Free Study Guide for Oedipus the King by Sophocles|
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of Oedipus Rex as one of the greatest Sophoclean tragedies is largely due
to the brilliant interplay of dramatic irony in the play. From the beginning of
the play Oedipus is ignorant of the dreadful acts he has committed: the murder
of his father and marrying his mother. But the audience watching the play is well
aware of these facts. Therefore every word, every reaction of Oedipus’ with regards
to the murder lends itself to dramatic irony.
Oedipus’ speech demanding
the people to reveal the murderer in the initial part of the play is an important
instance of dramatic irony. Little does he realize that in cursing Laius’ murderer
to live in wretchedness he is cursing himself. This curse does indeed come true
when in the end of the play Oedipus and his family are doomed to a life of pain
Another important instance of dramatic irony is a little
later in this same section when the old soothsayer visits the king. When Oedipus
begins to ridicules Tiresias’ blindness, he in turn predicts an unusual circumstance.
The angry prophet warns that while Oedipus can see, he is actually ‘blind’ (that
means he will be denied the truth) whereas when he will turn blind (i.e. lose
his eyesight) only then will he be able to see (or realize) the truth. It is also
ironic that old Tiresias who has no eyesight can perceive reality accurately.
These cases of dramatic irony lend pathos to the entire tragedy and enable
the reader of the play or the audience to sympathize with the ignorant and ill-fated
protagonist. The effect of the tragedy is therefore more profound and long lasting.
- Essay Topics - Book Report Ideas
1. Discuss the role of fate
and free will as addressed in Oedipus Rex. In other words, is Oedipus
always determined by his fate or are there particular instances where he could
have prevented his tragic downfall?
2. ‘Fate is character.’ Discuss this
theme in reference to the play.
3. Discuss the role of the minor characters
in Oedipus Rex such as the Theban and Corinthian shepherd. What
is their function in the play?
4. What is the function of the chorus
in Greek tragedy?
5. Is the punishment meted out to Oedipus fair? Why
or why not?
6. Describe Creon and what his function in the play is.
7. Are there any places where Jocasta acts towards Oedipus in a way which could
be interpreted as maternal?
8. How is dramatic irony used in Oedipus
Rex? Provide some instances of dramatic irony in the play.
9. Analyze the metaphors of sight and blindness in this play.
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Rex / Oedipus the King Free BookNotes Summary