Use of Irony in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex

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Sophocles utilizes irony in a number of ways in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex. To a large degree, Oedipus' downfall will result from his stubborn insistence to know the truth in order to discover the root of Thebes' woes. His stubborn insistence causes him to mistrust Creon and ignore the wisdom of Teiresias, only to discover he is the cause of Thebes' woes. As the Chorus intones about his ironic existence at one point, "Who is there lives with a savager fate? / Whose troubles so reverse his life as his" (Sophocles 1967, 164)?

There is also a great deal of irony exhibited by Oedipus' search for his father's killer. Unbeknownst to him, Oedipus is the murderer of former King Laius. An oracle warned the King that his son would kill him and marry his wife, Jocasta, so he abandons Oedipus to his death. Encountering a man he does not know is his father, Oedipus kills the King and marries Jocasta. He is told by Teiresias that he is the killer of his father, but Oedipus becomes furious over the old seer's words. He blames him for conspiring with Creon to seize control of Thebes. When Oedipus realizes he has been blind and knows the truth, it is the height of irony. Oedipus must become blind in order to see. As he states, "Why should I see / whose vision showed nothing sweet to me" (Sophocles 1967, 169).

At the beginning of the play, Oedipus holds himself up to the people of Thebes as their greatest defender. He vows to right the wrongs that plague Thebes, particularl

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Category: Literature - U

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