Dramatic Irony In Oedipus The King

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The Road to Hades is Paved with Good Intentions A character who is guilty of killing his father and having children with his mother would normally be one that elicits disgust. Sophocles instead set up his main character in Oedipus the King as a tragic hero brought down by hamartia rather than by depravity in his character. His ability to achieve this lies in the fact that the myth of Oedipus was already well-known; the audience knows his fate. Oedipus was handed a cruel fate by Apollo at birth: a future in which he would murder his father and have a sexual relationship with his mother. He left his home with good intentions to prevent the execution of this prophecy. Sadly, he was unaware that the father and mother he believed he was saving…show more content…
Jocasta tries to get him not to worry about “proclamations from the gods” ( 1131). She is certain that her first husband, Laius, escaped the prophesized fate “…that his own son would be his murderer” ( 869). The fact that she believes this was accomplished shows that Oedipus was a doomed character at birth. Her explanation exhibits dramatic irony. She says; “…before our child was three days old, Laius pinned his ankles tight together and ordered other men to throw him out on a mountain rock where no one ever goes” (Sophocles 862-865). The play intends to evoke sympathy through is evoked by the fact that his real father would easily give up his infant’s life to save his own. This speech also illustrates that the circumstances of Oedipus’ life are a result of his parents making a critical error. Their error was believing that they could defy the gods and escape their fate long before Oedipus made the same mistake. The dramatic irony of Jocasta and Oedipus’s ignorance and the dire consequences of the prophecy are magnified by this speech. Pity is evoked from the knowledge that Oedipus got into this situation by a chain of events over which he had no control, not through depravity in his…show more content…
It is revealed that Laius’ act of tightly pinning Oedipus’ ankles created a lifelong scar. Ian Johnston, the editor notes that Oedipus’ name ironically means “swollen ankles”. Sophocles carries the notion further by having Oedipus ask the messenger why he refers to his affliction which he has always had for some unknown reason “My dreadful mark of shame. I’ve had that scar there since I was a child” (Sophocles 1233-1234). These words are intended to create more layers of sympathy added to the ones already shown through Jocasta’s speech, illustrating again error over depravity in Oedipus’ character. Even though he heard earlier from Jocasta that Laius pinned their infant’s ankles tightly together, he fails to make the connection. However, he is still missing key information; it is not as if he is willfully blind to the facts. The pity Sophocles tries to create s through his character’s dramatically ironic dialogue is shaped by the fact that the audience is aware of the truth long before Oedipus is. Through his conversation with the messenger, Oedipus begins to realize that there were some clues to his identity that he did not explore. The messenger brings Oedipus closer to awareness of his error when he declares “…that Polybus was not your father, no more than I am” (Sophocles 1213-1214). He goes on to say, “But at that time

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