How is catharsis used in Oedipus Rex?

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An ancient Greek audience, coming to the theater, would already be familiar with the fate of Oedipus, the king doomed to kill his father and marry and his mother.  Thus, the playwright's skill had less to do with constructing unexpected plot twists or a surprising ending, for example, and more to do with telling the story well.  One way to achieve this was through the use of dramatic irony: when the audience knows more than the character.  Since the audience knew the end already, Sophocles could use dramatic irony to increase their tension; when Oedipus, for example, curses the killer of Laius and proclaims that the murderer will be exiled from Thebes forever, the audience realizes that he's unknowingly cursing himself to such a punishment.  The playwright builds tension like this via dramatic irony throughout the entirety of the play until, finally, Oedipus comes to understand that his terrible prophecy has been fulfilled; the truth is out at last, and the audience experiences catharsis: a release of tension that the play has created with the character's ultimate comprehension of truth.  In this moment, not only is the audience purged of emotion, but they also have the opportunity to realize one of the play's main themes: man cannot outwit the gods.

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