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Dramatic Irony

Have you always used a style of writing where your narrative has a few plot twists and a very straightforward plot? Don’t you think it is time to give your audience something new? Well, I’ll help you with that. Have you ever heard of dramatic irony? This is just what you may be needing to make your narratives even more interesting and entertaining. Let’s take a look at what dramatic irony is.

The definition of dramatic irony

Dramatic irony is a type of irony in which the audience has knowledge about something in the narrative or story that the characters do not have. Or you can simply say dramatic irony transpires when the audience knows something that the characters do not know.

An example of dramatic irony in use

Let’s consider the following two examples of scenes that involve a high school teacher (Mrs. Connie) and her students:

(First example)

Mrs. Connie comes into a senior students’ classroom for her lesson. Mrs. Connie is a new teacher in the school, having been posted to the school barely a week ago. She has been caught up on the class’s history by her counterparts and from what she has heard, she concludes that the class is made up of disciplined and hardworking boys and girls. She is more than delighted to reckon the same about the class in her first lesson. Mrs. Connie is happy she joined the school.

(Second example)

Two students were busy hanging funny paintings and drawings of their teachers just behind the classroom door. Others were playing dice games, others were kissing, and others were gossiping about the new teacher in school. They heard footsteps at the door and quickly scrambled back to their seats. The two students behind the door could not make it to their seats in time before the door swung open, so they hid behind the door. Mrs. Connie entered the classroom but left the door open. Behind her was the school principal. There was loud clapping and cheering after the principal introduced her as the new biology teacher in the school. Mrs. Connie commented that she had never seen such a disciplined class ever in her whole teaching career. After the school principal and Mrs. Connie had left, the class burst into loud laughter as the two students behind the door relaxed against the wall and heaved sighs.

For the first example, there is nothing wrong with the story except that the storyline is very obvious to the audience. The audience will not find the story that interesting because the storyline is very predictable.

The reader will find the second example interesting because of the turn of events in it. We have used dramatic irony to make the second story interesting. Mrs. Connie praises her new class for being very disciplined, yet two students were behind the door as she was speaking. It sounds even funnier knowing what the students were doing before the teachers came into the classroom. You also notice that this whole time both teachers were not aware of anything that was going on in the classroom.

The uses of dramatic irony

Used to add tension and suspense to a narrative

Dramatic irony is most effective when only the audience knows what is happening in the story and not the characters. This adds suspense and tension to the story. For instance, in our second example, the audience holds their breath in suspense over the thought that the two students behind the door might get caught.

Used to add humor to a narrative

Dramatic irony, when used effectively, adds humor to the story.

Used to make a narrative more interesting

Dramatic irony makes your work very interesting. Take a look at the first and second examples, and you will find the first example not quite as interesting.

How to use dramatic irony

You should create ironic instances where only the audience knows what is happening in the story. Use vivid depictions to make the idea very clear to your audience.


Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Keith Mbuya