Oedipus Rex is a tragedy written by Sophocles in the fifth century BC. It tells the story of Oedipus, a man who unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother. Throughout the play, Sophocles uses irony to emphasize certain aspects of the story and draw attention to Oedipus’ tragic fate. An example of this is when Oedipus consults an oracle about how he can avoid fulfilling a prophecy that he will kill his father and marry his mother.
One example of verbal irony occurs in the exchange between Tiresias and Oedipus. At first, Oedipus challenges Tiresias to speak up about his knowledge. As the conversation progresses, it becomes clear to both men that Oedipus has killed his father and married his mother, fulfilling a long-time prophecy.
While it would appear that the wise prophet should know better than trying to tell this truth to someone as powerful as King Oedipus, Tiresias maintains his stance. It thus uses verbal irony by taunting such a great man with words that imply knowledge beyond what was said.
Throughout the oedipus rex irony essay, many examples of situational irony foreshadow later events but also highlight how fate can have unforeseen consequences even if we try our best to avoid them. For instance, when Creon returns from Delphi with news from Apollo’s oracle proclaiming that whoever had killed Laias must be banished from Thebes for avenging justice, no one suspecting at all it could be Oeidpus himself who had killed him in an earlier altercation on the road some years before now unknowingly following Apollo’s word whom ironically turned out to be his own father.
At the same time, Iocaste suggests that those prophecies are untrue; she says, “Have courage then; and bear up better than this.” In reality, what she is telling him that he should ignore all of it and be brave, as it will not happen. She does not know at this moment that these revelations have been true.
All her attempts to suppress the truth and halt Oedipus’s investigation only lead him to discover the fate he has been trying to avoid for so long. Both characters use ironic words because they do not realize their relationship with each other, which makes irony apparent in their conversation as an audience can see both sides, yet the two of them cannot. This shows how powerful irony in oedipus rex can be in a play when used correctly, as audiences can recognize something important even though characters on stage cannot perceive it themselves.
Although Iocaste believes that Oedipus hasn’t committed any crime by sleeping with his mother, she failed to realize the truth. For example, when Teiresias reveals that Oedipus is a murderer and incestuous in nature, she tries her best to divert attention and avoid stating the obvious fact.
Instead, she claims, “If so, you must be blameless,” which ultimately proves futile as more facts reveal who exactly Oedipus had slept with. Her attempts at diverting from realizing the reality are seen multiple times throughout the play making it clear that Iocaste was oblivious to what had happened before meeting Oedipus and uniting their paths together.
Locaste’s mind is not one to wonder, but throughout her lifetime, she knew the repercussions of marrying a man who might be her son. She put these thoughts out of her head and accepted that this could never happen, and maybe it would have been best if she had wondered then, as now there are worse implications than just angering the gods.
It is so tragic how Iocaste went from happiness at finally being with Oedipus to repulsion once he uncovered his true parentage. Her attempt to tell him to abandon Corinth for him to avoid further tragedy ultimately fails because Oedipus confronts his fate. Unfortunately, the result turns out even direr than either had anticipated – death for both parties involved.
Even when Oedipus has the complete truth in front of him and knows what happened, he still doesn’t accept it. He continues denying that he was the one to kill his father and marry his mother, even though everyone around him is telling him otherwise.
This denial shows us how great tragedies such as Oedipus can happen, even with all the clues leading up to it. The play is an example for readers of how we should not be like Oedipus and use situational irony to our advantage instead of denying truths that could lead us down an arduous path.
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