What is the irony in Oedipus Rex?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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What is unique about this play is that almost every single line is full of dramatic irony as Oedipus casts himself in the role of detective trying to find the criminal, who he gradually realises is no other person than himself. The irony in this play is therefore primarily dramatic irony in that the audience, and some other characters, are aware of what Oedipus and other characters deliberately blind themselves from realising until it is too late. Note how the following lines are an example of dramatic irony, for example:

I'll start again--I'll bring it all to light myself! ...

Now you have me to fight for you, you'll see:

I am the land's avenger by all rights...

Ironically Oedipus will be the person to bring the truth about the murder of the former king of Thebes to light, because he was the person who killed Laius. There is massive dramatic irony in Oedipus recognising himself as the "land's avenger," as it was he who started the plague that is currently troubling Thebes because of his murder of the former king. The dramatic irony makes the play extremely tragic as the audience knows this and watches as Oedipus realises more and more that the evidence points towards him alone as the murderer.

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