mercutio however provides the first instance of the case. When he comes across the nurse, he takes the chance to make fun of her. He ironically tells her that “God you good e’en, fair gentlewoman.” Here, Mercutio applies a lot of irony and sarcasm by referring to her as good, gentle as well as fair, while in real sense she is not. He had even earlier suggested that her fan seemed more attractive than her but in a short while makes rude and bawdy remarks about her.
Verbal irony is in most cases, a confine or offshoot give-outs of speakers. The fact that the speakers can give contradictory or opposing statements to their actual actions, helps make the literary work more appealing. It helps eliminate the preemptive boredom that might arise out of sticking to the main storyline or plot throughout a play. For verbal irony to be quite effective, it needs a proper timing of situation or surrounding, and the right projection of attitude.
Verbal irony is used in various declarations by actors in Romeo and Juliet. For example, in the second act balcony scene, Romeo made a declaration when he said that “My life were better ended by their hate, than death prorogued, wanting of thy love.” This is an ironic expression where he states that he would rather face a violent death from the wrath of Capulet than by missing his lover, Juliet, who is also Capulet. The statement is ironic because it is contradictory. He says one thing about the Capulets, while on the other hand, seems to ignore intentionally, the fact that his lover is also a Capulet.
There is the other example of verbal irony used by Mercutio, in Act 3 scene 1, when he says ‘…ask of me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man…’ One is made to think, is it a ‘grave’ man in terms of being sad and melancholic, or in terms of being dead? Interestingly enough, the two meanings later on become evident.
There is another instance of verbal irony. In the beginning, when Shakespeare introduces the two families, he seems to strongly imply that they are indeed very honorable and full of respect. Act I opens with “Two households, both alike in dignity . . .” It paints the image to the reader that there is indeed going to be a narration of how two great families relate and help the society too. To the contrary, the play works to talk about how these two families are sworn enemies, violently struggling for control, power and dominance over the other. By the time the reader reaches midway through the play, he or she realizes that the two families are not as honorable or as dignified as initially painted. It is a complete opposite of the initial expectations painted by Shakespeare, a scenario that can rudely but beautifully take the reader aback.