English Literature » Notes » Dramatic Irony in Oedipus the King
Oedipus Commending his Children to the Gods

Dramatic Irony in Oedipus the King

Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, builds the entire story using dramatic irony throughout the play. Despite Oedipus’s ignorance about who he is, Sophocles uses dramatic irony to let the readers know who Oedipus truly is and to hint at what all will take place throughout the entire story. Sophocles uses many different scenes throughout the play that portray dramatic irony. Although, the three most important are Oedipus’s curse towards himself, Oedipus’s insult to Tiresias, and the fortune-teller’s prophecy about Oedipus.

Oedipus cursing himself – first example of dramatic irony

The first act of dramatic irony is Oedipus’s curse towards himself. Out of anger, at not being able to find the murderer of Laius, Oedipus intends to curse the murderer. However, he is actually cursing himself. For instance, in scene one Oedipus says, “And this curse, too, against the one who did it, whether alone in secrecy, or with others: may he wear out his life unblest and evil! ” (1,1,251) As these harsh words leave Oedipus’s mouth, he never once thinks he will be cursing himself; but the audience know that he indeed is placing the curse upon himself.

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