Professor Kathleen S. Paskin
Oedipus Rex: Dramatic Irony
Irony is the use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning. The play Oedipus Rex especially uses dramatic irony. It is the theatrical effect achieved by leading an audience or reader to understand the disparity between a situation and the accompanying speeches, while the characters in the play remain unaware of the disparity. From the beginning of the play, Oedipus is ignorant of the terrible acts he has committed: the murder of his father and the marrying of his mother. Every word and action of Oedipus in regards to the murder associates itself with dramatic irony. For instance, Oedipus' speeches demanding the people of Thebes reveal the murderer in the early part of the play is an example of dramatic irony. By cursing Laius' murderer to live in wretchedness, Oedipus curses himself. The curse comes to fruition as Oedipus uncovers the truth and atones for his misfortunes through self-infliction and self-exile. In another example of dramatic irony the old soothsayer pays a visit to the King. As he is being ridiculed by Oedipus for being blind, Tiresias in a fit of rage and anger tells the king that though he can see he is blind' to the truth. It is when Oedipus becomes blind and only then, that he is able to see the truth. It is also ironic that Tiresias though he is without sight sees reality quite accurately. These examples of dramatic irony enable the reader or audience to become involved in Oedipus' drama though they already know the outcome. The effect of the tragedy for me is more thoughtful and long lasting.