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Poetic irony is a literary device, which is used to contrast two or more ideas or situations in a poem; these ideas are always described by humorous words and poets do not always mean what they write. There are three forms of irony: verbal, situational and dramatic. Verbal irony is applied in a situation when the author’s words differ from what he/she really means. For instance, in Edgar Allan Poe’s “A Dream Within A Dream” one phrase is used in two different ways; the author notes: “All that we see or seem, Is but a dream within a dream.” In the same poem, he asks: “Is all that we see or seem, But a dream within a dream.” The poet is using verbal irony in this poem to comment that all seen is just a dream, but at the end of the poem, he is also asking if this is actually true. In“Lady Lazarus”, Plath remarks: “So Herr Doktor, So, Herr Enemy.” She is referring to the same doctors that help her regain her life back as enemies. It is an example of situational irony. In this case, the whole world is aware of Splath’s suicide, and instead of thanking the doctors for saving her life, she calls them her enemies. However, this is not what she actually means, and she uses irony to refer how she views her doctors. The situational irony is also present in this line: “Herr God, Herr Lucifer. Beware.” She is actually threatening God and Lucifer, but it should be noticed that during her time, these two super creatures were feared and respected. The third type of irony, dramatic irony, is well reflected in William Blake’s “The Tiger”, where the author uses contrasting words and ideas to describe the animal. The overall meaning of the poem is that of evil and the evil creature that has been created. However, the poet’s choice of words to describe this dangerous creature does not show its fierce nature. For instance, he says “What immortal hand or eye. Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”This description uses adorable words, and yet the author intends to describe how ferocious the tiger is.
The use of irony in these poems gives the reader a sad mood. At the end of each poem, the poets give the audience the impression that they do not understand, or do not care for what is happening around. The use of irony in these poems provides an unexpected outcome.