Dramatic Irony – Everything You Need To Know

Like visual storytelling, scriptwriting is a significant aspect of filmmaking. An excellent script gives your audience an immersive experience, compelling them to watch the movie with delight. In addition, you can adapt numerous literary devices into your writing for an impressive script. Literary devices are writing techniques that help you portray a story or poem interestingly. One such literary device is dramatic irony. In this article, let us see how to integrate this incredible device into your script. 

Dramatic Irony example from Parasite – Screenplay Lessons

What is Dramatic Irony?

Dramatic irony is a type of irony that a writer includes to instill the elements of suspense in a story. It consists of events whose happenings are unknown to a story’s character. However, the audience is aware of it. For example, consider the horror movie Halloween, where a lady innocent of the killer’s entry gets killed in the kitchen. However, as the audience, we will be able to see the killer sneaking into the house and anticipate the impending danger for the lady. 

Halloween Knife scene

In addition, dramatic irony is a sub-type of irony, a form of writing technique where a writer includes an event in a story contrary to what was expected to happen. Writers often adapt this device to spice the story with humor or suspense. There are three types of irony. They include:

The technique of dramatic irony is commonly employed across various genres owing to its versatility. Some of the genres where this technique is used include:

  • Comedy
  • Horror
  • Suspense
  • Thrillers
  • Dramas  

In on a secret? That’s dramatic irony – Christopher Warner

Dramatic Irony Definition

According to the dictionary, dramatic irony is defined as “ Irony that is inherent in speeches or a drama situation and is understood by the audience but not grasped by the characters in the play.” 

First Known Use of Dramatic Irony

The origin of the word irony can be traced back to the Greek word ‘eiron’, meaning ‘to struggle.’ Aristotle first coined the term dramatic irony in his book “ Poetics.” This technique first appeared in Greek tragedies on “The God of Wine” in a vase. 

How to Use Dramatic Irony?

1. To Project Humor 

Sometimes misunderstandings can lead to humor. Dramatic Irony is a powerful way to generate misunderstandings. Hence, you can use it to spice up your story. 

Source: Pinterest

Funny Scene in Mulan with matchmaker

2. To Infuse Suspense

Dramatic irony reveals the truth to the audience first. As a result, you get the chance to engross your audience in the scene. In addition, you can build suspense as your character learns the truth next. First, however, you need to understand its subtype to use dramatic irony in your writing. 

Source: Pinterest

Dramatic Irony

Tragic Irony- a subtype of dramatic irony

The tragic irony is a dramatic irony wherein the audience knows that a tragedy will occur to the story’s character due to their actions or spoken words. However, the character is unaware of the impending catastrophe.

Examples of Tragic Irony

In the video below, Romeo and Juliet individually believe that the other person is dead, and they commit a tragic suicide, whereas the audience knows the truth. This is a classic example. 

Romeo and Juliet- Tragic irony

Stages of Dramatic Irony

If you wish to include dramatic irony in your writing, you must follow its established structure. This way, you can exactly achieve the effect of humor or suspense. In addition, you need to remember that dramatic irony:

  • Consumes time
  • Results in the dissipation  of tension

Dramatic irony progresses in three stages within your story, they are:

  • Preparation: At this stage, the audience is presented with information unknown to the story’s character. 

  • Suspension refers to the length of time after which the character learns the truth. 

  • Resolution: This stage constitutes the consequences after the character knows the truth. 


What is irony ? 

Stages of Dramatic Irony

Learn Irony Types Using Movie clips

Dramatic Irony in Your Screenplay

Now that you know the structure of dramatic irony and its sub-type, let us see some examples that will help you grasp its essence better. 

Dramatic Irony Examples

1. Smallville

In this TV show, Clark is found saying that he doesn’t want to put on a suit and fly. However, as audiences, we are revealed that he wants to fly around.

Smallville | Clark Tells Lana His Secret

2. The Truman Show

Although Truman is the star of a TV show, he is unaware of it. On the contrary, the audiences know the truth. 

The Truman Show – At World’s End

3. Jaws

This movie is filled with dramatic irony as a sea creature lunges at humans who throng the beach. In the video, the shark’s presence is revealed to the audience, whereas the characters in the movie don’t realize it. As a result, it builds intense suspense as the audiences look forward to saving the character from the shark. However, our warning voices don’t reach the characters of the movie.  

