Dramatic Irony in Oedipus Rex

Essay by neo_sovereignHigh School, 12th gradeA, May 2005

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In the Greek tragedy, Oedipus Rex, Sophocles is able to generate the interest of the audience through a new interpretation of the classic myth, and the use of poetic language and dramatic irony. Dramatic irony occurs when the audience knows certain things about the situation that the characters on stage do not. For example, in Oedipus Rex, the audience knows from the beginning that Oedipus killed his father and married his mother. This literary technique is effective because it allows the audience to see the story from a point of view that transcends the knowledge of the characters. In the time of the ancient Greeks, only the gods possessed this knowledge - that which is beyond the understanding of man. Therefore, the use of dramatic irony in Oedipus Rex gives the audience, whether now or three thousand years ago, the perspective of the gods.

However, the audience must also be aware of the story from the point of view of the character.

As the story unfolds, the audience must be able to identify with the hero, and share in his suffering. This is called pathos. Through the use of dramatic irony, the audience will possess the knowledge of the gods, and also the kind of compassion that only human beings can have for one another.

In tragedies, dramatic irony is often used to emphasize the limitations of human understanding. However, the tension is created by the character's slow, yet inevitable journey towards self-knowledge. In the pursuit of knowledge, one must first ask a question. Interestingly enough, the word question comes from the Latin word quere, meaning "to quest". So truly, the pursuit of knowledge is a journey. In Oedipus Rex, Oedipus makes this journey by trying to solve the mystery of who killed Laius. Of course,



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