Of Irony: Especially in Drama

Of Irony by G. G. Sedgewick

Of Irony

Especially in Drama

by G.G. Sedgewick


  • Autumn 2003
  • ISBN 978-1-55380-004-0 (1-55380-004-4)
  • 6″ x 9″ Trade Paperback, 120 pages
  • Literary Criticism

Ronsdale Press is pleased to announce a new edition of this landmark book on irony, first published in 1935 by the University of Toronto Press, and frequently reprinted. Professor Sedgewick begins his discussion by recognizing that irony is a way of speaking with which we are all familiar, a figure of speech used in daily conversation. But there are other ironies: those of allegory, of understatement, of detachment, of fate, and especially the irony used in drama.

Sedgewick explores how the various meanings of irony have developed – through Socrates, with his “urbane pretence,” through Bacon, through the romantic irony of Schlegel and Tieck, through Bishop Thirlwall, whose essay on the irony of Socrates was pivotal in the history of English dramatic criticism.

In turning to irony as employed in drama, Sedgewick begins with the ancient classics, his discussion informed by his own familiarity with the original Greek and Latin languages. He then moves on to Renaissance plays, analyzing the audience’s pleasure in perceiving the contrast of appearance and reality by means of their superior knowledge and detached sympathy. This analysis is accompanied by masterly expositions of impressive scenes from Shakespeare and Ibsen and concludes with a detailed application of his suggestions to Othello, demonstrating how the spectators see “Appearance and Reality as one whole and yet in conflict.”

“For anyone wishing to understand dramatic irony, Sedgewick is still the best way in, and I am heartened to know this academic classic will reach new readers.”
— William Blissett, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto

“It is Sedgewick’s personal voice as much as the perennial power of irony that makes Of Irony such lively and enlightening reading.”
— Sherrill Grace, Professor of English, University of BC