Use of Irony in “The King Lear”

Introduction : Use of irony in The King Lear by William Shakespeare. It includes explanation of irony and its purpose of use in the drama with examples from the King Lear.

What does irony means?

“The contrast between appearance and reality is called irony“.  There are many types of irony like irony of dialogue, irony of situation and irony of character etc. What a character says and what he actually means? is the irony of dialogue. And what a character thinks himself and what he actually is? What he desires but what actually occurs? are the irony of character. Then what a character believes and what the readers know? What we had expected and what actually happens? are the irony of situations.

Why irony is used in King Lear?

Why the writers used irony in the plays or other kinds of literature? Actually irony intense the effect of tragedy or comedy. In tragedy irony served to heighten the tragic effect and in comedy it served to heighten the comic effect. In this play “King Lear” it is used to intensify both the effects according to their situations. Some times it Heightens the tragic effect and some times heightens the comic effect.

Use of irony in the King Lear

Goneril and Regan’s words for King Lear

Goneril says her father that he is dearer to her “than eyesight, space and liberty”. Regan says that all joys in life are meaningless to her beside the joy which her love for him. After division of kingdom we find that these  two daughters making the adverse comments for their father.

Remarks  by  Kent and Cordelia

Kent when leaving the palace goes to Goneril and Regan and expresses the hope that good results would follow the words of love which they have spoken. Cordelia when leaving goes to her sisters and says as ”the jewels of our father ”. These two knows the nature of Goneril and Regan so, they have passed these remarks. It is one example of irony of dialogue.

Gloucester’s remarks for Edger

Gloucester says about Edgar this villian of mine” and also says that a son is turned against his father while speaking with Edmund when he has shown the forged letter. But Edgar who save him from suicide and care him in his blindness.

King Lear’s false hope

When Goneril fills King Lear’s life he have a hope from Regan that she care him and says to Goneril that he still has another daughter to whom he can go but subsequently we will find that she will prove even worse than Goneril.

Gloucester’s remarks for Edmund

Gloucester says loyal and natural boy about Edmund to Cornwall but Edmund deceived him and proves himself the bitterest enemy.

Edgar’s prediction

Edger says to Gloucester that Cordelia will be won in the war but Cordelia’s forces were defeated, Cordelia captured and killed by a captain as directed by Edmund.

King Lear’s talk with Cordelia

King Lear says to Cardelia that now no one can separate them but Cardelia will be hanged.

Regan’s dream

Regan’s dream of joyful life with Edmund after his victory in the war and the death of Cornwall but Goneril poisoned her and she died.


The emotional effect is significantly increased by the use of dramatic irony in this play.

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