Jaws- Get out of the water scene 

4. Psycho

The suspense in the shower scene begins as a sleek shadow is visible on the other side of the bath curtain. Then, when the killer kills Moraine, you will be able to feel a sudden shriek of sympathy. 

Psycho- The Shower scene

5. The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Victor Hugo beautifully portrays the dramatic irony as Quasimodo’s assumption that the gypsies were coming to hurt Esmerelda. However, in reality, they were her saviors. 

6. The Merchant of Venice

Shakespeare uses dramatic irony when Portio comes to the rescue of Antonio, as a lawyer dressed up like a man. However, the audiences are well aware of Portia’s disguise while Antonio is not. 

7. Mufasa’s Death – The Lion King

Mufasa’s son Simba hides in the wilds of the Savannah, blaming himself for his father’s death. In reality, however, Scar, who takes care of Simba, is the cause of Mufasa’s death.

Mufasa’s death scene

8.  Monster’s Inc.

The concept of the movie Monsters Inc is pretty ironic as the monsters whose job is to scare the children are instead in constant fear of the children.

Monsters Inc (2001) – Best Moments

9. The Little Mermaid

After saving him from a shipwreck, the little mermaid Ariel falls in love with Eric. To realize her passion, she risks exchanging her voice for a pair of legs. However, Eric doesn’t recognize her and searches for his love elsewhere. 

Little Mermaid- Eric Searching for love

10. Frozen

Anna doesn’t own a symbolic frozen heart as she exhibits her true feelings. However, the opening song warns us of her frozen heart. 


11. Macbeth

While King Duncan believes in Macbeth, he plots to kill the King.

12. Oedipus Rex

In Oedipus Rex, as told in Sophocles’ play, King Oedipus Rex wants to throw light on the killer who assassinated the previous King Laius. However, Oedipus doesn’t realize that he is the assassin. 

13. The Rope

In the movie, dramatic irony is used to add humor to the scene. The film’s characters are waiting for David, who has been killed. David’s body is hidden within a chest, which the guests use as a table. The humorous part comes when the guests wait for David’s arrival near the table.  

Rope (1948) Official Trailer #1 – Alfred Hitchcock Movie

14. The Cabin in the Woods

Five teens are taken to an isolated cabin to perform an ancient ritual in The Cabin in Woods. However, teens are unaware of it. 

15. Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment is a classic example of dramatic irony in literature. The book plays hide and seek with the reader as they are fed information before the characters in the book. In addition, some characters are entrusted with more information than the readers. 

16. Othello

Othello is convinced that his wife is involved in an extramarital affair. However, the audience knows the truth to be otherwise. 

Othello (1995) Trailer

17. Twelfth Night

In the Twelfth Night, the readers know Viola is an imposter. However, the characters in the play believe her to be in a love triangle. 

Twelfth Night or What You Will (1996) Official Trailer – Ben Kingsley, Helena Bonham Carter Movie HD

18. Meet the parents

In Meet the parents, Jack suspects Greg to be smoking marijuana. On the contrary, the audience knows the truth to be otherwise. 

Meet the parents

19. The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs builds up tension as Clarice fumbles in the dark, innocent of  Buffalo Bill’s presence right in front of her. 

Silence of the Lambs

20. The Godfather

In The Godfather, the audience is presented with information on how Michael plans to kill Sollozzo and McCluskey. However, the characters Sollozzo and McCluskey are denied this information. 

The Godfather

21. Breaking Bad

In Breaking Bad, Hank Schrader is looking for crystal-meth producer “Heisenberg”, unaware that “Heisenberg” is Schrader’s brother-in-law. However, this fact is presented to the audience. 

Breaking Bad Trailer (First Season)

With enough examples at your disposal, you will be pretty clear about the dramatic irony concept. However, you will still need some input on how to create one. Here are some tips that will help you through your journey. 

Tips for Creating Dramatic Irony in Writing

  1. You can create a complex structure consisting of many characters. In addition, supply each character with unique information. This will help your audience deduce the story based on every character’s information.
  2. Let your audience know more than your main character. This will introduce an element of suspense into the story as the truth dawns on the character.
  3. Take on a different point of view, telling the story from the perspective of an antagonist.
  4. You can include turning points in your story around repeated statements to heighten the dramatic irony effect. 

Final Thoughts

As a scriptwriter, if you wish to add elements of suspense and humor to your story, you can very well choose dramatic irony. It immerses your audiences into the scene and helps you produce an astounding film.


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