Dramatic Irony in Oedipus the King

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All throughout the play, Oedipus the King, Sophocles builds the entire story using dramatic irony. 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. 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) 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

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