What is Dramatic Irony? Examine Sophocles’ use of Dramatic Irony in King Oedipus.

Oedipus RexAnswer: Dramatic irony, in literature, a plot device in which the audience’s or reader’s knowledge of events or individuals surpasses that of the characters. The words and actions of the characters therefore take on a different meaning for the audience or reader than they have for the play’s characters. This may happen when, for example, a character reacts in an inappropriate or foolish way or when a character lacks self-awareness and thus acts under false assumptions. The device abounds in works of tragedy.

Besides for being an entertaining play, Oedipus Rex, is also an incredibly in-depth and insightful piece of literature. Sophocles does an outstanding job of bringing the play to another level, making the reader delve deep into the. Sophocles uses literary devices such as irony to enhance the story. Dramatic irony is constant throughout the play, and used well to develop the characters.

From the beginning we know a lot about Oedipus, mostly from previous knowledge in previous plays. It is known that he was a hero and the leader of many people. In this novel it is clear from an early point that the city is once again in trouble and Oedipus’s help is again required. At first he seems very honest and sincere about helping his people but as time goes on we see a different side of Oedipus. When Teiresias first meets Oedipus is a perfect example. At the beginning of their encounter Oedipus seems to be more concerned with his people and fixing the plague, but as soon as Teiresias brings up the notion that Oedipus has anything to do with it he immediately becomes very defensive and aggravated. We quickly learn that Oedipus is more concerned with himself than with his people. After the discussion with Teiresias, Oedipus plays the murder off on his friend, Creon. This is another example of Oedipus being more concerned with himself than the people around him. Oedipus often questions his past or other people about his past. He is unsure about himself and often seems troubled and short tempered.

There are many dramatic irony in the play. For example, Oedipus has been seeking to find out the murderer of the previous king in order to solve the plague, but in fact, he is the murderer. The more efforts and endeavors he takes, the more ironic he seems to be.


One example of dramatic irony comes when the old soothsayer visits the King. Oedipus ridicules the man because he’s blind, and Tiresias in a fit of anger tells the king that though he can see he is “blind” to the truth. When Oedipus becomes blind, he finally realizes the truth of the man’s words. Irony is also to be found in the fact that it is the blind man who truly sees.

In Oedipus Rex, dramatic irony is often present in Oedipus’ long speeches. Oedipus constantly sees things incorrectly, and is in denial that he has, in fact, killed his father and married his mother. This is first apparent when he demands the death of the man who killed Laius. Oedipus calls the man who did this an evil murder. Oedipus assumes that, as he became a citizen of Thebes after the murder, though he did kill someone, he is ruled out Laius. In another speech, Oedipus accuses Creon of setting him up in order to get the throne, by framing him as the murderer. At this point, Oedipus proves that he has no feelings for his friends and it shows his true colors. Creon does even not want to be king, he enjoys his current position of wealth and power without any responsibility. Another occasion of irony in his speeches is Oedipus’s belief that the people who raised him were his actual parents. Oedipus refuses to believe that Jocasta is his mother, and that by escaping to Thebes, he escaped his fate. Because of his denial and stubbornness, he suffered greatly, killing his father and marrying his mother.

Sophocles writing styles were far ahead of his time and used very effectively throughout the play. It added a whole new dimension to the play and forced readers to look beyond the text and deep into the characters. Dramatic irony is the many used term in this piece.