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Literary Criticism Drama

Of Irony

Especially in Drama

by (author) G.G. Sedgewick

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Apr 2019
Drama, Shakespeare, General, Ancient & Classical
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2019
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Of irony as a figure of speech we are commonly aware: it is an everyday conversational weapon. But there are other ironies, those of allegory, of understatement, of detachment, of fate; and especially there is irony in drama. Professor Sedgewick shows how the various meanings of irony have developed -- through Socrates, with his "urbane pretence"; through Bacon, Schlegel, and Tieck; through Bishop Thirlwall, whose essay on the irony of Sophocles was a landmark in the history of English dramatic criticism; and through R.G. Moulton's books on drama.


Professor Sedgewick examines closely the notion of irony in drama, and skillfully analyses that delight in contrast of appearance and reality, in the combination of superior knowledge and detached sympathy, which the spectator finds in contemplating the performance of the whole or individual parts of a play. This analysis is accompanied by masterly expositions of impressive scenes from Shakespeare and Ibsen, but especially from the Greek tragedians.


The author concludes with a detailed application of his suggestions to Othello. He believes that a realization of how Shakespeare has saturated the play from the beginning with irony used as a means of dramatic preparation will answer the absurdities of Rymer and show that it is not necessary to suppose a convention called The Calumniator Credited in order to accept the temptation scene.

About the author

Garnett Sedgewick (1882 – 1949) was a graduate of Dalhousie and Harvard universities, and the first Head of the Department of English at the University of British Columbia, from 1920 to 1948. He was well-known for his radio talks on all aspects of the humanities, and he played a crucial role in the teaching of the arts across Canada. His dramatic teaching-performances of Shakespeare are now a matter of academic legend, but his scholarship and wit are still to be found in his central book on irony ( Of Irony: Especially in Drama, Ronsdale, 2003 ) which continues to be of value to those interested in all fields of literature.

G.G. Sedgewick's profile page

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