English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Chapter Titles
  • Dickens
  • Grade 11 ELA
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Dramatic Irony and Verbal Irony

    Dramatic Irony and Verbal Irony


    In this lesson, students will review dramatic irony and verbal irony and learn how Dickens is using different kinds of irony to make the readers feel suspense, fear, and horror.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.

    Irony Review

    • Review or provide definitions of dramatic irony (an effect that occurs when the reader knows something that the characters in the story do not) and verbal irony (when the writer means something different—sometimes opposite—from what he is saying). Remind students as necessary that verbal irony is not the same thing as sarcasm (which is language intended to wound).
    • Review with the students what the reader knows, thus far, about the DeFarges that Lorry and Lucie do not.
    • ELL: These terms ( dramatic irony, verbal irony , andsarcasm ) and their various shades of meaning can be overwhelming for some ELL students, but it’s very likely that they are already using these techniques in their own spoken English or native language. One way to support these students is to provide as many examples of each term as possible from a variety of different sources.


    The Chapter “The Shadow” is filled with dramatic irony . What, for example, do you know about the Defarges that Lucie and Lorry do not know? Continue to review the chapter and do the following.

    • Make a quick list of other instances of dramatic irony in the chapter.

    Open Notebook

    When called upon, review your list with the rest of the class. Add to your list any instances suggested by others that you do not have on your list.

    The Guillotine

    • Remind students what verbal irony is, and let them know that there is something bitter yet funny in the irony in these lines.
    • Direct the class to turn to the final paragraphs of Chapter 4, to the section about the guillotine, beginning with the line, “A revolutionary tribunal in the capital,” and read it aloud.
    • Facilitate a discussion of the guillotine passage.
    • Direct students’ attention to moments of verbal irony and dark humor. Encourage students to see the Revolutionaries’ cold and impassionate jokes, and Dickens’s attitude toward them.
    • Ask students why humans sometimes make jokes about things they find horrific. If necessary, you can explain this is a psychological response, a way of facing horror.
    • Then, if time permits, facilitate a discussion in response to the questions about the Wood-Sawyer and the Carmagnole. If necessary, point out the Wood-Sawyer’s apparent madness and the dancers’ savagery, using the image provided as needed. ELL: As needed, clarify the meaning of the terms, such as characterize, guillotine , andCarmagnole , used in this task. Though students will likely get the general meanings from the text and illustrations, this is a good time to make sure they as full of an understanding as possible.

    Work Time

    As your teacher reads over the final paragraphs of Chapter 4, highlight and annotate the words and phrases that seem ironic or that seem funny. Then discuss the following with your classmates.

    • Consider how the Revolutionaries are being characterized. What seems to be their attitude toward
      the guillotine at the end of
      Chapter 4?
    • In Chapter 5, how would you characterize the Wood-Sawyer? Find evidence to support your opinion.
    • How are the people who dance the Carmagnole described? Point to words and phrases used to describe them to support your opinion.

    Dickens's Opinion Quick Write

    • Allow time for students to complete a Quick Write in response to the question provided.
    • If time permits, allow students to share their Quick Writes either in partners or with the whole class. SWD: If you have students who you know have difficulties with empathy or abstract thinking, be prepared to provide extra support. You can even lead a small group discussion for students who would benefit. Help these students articulate the nuances and contradictions of Dickens’s feelings, as shown in his portrayal of both rich and poor as having done things that cause suffering, and model finding evidence from the text to support your deductions.


    Imagine that you are Charles Dickens. As a follow-up to the previous discussion, in a Quick Write, do the following.

    • Describe how you feel about the Revolution and the Revolutionaries.

    Open Notebook

    Book III, Chapters 6, 7, and 8

    • If students need an extra challenge, tell them to answer their own questions from earlier in their annotations.


    • Read Book III, Chapters 6, 7, and 8 of A Tale of Two Cities .
    • Annotate for key ideas, personal reactions, questions, and vocabulary.