Question – Discuss the irony in Act 1, Scene 4.
Irony is very commonly used in literature. It is when something totally different from what was happened takes place. Irony is of three main broad types-verbal irony, dramatic irony and irony of situation. Verbal irony or sarcasm refers to the situation where the character deliberately means the opposite of what he or she is saying. Irony of situation or circumstance refers to a situation when the opposite of what is expected happens. Dramatic irony is the most commonly used one in plays. It refers to a situation when the reader is aware of the truth of the situation or the significance of what the writer is saying or even the consequences but the protagonist himself is not. We find a lot of irony profound in Shakespeare’s plays like Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, Othello and even Macbeth. In Macbeth, the entire scene 4 of the first act is drenched in dramatic irony mainly on Duncan’s part and at his expense.
Duncan talks of the previous Thane of Cawdor upon whom he bestowed his full trust and confidence. This to some extent shows how naïve Duncan is and how easily he trusts people. He is deeply saddened at the betrayal by the previous Thane of Cawdor but little does he know how treacherous the newly appointed thane is going to be. Duncan comments that ‘There’s no art/To find the mind’s construction in the face./He was a gentleman (previous thane) upon whom I build/An absolute trust’. This is very ironic. Duncan is stating how it is hard to see the secrets of a persons mind by just looking at the persons face and it is this moment that the new thane Macbeth enters. Duncan is so blinded and innocent that he fails to see through Macbeth’s evil designs. He is heralding a lot of trust upon Macbeth only to soon be at the receiving end of a Judas kiss and back stab from the new thane.
Upon seeing Macbeth, Duncan greets the savior of his kingdom by saying ‘o worthiest cousin’ and sings his praises. Duncan says how indebted he is to Macbeth and how he can never praise Macbeth enough. Duncan adds that ‘More is thy due than more than I can ever pay’. We see what a grateful king he is. Nevertheless the audience is fully aware of how Macbeth will repay the king. Macbeth is anyways planning to usurp the throne of Scotland and dispose of Duncan. Right now Duncan has no words to thank Macbeth but soon when Macbeth begins his reign all the words to condemn him and his tyranny are going to fall short. This is the degradation of moral character. Duncan poor soul cannot see through people and lacks a little perspicacity like Banquo.
Duncan uses a sowing metaphor to talk of how he wants...