What ironies arise in Scene 1 of Oedipus Rex?

There are several ironies that arise in the first scene of the play and which run throughout the work. The most important is when Oedipus pledges himself to discover who killed King Laius and to deliver him up for punishment all the time not realising it was he who committed this crime.

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It is vital to realise how dramatic irony runs throughout the entire play and is essential to its effect. Thus it is no surprise therefore that there are a number of ironies that appear in the first opening scene of this classic tragedy, and it is important for you as you study this work to pay attention to these various ironies and how they develop throughout the play as a whole. My own personal favourite, however, is when Oedipus receives word from Creon about what is causing the plague, and pledges himself to find the murderer of Laius, all the time not realising that he is engaging on a search for himself:

Then once more I must bring what is dark to light.

It is most fitting that Apollo shows,

As you do, this compunction for the dead.

You shall see how I stand by you, as I should,

To avenge the city and the city's god,

And not as though it were for some distant friend,

But for my own sake, to be rid of evil.

It is important to note the reference made to dark and light, which are two key symbols throughout the play, and also give rise to a final terrible irony. For it is by bringing "what is dark to light" that Oedipus condemns himself to darkness when he blinds himself because of the awesome reality of the truth of his tragedy.

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