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Use of Irony in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex

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

There is also a great deal of irony exhibited by OedipusÆ search for his fatherÆs 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 seerÆs 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, ôWhy should I see / whose vision showed nothing sweet to meö (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, particularly to find the murderer of his father. Oedipus sees himself with great pride as the protector of Thebes but ironically this pride will cause his downfall. He insists on discovering the truth and ignores the aid of Creon or Teiresias, thereby becoming the shame of Thebes instead of its protector. As Teiresias is quick to point out to Oedipus, ôYou have your eyes but see not where you are in sinö (Sophocles 1967, 128). Once Oedipus sees his sin, he is


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