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Dramatic Irony In Oedipus Rex By Sophocles

931 words - 4 pages

In his work of Oedipus Rex, Greek poet Sophocles had succeeded in weaving dramatic irony into the storyline applicable to multiple situations. Dramatic irony is a plot device in which the audience’s knowledge of events or individuals surpasses that of the characters. Such examples of the use of dramatic irony in this play include; Oedipus’ going to Thebes to find the murderer of the late king Laius, the term from which his name is derived, and his attempt to escape Corinth and his fate. Whilst turning poems into an interacting play between not two but three people, Sophocles assisted in the evolution of classical Greek drama called “lèei”, which means telling, to “práxi”, which translates to doing. Sophocles’ use of dramatic irony allows the audience- ancient Greek or modern- to make connections and relations of such situations, taking into account their varied views.

Starting in the beginning of the play, as the city of Thebes suffers from a plague brought on by the gods, a priest of Zeus is called forth to shed light on the cause of the disease. The priest tells Oedipus and Creon that the source of the collective death of the city is the unsolved murder of Laius. After finding out that he must catch the killer to restore Thebes to health once again, Oedipus swears to goes to whatever means to catch the killer, “No, I'll start again- I'll bring it all to light myself! Apollo is right, and so are you, Creon, to turn your attention back to the murdered man. Now you have me to fight for you, you'll see: I am the land's avenger by all rights and Apollo's champion too. But not to assist for my own sake I'll rid us of this corruption. Whoever killed the king may decide to kill me too, with the same violent hand-by avenging Laius I defend myself." (Oedipus the King: Lines 150-159).The quote above will serve to contradict Oedipus' words to his actions when it is later revealed that he is actually responsible for the death of Laius, and not only that, but is also his son. This is an example of irony that is the basis of the entire play, with Oedipus being not the solution but the source of the problem.

The second ironic instance is the very name of the protagonist. In Greek, Oedipus' name means swollen foot. He had that name ever since he was found, with his feet pierced and bound, by Polybus. When Oedipus was just a newborn, King Laius had been visited by a prophet who told him of his fate, being killed by his own son. So he had the child thrown away to die to avoid the prophecy from coming true. “An oracle came to Laius one fine day(I won't...

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