Irony In Macbeth Essay Topics

Macbeth: Essay Topics

1) The supernatural plays an important role in Macbeth. To what extent does it motivate Macbeth's actions?

2) Discuss King Duncan and examine what contribution he makes to the play.

3) In constructing Macbeth, Shakespeare dramatically altered historical characters to enhance certain themes. Examine Shakespeare's sources and discuss why he made these radical changes.

4) Is Lady Macbeth more responsible than Macbeth for the murder of King Duncan? Is Lady Macbeth a more evil character than her husband and, if so, why?

5) The sleepwalking scene in Act V is one of the most memorable in all of drama. Relate this scene to the overall play and examine what makes Lady Macbeth's revelation so provoking.

6) Choose two of the minor characters in Macbeth and examine how they contribute to the play's action.

7) The witches tell Banquo that he will be the father of future kings. How does Banquo's reaction reveal his true character?

8) Examine Macbeth's mental deterioration throughout the play.

9) Discuss the speech Macbeth gives upon hearing that his wife is dead in Act V, Scene V. How do his words capture one of the major themes in the drama?


More Resources

 Daily Life in Shakespeare's London
 Life in Stratford (structures and guilds)
 Life in Stratford (trades, laws, furniture, hygiene)
 Stratford School Days: What Did Shakespeare Read?

 Games in Shakespeare's England [A-L]
 Games in Shakespeare's England [M-Z]
 An Elizabethan Christmas
 Clothing in Elizabethan England

 Queen Elizabeth: Shakespeare's Patron
 King James I of England: Shakespeare's Patron
 The Earl of Southampton: Shakespeare's Patron
 Going to a Play in Elizabethan London

Research Your Topic

 Macbeth: The Complete Play with Annotations and Commentary
 The Metre of Macbeth: Blank Verse and Rhymed Lines
 Macbeth Character Introduction
 Metaphors in Macbeth (Biblical)

 Soliloquy Analysis: If it were done when 'tis done (1.7.1-29)
 Soliloquy Analysis: Is this a dagger (2.1.33-61)
 Soliloquy Analysis: To be thus is nothing (3.1.47-71)
 Soliloquy Analysis: She should have died hereafter (5.5.17-28)

 Explanatory Notes for Lady Macbeth's Soliloquy (1.5)
 The Psychoanalysis of Lady Macbeth (Sleepwalking Scene)
 Lady Macbeth's Suicide
 Is Lady Macbeth's Swoon Real?

 Explanatory Notes for the Witches' Chants (4.1)
 Macbeth Plot Summary (Acts 1 and 2)
 Macbeth Plot Summary (Acts 3, 4 and 5)

 A Comparison of Macbeth and Hamlet
 The Effect of Lady Macbeth's Death on Macbeth
 The Curse of Macbeth

 James I and Shakespeare's Sources for Macbeth
 Macbeth Q & A
 Aesthetic Examination Questions on Macbeth
 What is Tragic Irony?

 Macbeth Study Quiz (with detailed answers)
 Quotations from Macbeth (Full)
 Top 10 Quotations from Macbeth

 Characteristics of Elizabethan Tragedy
 Shakespeare's Workmanship: Crafting a Sympathetic Macbeth
 Temptation, Sin, Retribution: Lecture Notes on Macbeth
 Untie the winds: Exploring the Witches' Control Over Nature in Macbeth

 What is Tragic Irony?
 Seneca's Tragedies and the Elizabethan Drama
 Characteristics of Elizabethan Drama

Tragic Irony in Shakespeare's Macbeth

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The Tragic Irony of Macbeth  

There are many types of irony used in Macbeth. Without the irony, the tragedy
would not be quite so tragic.

One type of irony used in Macbeth is verbal irony. This is when a character says
one thing and means the opposite. Examples of this are when Macbeth says to Banquo,
“Tonight we hold a solemn supper, sir, And I’ll request your presence (III, i, 13-14)” or
when he says “Fail not our feast (III, i, 28).” Verbal irony makes the play more tragic
because, if the reader understands the irony of what a character is saying, then the reader can see the true nature and intentions of the character.

Another type of irony Shakespeare used is the irony of a situation. This is when
the results of an action or event are different than what is expected. One example is when
Macduff is speaking with Malcolm about the tragedies in Scotland, not knowing that his
family has been murdered. He says:

“Let us rather
Hold fast the mortal sword, and like good men
Bestride our down-fall’n birthdom. Each new morn
New widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows
Strike heaven on the face, that it resounds
As if it felt with Scotland and yelled out
Like syllable of dolor (IV, iii, 4-7).”

Macduff, ironically, is remarking on new widows howling, not aware of the fact
that he is a widower. This presents a great deal of irony to the reader, as well as a tragic

Dramatic irony is also used in Macbeth. This type of irony is when there is a
contradiction between what characters of the play do, and what the reader knows will
happen. In Macbeth, an example is the pleasantry with which Duncan, the King, speaks of
Inverness. This pleasantry is a facade, because little does Duncan know, but the plot to
murder him is being hatched and will be carried out here at Inverness. How ironic for the
reader, and how tragic, to hear Duncan say:

“This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air
Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
Unto our gentle senses. (I, iv, 1-3).”

Finally, irony of Fate is used. This is when a result defeats the purpose of an
event. For example, because of Macbeth’s reaction to seeing Banquo’s ghost in Act III
scene iv is so dramatic and violent, he casts suspicion onto himself, instead of gaining

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Tragic Irony in Shakespeare's Macbeth." 10 Mar 2018

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Tragic Irony         Verbal Irony         Many Types         Macbeth         Good Men         True Nature         Macduff         Dramatic Irony         Shakespeare        

personal security. He casts suspicion by asking “which of you have done this?” and then
answering his own question with “Thou canst not say I did it. Never shake Thy gory
locks at me (III, iv, 49, 51-52).” This is tragic, for Macbeth ruins his goal of security and ends up casting more doubt upon himself.

Macbeth would not be tragic without irony. Irony pulls at the strings of the
reader’s heart. Whether the irony makes the tragic hero seem more villainous, or makes
their downfall seem more tragic, it certainly helps the tragedy have a less clear cut
emotional response.


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