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Home » » Dramatic Irony in Oedipus Rex

The success of Oedipus Rex as one of the greatest Sophoclean tragedies is largely due to the brilliant interplay of dramatic irony in  the play. From the beginning of the play Oedipus is ignorant of the dreadful acts he has committed: the murder of his father and marrying his mother. But the audience watching the play is well aware of these facts. Therefore every word, every reaction of Oedipus’ with regards to the murder lends itself to dramatic irony. 

Oedipus’ speech demanding the people to reveal the murderer in  the initial part of the play is an important instance of dramatic irony. Little does he realize that in cursing Laius’ murderer to live in wretchedness he is cursing himself. This curse does indeed come true when in the end of the play Oedipus and his family are doomed to a life of pain and suffering. 

Another important instance of dramatic irony is a little later in this same section when the old soothsayer visits the king. When Oedipus begins to ridicules Tiresias’ blindness, he in turn predicts an unusual circumstance. The angry prophet warns that while Oedipus can see, he is actually ‘blind’ (that means he will be denied the truth) whereas when he will turn blind (i.e. lose his eyesight) only then will he be able to see (or realize) the truth. It is also ironic that old Tiresias who. has no eyesight can perceive reality accurately. 

These cases of dramatic irony lend pathos to the entire tragedy and enable the reader of the play or the audience to sympathize with the ignorant and ill-fated protagonist. The effect of the tragedy is therefore more profound and long lasting. 


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