In the beginning of the play, Oedipus is informed by Croon that the Gods demand justice be brought to the person responsible for King Alias’ death in order to bring peace to Thebes. Upon hearing this news, Oedipus replies, “l learned of him from others; I never saw him” (Prologue Line 109), claiming that he never met King Alias face to face. However, the reader knows this statement to be dramatically ironic because Oedipus in fact turns out to be the killer.
Later in the play, Oedipus tells the people of Thebes that he “had been a stranger to the crime” (Scene 1 Line 5), reinforcing the use of dramatic irony in a similar way. Another example of dramatic irony appears when Oedipus is addressing the Tibetan people about the issue: “As for the criminal, [Oedipus] pray to God-whether it be a lurking thief, or one of a number-I pray that that man’s life be consumed in evil and wretchedness” (Scene 1 Line 29). Not only is this usage of irony entertaining, but it also adds to the plot by establishing Oedipus’ ignorance of his actions.
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Another form of irony Sophocles uses quite often is situational irony, utilizing this literary tool in order to create unexpected twists in the story. When the prophet Terrifies is called upon to aid in the investigation of Alias’ murder, he gives an interesting clue: “A blind man, who has his eyes now; a penniless man, who is rich now; and he will go tapping the strange earth with his staff; to the children with whom he lives now he will be brother and father-the very same; to her who bore him, son and husband-the very same ho came to his fathers bed, wet with his father’s blood” (Scene 1 Line 237).