Explain how Oedipus experiences a reversal of fortune, a discovery of truth, and a calamity (excessive suffering) at the end of the play.

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Prior to learning the painful truths that he has killed his father and married his mother, Oedipus thinks of himself as "Fortune's favorite child" even if, as he comes to believe, his parentage is not noble. Jocasta , his wife and mother, has sensed the truth and encouraged him to...

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Prior to learning the painful truths that he has killed his father and married his mother, Oedipus thinks of himself as "Fortune's favorite child" even if, as he comes to believe, his parentage is not noble. Jocasta, his wife and mother, has sensed the truth and encouraged him to stop his quest for knowledge, but he believes she is only too proud to accept him now that he may not be noble by blood. He is wrong. When the herdsman arrives, the herdsman and the messenger piece the full story together: Jocasta gave her own baby (the son of Laius) to the herdsman, who gave it to the messenger long ago, rather than kill it. This messenger gave it to the household of Merope and Polybus, rulers of Corinth and the people Oedipus has known as his parents (who turn out to be his adopted parents). In this way, Oedipus discovers the truth and experiences a reversal of fortune. No longer conceiving of himself as "Fortune's favorite child," he realizes that he is "a wretch, in birth, in wedlock cursed, / A parricide, incestuously, triply cursed!"

Oedipus's wife and mother, Jocasta, kills herself, and he scratches out his own eyes with her brooches. Now,

He vows to fly self-banished from the land,
Nor stay to bring upon his house the curse
Himself had uttered; but he has no strength
Nor one to guide him, and his torture's more
Than man can suffer [...].

Oedipus had, before, promised to banish Laius's killer from Thebes, and he must make good on that vow now, even though it now applies to him. While he was once so high and dignified, he now suffers terribly as a result of his own words and actions. He must go, but he is blind, abhorred by all, and suffers more than one can imagine.

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The tragedy of Oedipus can be quite effectively explained through the three categories you mentioned. This examine this more closely:

  • Reversal of Fortune: We see Oedipus's fortune reverse when we discover that he has played himself directly into the prophecy which predicted that he would kill his father and marry his mother. Oedipus begins the play in a position of extreme power and respect. He has assumed the role of King of Thebes and won the hand of Queen Jocasta after defeating the riddle of the Sphinx. His blatant disregard for Tiresias' advice and the forces of fate cause him to fall from grace; once he learns of his true origin, he gouges his own eyes out and leaves the palace in a state of exile. This loss of power and status is a stark turnaround.
  • Discovery of Truth: As already mentioned, Oedipus discovers the truth about his birth, his hand in his own father's death, and his incestuous marriage--all part of a self-fulfilling prophecy that he could not avoid.
  • Calamity: Oedipus experiences excessive suffering at the end of the play in terms of the scope of what he loses. He loses the throne, his marriage, his sight, his reputation, his progeny, and his pride. 
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Oedipus experienced a reversal of fortune at the end of the play, because he fell from an enormous height. At the beginning of the play, he solved the riddle of the Sphinx, ruled Thebes, possessed a good functional family, and earned the respect and admiration of the people. At end of the play, all these honors are taken away, as he goes into exile. The reversals cannot be starker. Oedipus in one moment lost his city, family, and dignity. 

This reversal is on account of a revelation of truth. In other words, Oedipus did not really know who he was. When he found out his true identity, he realized that he killed his father in an act of violence, married his mother unwittingly, and bored children who were simultaneously his siblings. This revelation brought him low. 

All of these things brought enormous suffering. Truly the Greek adage - "Count no man happy until he is dead," applies to Oedipus. 

Here is what the chorus says:

People of Thebes, my countrymen, look on Oedipus. He solved the famous riddle with his brilliance, he rose to power, a man beyond all power. Who could behold his greatness without envy? Now what a black sea of terror has overwhelmed him. Now as we keep our watch and wait the final day, count no man happy till he dies, free of pain at last.

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