Definition and Types of Irony

What Is Irony?

Irony is a situation in which there is a contrast between expectation and reality. We use irony to create a contrast between appearances and underlying truths. For example, the difference between what something appears or someone says to mean very different from its literal meaning. Irony is associated with both humor and tragedy.

The term irony came into English language in the sixteenth century and came from the French word “ironie” and before that, from the Latin word “ironia” which means “feigned ignorance.”

Definition and types of irony

Types of Irony

There are four main types of irony: Dramatic irony, Comic irony, Situational irony and Verbal Irony.

Dramatic irony

It is also known as tragic irony, this is when an author lets their reader know about something that a character does not. For example, a man is going to attend a wedding party and he is much hungry and thinking that he will enjoy a great meal there. He gets early, go to market, buy good shoes and clothes and prepare himself for the evening party, but readers know that the date for the party was 16th June and today is 17th June. He goes there and found no one is there, looks on watch and cries. Here readers were aware about the future happening of the man. Similarly, in Shakespeare’s Othello, Othello trusts Iago—but the audience knows better. Learn more about dramatic irony in complete guide here.

The stages of dramatic irony

There are three stages of dramatic irony: Installation, Exploitation, and Resolution.

Installation: In this stage, the information is presented to the audience or readers, but withheld from the characters. 

Exploitation: In this stage, the author uses this imbalance to heighten curiosity and tension. 

Resolution: In this final stage, the characters find out the truth. 

Example of Dramatic Irony from Othello

Othello, written by Shakespeare, is one of the most pitiful tragedies because of the use of dramatic irony. We see how Iago is spoiling the life of Othello but he himself calls Iago best friend. We know how Iago manipulate every situation to get his own ends. Iago framed Desdemona, and we know she was innocent, but we are powerless to stop Othello; he has resolved to murder his wife. Othello considers him a friend and he has been plotting Othello’s demise during the whole play.

Othello was not aware that Iago is the one who is pulling his strings, but we know very well. We also know that he is the man who convinces Roderigo to kill Cassio, even as we witness him pretend to help Cassio after Roderigo wounds him. Only we see Iago kill Roderigo before revealing the truth. During the whole play, we know about Iago’s plotting but Othello was entrapped into his web calling him a best friend, and we witnessed a dramatic irony in this way.

Comic irony

Comic irony is used to create humorous effect—such as in satire. It is also a type of irony and comes in many forms, and can derive from ironic statements by characters or narrators in a work of fiction. It can also arise from the situation presented in the work. Irony, which creates comic effects, is known as comic irony.  Writers divide irony into many types. Any of these types can play the role of comic irony. A verbal irony or situational irony can create humorous effects.  

A classic example of verbal irony used by Jane Austen, in her novel Pride and Prejudice, to create comic effects that occurs in the opening lines. The novel starts with the remark that “it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” However, this statement is intended ironically: the female characters are chiefly concerned to marry a single man of good fortune.

Situational irony

This situation happens in a play when an expected result is subverted. For example, a man gets early to catch a bus, reaches at stop before time and feels happy that today his boss will appreciate him. When he listen the horn of bus, he feels much happy, gets into bus and comes to know that he forget his purse at home, he goes back to home and gets late again for the duty.

Situational irony in The Gift of the Magi

In short story, The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry, we come across a situational irony when a wife sells her hair to buy a chain for her husband’s watch, and on the other hand her husband sells his watch to buy a combs for her hairs. Both of them have made sacrifices in order to buy gifts for one another, but in the end, the gifts are of no use. The real gift (winning others heart) show how much they are ready to give up their best belongings to win their love for one another.

Verbal irony

This is a verbal statement where a speaker means something very different from what he or she is saying. When a person want to say something in a bad response and he says thank you very much, It is verbal Irony. Some of the Examples of verbal irony are written below.

Examples of verbal Irony

Here are some phrases you might hear in everyday conversation that are the pure examples of verbal irony. These short phrase or sentences are always spoken in a context of a conversation.

If a boss orders his driver to clean the side mirror of his car and after cleaning driver says sir I have cleaned all the mirrors. Boss looks into mirrors and says, “These are clear as mud”: mean driver have not cleaned them properly.

Some more examples are below

 “Friendly as a rattlesnake”

“About as much fun as a root canal”

“Thank you so much” (in response of something bad)

Literary Terms Used in English Drama

What is a Literary Term?

Literary term is a technique or a device used by a write to tactfully emphasize, embellish, or strengthen their compositions. We can define Literary term in many ways. It is a tool to coin new thought and meaning into a word or an action. Literary terms also include name of different structures and formats in a given text like plot or diction of a literary piece. Writers utilize utmost meaning of a word by their different techniques, and they make their writing more appealing and interesting with full of figurative language and imagery.

literary terms used in English drama

Literary Terms Used to English Drama


Drama is any literary work that tells a story that usually involves actors on stage in front of a live audience. It is possible to read and comprehend works of drama; however, the full expression of drama is in the context of its performance on the stage.


