Dramatic Irony in Oedipus Rex
Work type: Research paper
Pages: 1 pages ( 275 words, Double spaced
Deadline: Oct 13, 2021 at 7:27 PM (1 d, 09 h, 49 m)
Academic level: Undergrad. (yrs 1-2)
Subject or discipline: Literature
Title: LITR- 100 – Discussion Seven 7 (Managed)
Number of sources: 0
LITR- 100 – Discussion Seven 7 (Managed)
Irony in Oedipus (first post due 10/14; second post due 10/16)
Find at least two passages in Oedipus Rex that contain dramatic irony. You may not use the examples that were in the lesson on Irony–you should find your own. For each passage, explain why it contains dramatic irony. What do we know that the characters don’t that makes their speech or their action ironic? In addition to the two quotations (with the line numbers in the parenthetical citation), you must include a works cited list. See below for the proper work cited entry if you are using the edition assigned; feel free to copy and paste it. If you are using another edition, you will need to create an appropriate work cited entry for it yourself.
Remember that both of your posts must be at least 150 words long, contain proper grammar/spelling, and be original.
In order to make your posting, click on the “Irony in Oedipus” link below under Discussions. You will not be able to see any other students’ posts until you have posted your own. There is a one-hour delay for editing before the post goes live, though the post is counted as turned in as soon as you hit the “Post to forum” button. Click on the “Reply” link to that person’s post.
Sophocles. Oedipus Rex. Prestwick House, Inc., 2005.
‘Oedipus Rex’ is a play known for its countless examples of dramatic irony. In this lesson, we’ll learn the definition of dramatic irony and look at some of those moments in the play.
Oedipus Rex: Background
Sophocles’ play Oedipus Rex is a Greek tragedy, a type of play that uses characters the audience already knows. As all Greek tragedies do, it features a tragic hero. Tragic heroes are characterized by a fatal flaw, usually pride, that leads to their downfall. Sophocles’ audience was familiar with the tragic hero Oedipus’ background: that he unknowingly killed his father, King Laius, and married his mother, Jocasta. Oedipus hasn’t realized that yet, which creates some great examples of dramatic irony in the play.
Definition of Dramatic Irony
Dramatic irony is irony that the audience understands but that the characters don’t see. In other words, dramatic irony happens when a character says or does something that makes it clear they’re missing some important information.
It’s like when you watch the movie Titanic. It’s based on a famous moment in history: when the supposed ‘unsinkable’ ship hits an iceberg and sinks. Although we know how the story will end, the characters in the movie don’t. We see dramatic irony when the characters do something, like expressing excitement about boarding the luxurious Titanic, or say something, such as ‘God himself could not sink this ship. That shows they definitely don’t know what we know: that ship is sinkable.
Sophocles created Oedipus Rex around the idea that the audience knows Oedipus’ background but Oedipus himself doesn’t; a great set-up for dramatic irony. In fact, it could be argued that Oedipus Rex is the most ironic play ever performed.
Examples of Dramatic Irony
‘I did not think it fit that I should hear
of this from messengers but came myself,
I Oedipus whom all men call the Great.’
The play opens with a scene already full of dramatic irony. The city of Thebes is suffering from a plague and the people have turned to their king, Oedipus, for help. In the past, he saved them from the Sphinx, so they trust that he can solve this problem as well. Of course, neither the citizens of Thebes nor Oedipus himself realize that he is the reason for the curse on the city.
‘Whoe’er he be, I order
That… all men from their houses banish him;
Since it is he contaminates us all,
Even as the Pythian oracle divine
Revealed but now to me.’
At this point in the play, an oracle has told Oedipus that there is a plague in the city of Thebes because the former king’s murderer has never been found and punished. In this quote, Oedipus is referring to the murderer; he declares that once found, the murderer must be banished. This is dramatic irony because although we know Oedipus murdered King Laius, Oedipus doesn’t, which means he also doesn’t realize he’s banishing himself. It’s also interesting that he mentions the oracle revealing something to him, since it was an oracle early in his life who warned him about killing King Laius.
‘On these accounts I, as for my own father,
Will fight this fight, and follow out every clue,
Seeking to seize the author of his murder.’
Again, Oedipus insists that he’ll make sure Laius’s murderer is punished, unknowingly cursing himself. He says that he’ll search out the murderer with all his might, as he would for his own father. The declaration is an example of dramatic irony because he vows to find the murderer of his own father… he just doesn’t realize Laius is his father or that he is the murderer, as we do.
