Use of Irony in Oedipus Rex

Many sources tell us that Sophocles wrote more then one
hundred plays, but only seven of them have survived the
centuries in their entirety. Certainly the best known of his
surviving plays is Oedipus Rex. The plot of the play
hinges on the element of irony. Irony can be defined as a
combination of circumstances or a result that is the
opposite of what is or might be expected or considered
appropriate, (Guralnik, Webster\'s, 1968, p. 745). Irony is
one of the prevailing and defining characteristics of the

The first event that sets the whole tragic tale in
motion is when Laius, King of Thebes, is told by a prophet
that any child that is born to him and his queen, Jocasta,
will murder him. Therefore, when a child is born to him, he
pierces the baby\'s ankles with a spike, ties them together,
and has a servant leave the child on Mount Cithaeron to die
from exposure. This is ironic because if Laius had not
attempted to murder his own child, Oedipus would not have
been found and raised by strangers. He would have known

Jocasta was his mother. Ironically(and disgustingly, Oedipus
marries her and produces several children). Also, without
his violent temper, he would not have killed his father on
the road to the Oracle if had had been aware of his

As a baby, Oedipus is found by a shepherd, and taken
back to Corinth where he is raised as the son of King

Polybus, and his queen, Merope. After he is grown, Oedipus
is told by a drunken man at a banquet that he really isn\'t
the son of Polybus. Confused, Oedipus is determined to learn
the truth. H visionary oracle. The horrified woman sends
him away saying that he will murder his father and marry his
mother. The prophecy disturbs Oedipus so much that he
doesn\'t return in the hopes of preventing the prophecy from
coming true. But, in so doing, he defied the will of the
gods, and sealed his fate.

This is, of course, ironic because Oedipus is taking
the action of not returning to Corinth because he wrongfully
considers Polybus and Merope to be his parents. But, here
again, a human is trying to avoid what is clearly
predestined. In committing the sin of hubris(pride), Oedipus
brings down upon himself the rightful condemnation of the
higher power.

Previous to meeting with the Oracle, Oedipus had met

King Laius, and four attendants, at a fork in the road. A
fight started, and Oedipus kills King Laius, totally unaware
that this is his real father. It\'s ironic on several many

Oedipus, in trying to avoid the prophecy, has fulfilled
it. This is also ironic because Laius would not have left

Thebes and journey to the Oracle if the city had not been
plagued by the Sphinx, a monster with a woman\'s head and a
lion\'s body, plus miscellaneous other animal features. The
city would, undoubtedly, have not been plagued if Laius had
stayed in the god\'s good graces.

Having unknowingly killed his father, Oedipus journeys
on and encounters the Sphinx. Because he answers the

Sphinx\'s riddle correctly, it kills itself in a fit of
anguish and the city is saved. Oedipus is declared King of

Thebes. He marries the recently widowed Jocasta and the
prophecy is fulfilled.

"Oedipus Rex" seems to roll one pieve of irony after
another.. Everything Oedipus tries to avoid he ends up
doing. The beautiful marriage between the King and Queen is
incest. He is also famous for solving riddles but cannot
solve the one that concerns the origin, path, and destiny of
his own life. Oedipus shows a brutal side when he beats the
same shepard that saved him during the interrogation.

Some readers interpret the irony differently. Ever
since the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, made his
famous observations, critics have been using this aspect in
this analysis.

The Freudian interpretation can be taken beyond the
obvious relationship between Oedipus and Jocasta and
extended to Oedipus\' two daughters. Oedipus and Jocasta had
four children-two sons and two daughters. The children are
brought in at the very end of the play when a blind Oedipus
is pondering their fate. The sons he dismisses because they
are able to take care of themselves, but Oedipus frets over
the fate of his daughters.

Oedipus- "As for my sons, you need not take care of
them.They are men, they will find some way to live.

But my poor daughters, who have shared my table,

Who have never before have been parted from their
father-Take care of them, Creon: Do this for me.

And will you let me touch them with my hands

A last time, and let us weep together?

Be kind my