Oedipus' Tragic Life

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Irony
Oedipus the King

Oedipus is self-confident, intelligent and strong willed. Ironically these are the very traits which bring about his demise. Sophocles makes liberal use of irony throughout "Oedipus the King". He creates various situations in which dramatic and verbal irony play key roles in the downfall of Oedipus. Dramatic irony depends on the audience's knowing something that the character does not and verbal irony is presented when there is a contradiction between what a character says and what they mean. Both of these elements are used effectively to develop the tale of Oedipus.

Sophocles makes use of many situations involving dramatic irony. In fact, the entire play could be said to be an example of dramatic irony. The audience becomes aware of Oedipus' prophecy from the very beginning of the play. The reading from the Oracle stated that Oedipus was destined to murder his father and marry his mother. Although Oedipus is unaware of his fate, the reader knows the tragic future of the character. This use of dramatic irony allows the story to avoid the typical Greek tragedy structure and keep the reader intrigued as the events unfold.

Verbal irony is also frequently used by Sophocles. There are many instances of this in Oedipus' dialogue. Such as the statement, "I will fight for him like I would fight for my father. My search will never end until I take in chains the murderer of Laius", in which Oedipus is unaware that he is actually the murderer. This also demonstrates verbal irony because Oedipus is in fact, fighting for his father Laius.

Throughout the story Oedipus searches for his identity. The answers to his questions are visible to the audience, but not to Oedipus. Sophocles illustrates these answers, the truth, by making use of dramatic and verbal irony. These elements create the incredible journey of Oedipus' tragic life.
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