The plot of a drama is a sequence of events that occur during the course of that drama and the way in which they are presented on the stage. According to Aristotle, plots must be in three parts: beginning, middle, and end; each event in the plot causes the next event to happen.


Theme is the central idea revealed in a literary text. Usually main theme of a literary work can be expressed in one word, such as love, war, heroism, hypocrisy, society, revenge, hate, wealth, etc. A literary work may have more than one theme in a single text. Usually, theme is not stated plainly in the text, but it is expressed through the characters’ actions, words, and thoughts.


The protagonist is the main character of a work of literature: drama, novel, story, or a heroic poem. It may b a male character or a female, for male character, word hero is also used and in same way heroin is used for female protagonist. Sometime a drama or play may have more than one protagonist or may be without a protagonist or sometime this character remains hidden.


Character is a person or anything that has an active role on stage of a drama. Sometime it may be an animal, an object, a tree or an illusionary character.


Characterization is the way of describing and creating characters in drama. Characterization usually includes personality traits of an individual character and includes both descriptions of a character’s physical attributes as well as the personality of a character. It also includes the way that characters act, think, behave, and speak.


Catastrophe is dramatic action that is done after tragedy or tragic event. It is a momentous tragic event ranging from bad luck to extreme misfortune or ruin of tragic hero. It may be due to fate, intrigue of a villain, or due to hamartia of the hero.


Aristotle linked the term catharsis to dramatic tragedy. It is release of the emotions such as sadness, fear, and, pity through viewing a tragedy and it involves the change of extreme emotion to lead to internal restoration and renewal. In this way spectators learned to display emotions at a proper amount and minimize extreme outbursts of emotion in their routine life.


This term is used for a group of singers and dancers who perform on stage and their performance or song predicts future happening in the drama and connects part of drama. In Elizabethan drama chorus spoke the prologue of the drama.  It was most common part of drama in Greek tragedies.


The climax of a literary work is the very peak of tension nearly after the mid of the drama from which the conclusion comes down. In a tragedy, the climax reveals the protagonist’s greatest weaknesses or change in his mind, and this situation create curiosity among viewers and they expect something unusual.


In literary works, tone is the attitude or approach that the author takes toward the main theme of drama or any other literary piece. The tone of literary work may be humorous, distant, intimate, solemn, ironic, condescending, sentimental, arrogant, etc.


Satire is a genre of literature that is used to ridicules problems in society, businesses community, government, and individuals in order to highlight attention to certain vices, abuses, and follies, for the sake of improvements. Sarcasm and irony are usually key tools of satire. Satirists also use analogy, parody, and juxtaposition to highlight their points.


Exposition is the beginning of a drama in which characters are introduced through a prologue, a chorus song or through dialogue depending on the plot of the drama.


Conflict is a state of clash between the ideas and choice in minds of the characters. They cannot choose the right way and get stuck between true and fake.


The denouement is a final part of the drama just after the climax in which there is resolution for any conflicts left in the plot. All the loose threads of the plot are tied up and secrets are revealed in this last part.

 Tragic Comedy

Tragic comedy is a form of drama in which there is a mixture of comedy in a tragedy. In a tragedy, comedy is used to release the catharsis of the audience. Comedy is used in tragedy where audience are not able to see a tragic scene for a long time.


A fool is a character in a drama who acts as a joker in the drama. In tragedies, fools are created to neutralize the emotions of the audience or readers.


Thought mean what a character thinks or feels during the play. It may be an individual thought or it may be of multiple characters. Sometime, a character depicts the whole society that means he is reflecting thought of that society.


Diction is a choice of words and a language medium by which characters reveal thoughts and feelings.


“It is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete in itself and have a certain magnitude arousing the emotions of pity and fear resulting in catharsis”


Hamartia is a special term first used by Shakespeare for the downfall of protagonist due to his error of judgment. It may be due to his wrong decision unconsciously or he fails to judge what is right or what is wrong.


It is the turning point of the play where audience observes unpredictable change in the play.

Comedy of Manner

Comedy of manner is the form of comedy on the life style and pursuits of elite class.

Domestic Comedy

Domestic comedy is the comedy of common people depicting their pursuits and general routine life in their domestic domain.


 A soliloquy is a monologue in which a character speaks out in a loud voice when he is alone. In this way audience can know what is happening next in the play.


The term stereotype is used for conservative ideas in a play about a character, setting or plot.


A motif is a repeating theme in the play. Some play or stories have more than one theme. The theme that is repeating in many section of the play is called motif