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Irony in The Iliad and The Odyssey

Dramatic irony is employed frequently by Homer in The Iliad and The Odyssey. Dramatic irony occurs when a character like Agamemnon makes declarations or assumptions that readers know to be untrue. This often occurs in The Iliad through the intervening of the Gods, who often secure the fate of a particular character without that mortal's knowledge. We see in Book II of The Iliad that Homer employs the use of dramatic irony in this manner. In order to appease Juno to let the Trojans have some victory in the battle, Jove engages in deceit with King Agamemnon. Jove sends a "Lying Dream" to Agamemnon, a dream that tells him to "get the Achaeans instantly under arms, for he shall take Troy" (Homer BK II). The use of dramatic irony helps build tension and suspense in the story. Agamemnon thinks that someone he trusts implicitly, Nestor, has told him this dream. Thus, we read in excitement as be begins to arm the Achaeans for battle to take Troy, "He who has seen it is the foremost man among us; we must therefore set about getting the people under arms" (Homer BK II). We become more invested in the character of Agamemnon as he prepares for a battle whose fate he anticipates incorrectly, as he dreams of becoming lord of all the Argos and Isles. It is the use of dramatic irony that helps increase this anticipation and suspense.

Homer. The Iliad, 800 B.C.E. Samuel Butler, Translator. February 16, 2010, Book I-XXIV.


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