The Use of Irony in Oedipus Rex

Having decoded the Sphinx’s riddle and rescued the city of Thebes from destruction, Oedipus is named their king. Although a plague is devastating Thebe’s people, and many bird entrails and oracles strongly propose it is due to the murderer of the last king, Laius, still living in the kingdom and is unpunished. In order to alleviate everyone, including himself, he sets out to investigate the blood shed. Because of this searching, Oedipus is lead to find out he himself is the cause of Laius’s death, and married his queen, Jocasta.

This prompts him to then figure out he and the dead king, have a relationship, he is his true father. meaning his mother is Jocasta, the woman who is the mother to his four children is also his mother, tying back to an earlier prognostication, because oracles and bird entrails are of truth. As a result, Jocasta commits suicide, by hanging herself and Oedipus gouges his own two eyes out with her jewelry. After he does so, he declares himself exiled from Thebes. The ongoing pattern the audience is exposed to, is oracles and prophecies cannot be denied or pushed aside, but instead must be respected and heard.

As the audience, who is fully equipped with the plot of this particular story, listens to Jocasta’s self-confident and in-denial words, they become uncomfortable She tries to convince Oedipus, and herself, that incest is of a commonplace, by the utilization of a startling lightness that will return back to her, only to haunt her. These lines are of catastrophic nature, because Jocasta has no indication that her baffling words are ironic, inaccurate to the highest degree, and absurd. While one continues to see the story unfold, their opinion is of similarity with Tiresias, knowledge enriched, resulting in pain for others as well as the person itself.

Formerly, it is of significance to realize, a fraction of the irony in the lines is dependent upon the play, and the audience, condemning Jocasta for her lack of sight. She makes a declaration of “Since Fate rules us..” (Sophocles 65) and suggest that her husband, Oedipus “…should live only for the present day…” (Sophocles 66), hit the nail exactly on the head when it comes to beliefs of just about everyone related to the piece, no limited to Jocasta herself. Later in the play, she says “Have no more fear of sleeping with your mother: How many men, in dreams, have lain with their mother!” (Sophocles 67-68). Jocasta, tries to dilute the situation by saying making her husband/son believe, it is not sprouted from ridiculousness and off-putting but rather a conventional way of thinking and acting. She then tells Oedipus, “No reasonable man is troubled by such things.” (Sophocles 69), by doing so she attempts to make Oedipus, feel as if he is acting silly and overthinking, unlike a king who solved a riddle.

Oedipus sent his brother-in-law Creon to the oracle, and would not have done so if if he had faith in events that were determined unsystematically. Neither would Oedipus flee Corinth after laying his ears upon the prophecy of the oracle, stating that he would be the one at the hands of his father’s death and the man in his mother’s bed. Similarly, Jocasta would not have tied her baby’s ankles and told one to get rid of it, resulting in the abandonment of this baby in the mountains. The play continuously come back to the fact of prophecies coming true, and the expressions of the high powers must be listened to and obeyed. The audience sees Jocasta, as she truly is, one who only believes in the prophecies that suit her. It is exemplified in her abandoning her son in the mountains, because it was prophesied that her son would be the murderer of her husband, Laius, even though she wholeheartedly believed her husband’s blood was not shed by her son. Jocasta finds the words of the oracle to be of no value, worthless, making her ignorant to the inevitable truth. She does this exact thing again with Oedipus, when the truth steers into a horrific disclosure and tries to steer it another way, by saying everything is at random, including one’s actions.

Sophocles writes a play drenched in irony and perplexity, about the inevitable fate that Oedipus is given, even of the course of events tries to be deterred. One is able to observe the power an oracle has over an individual’s life, and the consequences a being is given when this particular person thinks and acts otherwise.