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Tragic Irony

Have you been thinking of a way to make your narrative more interesting? Have you ever heard of tragic irony? From the name of this literary device, you can tell that tragic irony has everything and anything to do with tragedy. Let’s get started on tragic irony by learning its definition.

The definition of tragic irony

Tragic irony is a type of dramatic irony that is tied to tragedy. For purposes of clarity, we will take a step back and look at the definition of dramatic irony. Dramatic irony entails an audience having some knowledge that a character in the story does not have. In tragic irony, the result of the lack of this knowledge usually ends in a tragedy.

Many writers from the early ages to modern times have been using tragic irony in their narratives. Tragic irony is a very powerful device as its effects have been seen in the works of the various outstanding works of famous writers. The examples of such works include:

Examples of literary works in which tragic irony has been used

(Example one)

In Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, Juliet fakes her death to avoid marrying Paris. Juliet did this because she did not love Paris; instead, she loved Romeo. At the time that Juliet was carrying out her plan, Romeo was not around because he had been sent away from Verona. Romeo did not know about Juliet’s plan and so when he comes back and finds Juliet “dead”, he believes she is really dead. Romeo takes poison so that he can be with Juliet in the other world. When Juliet awakens from her “dead” state and finds Romeo dead, she also kills herself so that she can be with Romeo in the other world.

Romeo and Juliet is an epic example of tragic irony because due to Romeo’s lack of knowledge about Juliet’s plan, their love affair ends in a tragedy.

(Example two)

Consider the following story. A man devotes a lot of his time to his work. His wife is upset about this because she thinks her husband is intentionally spending less time with his family. The wife ends up concluding that her husband is cheating on her. Consumed by her emotions of jealousy she kills herself. Unknown to her, her husband had been working very hard so that they could buy a better house and move out of their old house. It happens that the same day the woman kills herself is the same day her husband comes home with the news of their new home.

The irony that the woman kills herself because she thinks her husband is cheating on her when he was working so hard to better their lives is tragic.

The uses of tragic irony

Tragic irony can be used to teach a lesson to an audience. Through the assumptions and ignorance of characters and their tragic decisions, readers can learn important life lessons.


Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Keith Mbuya