Death and the Maiden

Death and the Maiden Irony

Roberto's confession (Situational Irony)

Roberto's confession is steeped in irony. He claims to be innocent of the crimes that Paulina accuses him of committing, and demands she free him. However, the only way she claims she will free him is, ironically, if he confesses to these crimes. Thus, Roberto has to admit his guilt in order to go free, rather than in a traditional justice system, where proving one's innocence is the way to secure freedom. 

Gerardo's attitude towards Paulina's actions (Situational Irony)

Gerardo attempts to appease Paulina by encouraging Roberto to confess, regardless of Roberto's innocence or guilt. "When crazy people have power, you've got to indulge them," (46) he says. The irony here is that Gerardo has spent the entire dictatorship preaching the exactly opposite - resisting the "crazy person" in power (the dictator) and fighting for individual freedom. That he is unable to openly oppose his wife, and settles instead for indulging her and not insisting on Roberto's freedom, is in direct contrast to the ideals he embodied while speaking out against the previous administration. 

Paulina and Schubert (Situational Irony)

After hearing Schubert played repeatedly during her torture, Paulina is now unable to listen to the composer's music without becoming physically ill. The music, although beautiful, has become inextricably associated with violence and suffering for her. Ironically, the only way she believes she can restore Schubert for herself and break this association is by committing another act of violence - by seeking physical justice against her torturer. Initially, she wants to sodomize and abuse Roberto the way she was abused, but eventually she concludes that his death is the only way for her to be able to listen to Schubert again. That she needs violence to achieve peace is in itself ironic. 

Paulina's Eavesdropping (Dramatic Irony)

In Act I, Scene 2, Dorfman utilizes dramatic irony. The reader/viewer is aware that Paulina is listening to the conversation between Roberto and Gerardo, but neither man sees her. That she does not come out of hiding to greet their guest appears odd, as does her quick return to her bedroom in order to convince Gerardo that she has been asleep the whole time. Paulina's behavior here indicates to the audience that something is wrong; it also foreshadows her kidnapping Roberto in the next scene and the two mens' surprise at her actions.