The Dramatic Irony in Oedipus the King

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The Dramatic Irony in Oedipus the King

Before taking a closer look on the identity of the protagonist and murderer, and having in mind that Oedipus the King is a very spacious and difficult to analyze play, including opportunities for discussion on quite a few topics, I have chosen to briefly focus on the dramatic irony used by Sophocles to disclose the characters’ identity throughout the play.

In general, irony is a very common technique used in every drama work and it is usually used by the author at times when something dramatic is about to happen the existence of which is cleverly suggested through ironic behavior of the main characters and often includes symbols, comparisons and contrasts pointing to the main idea of the author. In this sense, Sophocles is really famous for his well-known techniques of using irony and skillfully combining it with intricate relations and symbols such as light, dark, morning and night in order to convey his idea. In addition, a dramatic irony could be present when the audience is aware of critical information that the characters are unaware of. In this play, the readers already know the real relations between Oedipus, Jocasta and Laius.

A general symbol of the irony used in the play is the exultation of both Oedipus and Jocasta over the failures of the oracles prophecies, however in both cases these prophecies come true – Oedipus leaves Corinth only to find out after that he has actually found his real parents and Jocasta kills her son in order to find him later married to her and more alive than ever. In other words, each time a character tries to neglect and push away the predictions of the oracles, the audience already knows what? that their attempts are futile and in vain. This creates a clear sense of the irony used by Sophocles.

An interest thing to note is the very manner in which Jocasta expresses her disbelief in oracles, which is quite ironic by itself. She describes the oracles as powerless in an attempt...
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