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Irony in Oedipus Rex

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Throughout the opening scenes of Oedipus Rex, Sophocles creates a strong sense of tension through use of dramatic irony. Greek tragedies were often based upon the notion that a great and wise leader suffers from a fatal flaw, often hubris (pride) and hamartia: a moral blindness that will eventually bring about his downfall. Oedipus suffers from both of these flaws and these cause him to make great pronouncements at the start of the play that are, for the audience, who already know his fate, quite excruciatingly ironic. I will now outline and discuss four of these ironies. The first irony in the play occurs in the Parados section of the play, which introduces us to Oedipus the king. Oedipus' flaws, as well as his good qualities are established very quickly. Wishing to uncover the truth about who murdered the previous king, Oedipus talks with horror about who this person could be, and we the audience know that the killer is Oedipus himself. ...read more.


eventually destroy him, that he is actually organizing the process by which he will be destroyed and finally that "by the help of the gods" or by the power of fate (working through his own flaws), he will be undone. Secondly the next irony that I will discuss occurs in the second scene when Oedipus and Teiresias meet and grievous predictions are made. Here there are multiple ironies that add to the agony of the audience. The most important is that of physical blindness and the figurative blindness: Teiresias the seer is blind to world around him, but sees further and deeper into what is happening and what will happen than any other character in the play. He knows that Oedipus is the one who is at fault from the start, and knows that should this knowledge be released, Oedipus will be destroyed: "I mean to spare you, and myself. ...read more.


The third irony that I will discuss is that of the ironic false sense of security that Jocasta and Oedipus are lulled into in scene 3. Oedipus hears from a messenger in Corinth that the man he supposes to be his true father, Polybus, has died, and he consoles himself with this news: "But no, the letter of the oracle is unfulfilled and lies, like Polybus, dead." But, what Oedipus and Jacosta do not yet know is that Polybus was not Oedipus' father and that they are rejoicing over a fallacy. This point in the play is particularly disturbing for those who know this. Final Irony Oedipus' enraged berating of Teriesias Insults him - calls him a blind cripple and wants him to be exiled for his calling Oedipus the unclean one. At end of play, Oedipus leaves as blind cripple to exile. He uses the same stick to walk out from his kingdom as Teiresias used to enter it (metaphorically). In conclusion, the ironies create strong tension. ...read more.

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