Dramatic Irony in Oedipus the King

Dramatic Paradox in Oedipus the King

Thesis Declaration: Analysis of the function and examples of significant paradox using in the play

  • Introduction: Function of remarkable irony use in the play
  • Oedipus cursing himself– first example of significant paradox
  • Oedipus insulting Tiresias not understanding he insults himself
  • How Oedipus’ efforts to escape fate make the prophecy come to life
  • Conclusion: The impression which dramatic irony in the play makes on the audience
  • Work Cited

All throughout the play, Oedipus the King, Sophocles builds the entire story using remarkable paradox. Despite Oedipus’s lack of knowledge about who he is, Sophocles utilizes dramatic paradox to let the readers understand who Oedipus truly is and to mean what all will happen throughout the whole story. Sophocles utilizes various scenes throughout the play that represent significant paradox. Although, the three crucial 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 paradox

The very first act of remarkable irony is Oedipus’s curse towards himself. Out of anger, at not being able to find the killer of Laius, Oedipus means to curse the murderer. Nevertheless, he is in fact cursing himself. For example, in scene one Oedipus says, “And this curse, too, versus the one who did it, whether alone in secrecy, or with others: may he wear out his life unblest and wicked!” (1,1,251) As these harsh words leave Oedipus’s mouth, he never ever once thinks he will be cursing himself; however the audience understand that he certainly is placing the curse upon himself.

This is an example of remarkable paradox since the audience understands that Oedipus himself is the killer that he is seeking to find; however, Oedipus, Creon, and Jocasta do not. Another example of significant irony is how Oedipus insults the old man, Tiresias. In anger, Oedipus says, “In truth, however not in you! You have no strength, blind in your eyes, your reason, and your eyes.” (1,1,375) These words anger Tiresias even more than he currently is, so he replies to Oedipus, “Dissatisfied man! Those jeers you toss at me eventually all these males will toss at you. (1,1,377)

Oedipus insulting Tiresias not knowing he insults himself

All of Tiresias’ words originate. The dramatic irony in the declaration Oedipus tosses at Tiresias results in Oedipus becoming blind himself. Not physically blind at first, however he might not see what his own true identity is at that moment. Also, after finding out who he truly is and as he looks down on Jocasta’s (Oedipus’s mother/wife) dead body, Oedipus plunges out his own eyes utilizing the pins from Jocasta’s clothing so that he can see say goodbye to evil. The final example of significant irony is the fortune-teller’s prophecy.

In the start of the play, Laius and Jocasta have to make an important decision about whether to eliminate their son in order to conserve Laius’s life. The fortune-teller has delivered a prophecy to the couple which stated their boy will mature to kill his dad and wed to his mom. Thus, they pierce his ankles together and give him to a shepherd who is purchased to kill the child. Instead of killing him, the shepherd provides him to another shepherd who takes Oedipus and provides him to King Polybus and Queen Merope from Corinth to raise.

How Oedipus’ attempts to leave fate make the prophecy come to life

By doing this, the shepherd does not know he is actually assisting the prophecy to come real. In addition, Oedipus matures and is also provided the same prophecy, so he leaves from Corinth to find elsewhere to live. By doing this, Oedipus also helps the prophecy to come to previous. Along the method to find his new home, Oedipus eliminates an old man in self-defense, who is later on found to be Laius (his daddy). After taking control of Laius’s tossed and marrying Laius’s partner (Jocasta/ Oedipus’s mom), Oedipus later on discovers that the prediction has come true.

Not just has the prophecy come true, but Oedipus has actually played a huge part in helping it come to past. He finds that ranging from the prophecy has caused him to in fact face the life which the prophet has cautioned him about instead of conserving him from the life which he abhors and believes he has escaped. The significant paradox behind these occasions is, although Oedipus believes he has defeated the prophecy, the prophecy is being fulfilled throughout the story without the understanding of the main characters.


Although Oedipus, together with the majority of the other characters, does not understand what is in fact going on throughout the play, the audience does. Due to the fact that of Sophocles’ ability to utilize dramatic irony throughout the play, it offers the readers the ability to understand everything that is going to occur before it actually happens. Despite the fact that Sophocles uses numerous scenes to depict dramatic paradox, the 3 most important are Oedipus’s curse, Oedipus’s insult, and the fortune-teller’s prediction.

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