The prophet Tiresias says:
‘I say you know not in what worst of shame
You live together with those nearest you,
And see not in what evil plight you stand.’
As these harsh words leave Oedipus’s mouth, he never once thinks he will be cursing himself; but the audience know that he indeed is placing the curse upon himself.
This is an example of dramatic irony because the audience knows that Oedipus himself is the murderer that he is seeking to find; however, Oedipus, Creon, and Jocasta do not. Another example of dramatic irony is how Oedipus insults the old man, Tiresias. In anger, Oedipus says, “In truth, but not in you! You have no strength, blind in your eyes, your reason, and your eyes. ” (1,1,375)
Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, builds the entire story using dramatic irony throughout the play. Despite Oedipus’s ignorance about who he is, Sophocles uses dramatic irony to let the readers know who Oedipus truly is and to hint at what all will take place throughout the entire story. Sophocles uses many different scenes throughout the play that portray dramatic irony. Although, the three most important are Oedipus’s curse towards himself, Oedipus’s insult to Tiresias, and the fortune-teller’s prophecy about Oedipus.
Oedipus cursing himself – first example of dramatic irony
The first act of dramatic irony is Oedipus’s curse towards himself. Out of anger, at not being able to find the murderer of Laius, Oedipus intends to curse the murderer. However, he is actually cursing himself. For instance, in scene one Oedipus says, “And this curse, too, against the one who did it, whether alone in secrecy, or with others: may he wear out his life unblest and evil! ” (1,1,251) As these harsh words leave Oedipus’s mouth, he never once thinks he will be cursing himself; but the audience know that he indeed is placing the curse upon himself.
This is an example of dramatic irony because the audience knows that Oedipus himself is the murderer that he is seeking to find; however, Oedipus, Creon, and Jocasta do not. Another example of dramatic irony is how Oedipus insults the old man, Tiresias. In anger, Oedipus says, “In truth, but not in you! You have no strength, blind in your eyes, your reason, and your eyes. ” (1,1,375) These words anger Tiresias even more than he already is, so he replies to Oedipus, “Unhappy man! Those jeers you hurl at me before long all these men will hurl at you. (1,1,377)
Oedipus insulting Tiresias not knowing he insults himself
All of Tiresias’ words come into existence. The dramatic irony in the statement Oedipus hurls at Tiresias results in Oedipus becoming blind himself. Not physically blind at first, but he could not see what his own true identity is at that moment. Also, after finding out who he truly is and as he looks down on Jocasta’s (Oedipus’s mother/wife) dead body, Oedipus plunges out his own eyes using the pins from Jocasta’s clothes so that he can see no more evil. The final example of dramatic irony is the fortune-teller’s prophecy.
In the beginning of the play, Laius and Jocasta have to make an important decision about whether or not to kill their son in order to save Laius’s life. The fortune-teller has delivered a prophecy to the couple which said their son will grow up to kill his father and marry to his mother. Thus, they pierce his ankles together and give him to a shepherd who is ordered to kill the child. Instead of killing him, the shepherd gives him to another shepherd who takes Oedipus and gives him to King Polybus and Queen Merope from Corinth to raise.
How Oedipus’ attempts to escape fate make the prophecy come true
By doing this, the shepherd does not know he is actually helping the prophecy to come true. In addition, Oedipus grows up and is also given the same prophecy, so he flees from Corinth to find somewhere else to live. By doing this, Oedipus also helps the prophecy to come to past. Along the way to find his new home, Oedipus kills an old man in self-defense, who is later discovered to be Laius (his father). After taking over Laius’s thrown and marrying Laius’s wife (Jocasta/ Oedipus’s mother), Oedipus later finds out that the prophecy has come true.
Not only has the prophecy come true, but Oedipus has played a huge part in helping it come to past. He finds that running from the prophecy has caused him to actually run into the life which the prophet has warned him about rather than saving him from the life which he despises and thinks he has escaped. The dramatic irony behind these events is, although Oedipus thinks he has defeated the prophecy, the prophecy is being fulfilled throughout the story without the knowledge of the main characters.
Although Oedipus, along with most of the other characters, does not know what is actually going on during the play, the audience does. Because of Sophocles’ ability to use dramatic irony throughout the play, it gives the readers the ability to know everything that is going to happen before it actually takes place. Even though Sophocles uses many scenes to portray dramatic irony, the three most important are Oedipus’s curse, Oedipus’s insult, and the fortune-teller’s prophecy.