Character Analysis: Oedipus the King

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The Greek drama Oedipus the King, written by Sophocles, is regarded as one of the most perfect tragedies ever written. The tragedy Oedipus the King is highly esteemed partly due to its use of dramatic irony. Dramatic irony means that facts or events, which are not known to the characters on stage or in a fictional work, are known to the audience or reader. Sophocles uses dramatic irony to demonstrate how little the protagonist really knows. The main dramatic irony in Oedipus the King contrasts Oedipus’s limited knowledge of his unfolding situation and how the audience is fully aware of it. Oedipus’s lack of knowledge and resulting quest to seek the truth reveals many flaws within his character. The use of dramatic irony reveals the king’s pride, temper, and mortality.

Dramatic irony reveals Oedipus’s excessive pride, or hubris. The Thebians look upon their great king as a savior after Oedipus uses his wisdom to solve the Sphinx’s riddle and save his people. However, it is Oedipus’s lack of knowledge which makes him appear prideful and egotistical. Oedipus reassures the people of his greatness by saying, “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.” (I. 153-155). The city of Thebes suffers from a great plague at the time and Oedipus vows to root out the cause of it. Oedipus calls himself the “land’s avenger” because he wants to rid the city of the plague and once again be a hero. The king will not stop until he purges the entire city of disease and becomes a legend again. Also, Oedipus says how he is “Apollo’s champion”. This is extremely ironic because the god Apollo destines Oedipus to kill his father and marry his mother. Dramatic irony in the play helps reveal one of Oedipus’s tragic flaws, pride.

The use of dramatic irony also reveals Oedipus’s fiery temper. Oedipus calls for the blind prophet, Tiresias, in order to reveal how he can cure the city of Thebes. Oedipus wants...
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