Oedipus Rex is one of the best tragedies. According to Aristotle, a tragedy must be an imitation of life in the form of a serious story that is complete in itself; in other words, the story must be realistic and narrow in focus. A good tragedy will evoke pity and fear in its viewers. Irony: Irony is a figure of speech in which words are used in such a way that their intended meaning is different from the actual meaning of the words. In Oedipus Rex, ironies play a vital role in emphasizing the protagonist’s downfall as illustrated. Verbal irony: Verbal irony is the use of words to mean something different from what a person actually says. One example of verbal irony in the play is when Oedipus responds to Creon’s message on how to get rid of the plague. Creon says that they have to find a murderer of Laius and punish him. In replay Oedipus starts the search for any clues that may lead him to the murderer and puts a curse on the man who killed Laius. “As for the murderer himself, I call down a curse on him …” Not until later in the play he learns that he made a big mistake because he cursed himself when he realizes that he is the killer of Laius. Another example of verbal irony is when Oedipus accuses Creon of framing him for the murder of Laius so that Creon would become king. Creon states that he is not interested in being king as he is contented with his present position of wealth and power. Dramatic irony: It involves a situation in a play or a narrative in which the audience or reader shares with the author knowledge of present or future circumstances of which a character is ignorant, in that situation the character unknowingly acts in a way we recognize to be grossly inappropriate to the actual circumstance, or expects the opposite of what we know. In Oedipus Rex Dramatic irony plays an important part in Oedipus the King. Its story revolves around two different attempts to change the course of fate: Jocasta and Laius's killing of Oedipus at birth and Oedipus's flight from Corinth later on. In both cases, an oracle's prophecy comes true regardless of the characters' actions. Jocasta kills her son only to find him restored to life and married to her. Oedipus leaves Corinth only to find that in so doing he has found his real parents and carried out the oracle's words. Both Oedipus and Jocasta prematurely exult over the failure of oracles, only to find that the oracles were right after all. Each time a character tries to avert the future predicted by the oracles, the audience knows their attempt is futile, creating the sense of irony that permeates the play. Perhaps the best example of dramatic irony in this play, however, is the frequent use of references to eyes, sight, light, and perception throughout. When Oedipus refuses to believe him, Teiresias cries, "have you eyes, / and do not see your own damnation? Eyes, / And cannot see what company you keep?. Mentioned twice in the same breath, the word "eyes" stands out in this sentence. Teiresias knows that Oedipus will blind himself; later in this same speech he says as much: "those now clear-seeing eyes / shall then be darkened". The irony is that sight here means two different things. Oedipus is blessed with the gift of perception; he was the only man who could "see" the answer to the Sphinx's riddle. Yet he cannot see what is right before his eyes. He is blind to the truth, for all he seeks it. Situational irony: Situational irony involves a discrepancy between what is expected to happen and what actually happens. Situational irony is when what happen is exactly opposite to what is meant to happen. The situations are: Oedipus is an adopted son; he hears the prophecy; so he
escapes to the city of his real parents.
It happens that he unknowingly kills a man who happens to be his father and
is persuaded to marry the queen who happens to be his own mother.
The plague strikes the city as punishment for committing incest.
Irony is very effective in emphasizing the hero’s downfall as illustrated in Oedipus Rex Irony. The audience looks at Oedipus suffering his cruel destiny without considering him less than a hero.
Oedipus learns that he was blind not to see the warnings that people have given him not to seek his identity. The use of irony shows that at the beginning he was too proud to see the truth about himself. As more and more information is being given to him he realizes that he has cursed himself and that he is the most unfortunate men in the world.
As a puppet of fate, Oedipus cannot affect the future that the oracle has predicted for him. This does in fact seem to be an important message of the story; no matter what Jocasta says about the unreliability of oracles, their predictions all come true. In an attempt to change fate, both Jocasta and Oedipus changed the structure of their families, moving as far away as possible from the relatives that threaten to ruin them.